USA Wrestling Freestyle Sombo and...

Freestyle Sombo and Beach wrestling Jaynes does it all

By Michelle Thilges | April 19, 2007, 11:11 a.m. (ET)

Leigh Jaynes gave up playing the flute in college and becoming a conductor for a band. Instead, she attended Missouri Valley College, where she continued her education and wrestling career.

The decision to wrestle in college paid off.

Jaynes, who competes for the U.S. Army, won the 2007 U.S. Nationals for the first time by beating 2006 World Team member Erin Tomeo, of the Sunkist Kids, 5-1, 7-2.

Terry Steiner, National Women's Coach, said Jaynes showed poise in her performance.

"She is figuring out how to win her matches. Before this, she thought she wanted to win, but she is figuring out and understanding where she needs to be. It was a good performance," he said.

In addition to the freestyle title, Jaynes also took home the gold in the U.S. Sombo Nationals. She started competing in Sombo a year ago, when Army teammate Eric Albarracin took a team to North Palm Beach, Fla. to compete in the U.S. Sombo National Championships.

"It is a whole lot of fun," said Jaynes. "There is no pressure to make a (weight) cut. I love jiu jitsu, grappling, fighting and wrestling. It is fun to do submissions."

Jaynes, who competes at 63 kg/ 138.75 lbs. in Sombo, won the competition in North Palm Beach and went to the World Sombo Championships in Antalya, Turkey. She placed third, after a controversial match against a Spanish opponent., who won the gold medal

"I had scored on my opponent and I'm not sure if the official pretended he didn't see it, but he missed something," said Jaynes.

She will have the opportunity to represent the U.S. again in this year's World Sombo Championships which will be held in Antalya, Turkey, Sept. 7-9. Jaynes said she doesn't train specifically for Sombo, but takes what she knows from freestyle to the mat with her.

"When you are wrestling with a jacket it is different in that you can grip and hold to the jacket. You throw in a different way. If you can throw someone in freestyle, you can more easily throw someone in Sombo. I train for freestyle and that is all I have to do for Sombo," she said.

Jaynes also competes in Beach wrestling. She said it is also another challenge.

"I like the idea of wrestling in the sand," she said. "It is different footing. You have to have a more precise throw and take down."

Jaynes is now a member of the Army's World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), after trying for several years to join. Jaynes entered the Army in 2002, but is now on the Army wrestling team.

The first time Jaynes applied the qualification included being ranked in the top five on USA Wrestling's rankings were among the requirements. Jaynes was in the top five, but not everything went to plan.

"Somewhere along the lines I screwed up," she said. "I either didn't fill out the right paper work or I didn't talk to the right people."

When Jaynes applied the second time, the qualifications had changed. Now, she needed to be in the top three to be considered.

Right before the U.S. Nationals, Jaynes received her acceptance information, and wore the U.S. Army singlet at the competition.

"I was a little torn between two teams (Gator WC and the Army) and two training areas. I just wanted to maximize my time with each group and try to be as fair as possible to the people who were training me and supporting me. It was a nice transition and a way to say thanks," Jaynes said.

Jaynes has been training full time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center for a year, and said being in the Army has helped her improve her techniques.

"When I walk into that room and I'm a part of that team, there is nobody in that room that doesn't want me to win. With that type of energy, it is hard to lose," said Jaynes.

Because of her victory against Tomeo at Nationals, Jaynes automatically advances to the best-of-three competition for the U.S. Team Trials, at 59 kg/130 lbs., in June in Las Vegas.

Steiner said she has the ability to succeed in her quest for U.S. World and Olympic medals in women's freestyle wrestling.

"Leigh stepped up and came to the training center as part of the resident group; it shows commitment. She needs to continue to work hard and keep her spot," he said.

There is a possibility that Jaynes win face Tomeo again at the Team Trials.

"I will be prepared for her," said Jaynes. "We both know what we do well and what we don't do well. Crazy things can happen between now and then and you have to prepare for the best and worst."