USA Wrestling Supergirl Camp serie...

Supergirl Camp series launched to help Women’s Team USA build depth and success at upper weights

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | April 14, 2017, 5:40 p.m. (ET)

Participants in the first Women's Team USA Supergirl Training Camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

VIDEO: Tamyra Mensah, Jessika Rottier & Kacie Moorehouse at Supergirl Training Camp

Supergirl is an invention of DC Comics, a fictional superheroine appearing in popular comic books and now the basis of a national television series. Supergirl is young, strong, with special powers, somebody willing to take on huge challenges in order to make it a better world.

That is the premise for the new Supergirl Training Camps, organized by USA Wrestling’s Women’s National Coaching Staff, which is bringing together top wrestlers from the two highest weight classes, 69 kg and 75 kg. The camp provides specialized joint training in the techniques, tactics and training methods for success in women’s wrestling at the highest weight divisions. The camp was called Supergirl for a reason.

“It is different than Superwoman. It’s a new age. It’s a new kind of person. We have our strengths. We know ourselves and we are confident in who we are. It is about going out on the mat and knowing we are not the same as everybody else. We know what we need to do to be successful. It helps give them the confidence. A lot of times, they may be pushed off to the side. We think they are exciting and we want to make sure they know we care and feel they are our future,” said Assistant National Women’s Coach Emma Randall.

The first Supergirl Training Camp is currently underway at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, held alongside a busy week of women’s wrestling training, which also includes a combined Cadet and Junior Developmental Camp and the regular USOTC resident athlete preparation for the upcoming World Team Trials in Las Vegas. The plan is to have a series of these Supergirl camps, making this a regular part of the Women’s National Team training plan.

“It is a huge opportunity area for us. We all know the weights are changing in 2018. We know in our upper weights, at 69 kg and 75 kg, we do not have the depth that other countries have. When we add up to 10 weight classes, there will be more heavy weight classes. We want to have good, solid girls who compete in those weight classes, and make sure we have a strong foundation. We haven’t really ever spent the extra time to develop those girls behind Adeline Gray and Tamyra Mensah, our No. 1 girls, and making sure they know how to wrestle when they get to that world stage,” said Randall.

National Women’s Coach Terry Steiner has three goals for these camps. He wants to bring together the upper weight women as a specific group, teach them the basics for success at these weight classes and then see who rises to the top through future training and competition. At this first Supergirl Camp, there is a mix of current Senior-level athletes and college wrestlers from across the nation, all who have the potential to make a difference for Team USA, now and in the future.

One of those who are already successful on the Senior level is Tamyra Mensah, the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion at 69 kg, and the winner of the prestigious Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia earlier this year. In spite of her recent successes, Mensah admits that she is still learning how to wrestle in her weight class, which is different than when she was younger and lighter.

“Honestly, two years ago, I was at 63 kg. Recently, I just moved up to 69 kg. I am still trying to figure out how the big girls wrestle and what I am supposed to do. I think this is a great opportunity for us to understand just how big and powerful we are in our upper body. This is a great opportunity for me because I don’t like to wrestle in close proximity. It is great for me to do this,” said Mensah.

One of the stars from the college ranks, Jessika Rottier of the University of the Cumberlands, wanted to come to get ready for the World Team Trials in Las Vegas in a few weeks, but also to help with her long term goals in the sport.

“My thought was that this was a great opportunity before the (World Team) Trials to get my hands on some of the older girls, the ones coming in above me and learn from them. I’m here to learn their go-to positions, work more on the top and work harder on stuff I am not usually doing,” said Rottier.

Mensah and Rottier, because of their past success in USA Wrestling’s age-group programs and early in their Senior careers, have spent considerable time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. That has not been the case for all of the athletes who have been invited to be part of the Supergirl program, such as Kacie Moorehouse from Grays Harbor CC in Washington state.

“I was so excited to be invited. I have really wanted to train here at the Olympic Training Center and really get more experience with heavyweight girls. I am going to Grays Harbor College, where this is their first year. We only had a couple heavyweights. I didn’t feel I was getting the exposure to all of the different kinds of styles at this size. It has been amazing. Most of the girls here, I wrestled at one point or another, whether they beat me or I beat them. It is really interesting to be able to train with them,” said Morehouse.

This kind of opportunity has been available for young boys in the upper weight classes, at summer camps such as Olympic champion Bruce Baumgartner’s Heavyweight Camp and in other training opportunities. These women are being exposed to new techniques and tactics that work for the higher weight classes, things they may not be working on back in their current training locations.

“A lot of times, we take the lighter weights for granted. Their footwork is a little better, they are more agile and mobile. At 75 kg and 69 kg, we are starting every practice with a little bit of footwork, teaching them moves and drills to take back to their colleges and to work on by themselves. From there, we are working a lot of time on the hand fight, the push-and-pull motion, and getting to the push and pull motion from our different ties, so we feel comfortable in all of these positions. A lot of our matches are won and lost in the hand fight,” said Randall.

Mensah, who has travelled to many nations as one of our top young National Team members, can tell you from personal experience what is different in the upper weights at the World level.

“Everybody wants to throw me. No matter what position you are in, they will throw you. You could be on a really good single, and if you are not aware if they throw, or that you are in a throwing position, you will get thrown. Overseas, I have learned that whatever situation you are in, you can get thrown,” said Mensah.

Rottier competed against smaller and lighter girls when she grew up in wrestling, but has developed into one of the talented and rising young women who compete in the upper weights.

“It is a lot different. I grew up as a lower weight. I still hit my knee a lot. I am still hitting low singles. As I wrestled at 170, I learned different controls and learning more upper body stuff to be able to compete with the older girls,” said Rottier.

Moorehead is already learning new things and taking a different look at what she needs to focus on in her training.

“Yesterday we worked on shots. I was a little rusty because I haven’t been practicing too much. That was really a wake-up call that I need to work on shots more. That was a really good practice for me,” said Moorehouse.

Coach Steiner gave the women in the camp an inspiring pep-talk today about why they were selected to attend this camp. He said it was not about making them drop in weight class. It was about making them better in the weight classes which they now compete, and taking pride in themselves and what they mean to the Team USA program. Many of the campers listened intently and nodded their heads in agreement when Steiner encouraged them to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Seeing all of these women at all these different levels has shown me that they aren’t all that much better than me, and that I can accomplish anything they can accomplish. I have a goal of wrestling in the 2020 Olympics. I believe I can do it. I have to stay committed year-round to improving my trade,” said Moorehouse.

“My goals are past college. College isn’t my limit. I have dreams to make the Olympic Team. This is one step closer to what it takes to become an Olympian,” said Rottier.

Clearly, this program has a long term vision for Team USA, but there is also an immediate need to address. At 75 kg, three-time World champion and Olympian Adeline Gray will not be competing this year due to recovery from injury, so another athlete will need to step up and battle for a medal at the Worlds this summer in Paris. In addition, last year, the USA did not qualify to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games at 69 kg because our nation’s athletes failed to meet the Olympic qualifying standards.

“We have scheduled five more Supergirl camps for this year. Although it might now be an immediate effect because the Trials are in two weeks, hopefully by the end of the summer and into the fall, when we get to the World Championships and the U23 World Championships, we are really seeing them pay off. And long term, when we get to 2020, our goal is to win golds in all of those weight classes,” said Randall.

The USA has been successful in the past in these upper weight classes, going back to the days of World champions Kristie Davis, Sandy Bacher and Iris Smith. The tremendous achievements of Adeline Gray throughout her career is also inspiring to many of those in the Supergirl camp.

“I really admire Adeline Gray, just in the way that she has really pioneered our weight class. She is such an amazing role model for us to look up to,” said Moorehouse.

The plan is for athletes in the Supergirl Camps to follow in Gray’s footsteps and achieve great things in the future. For the USA Wrestling Women’s National Team Program, that future begins right now.