#WomensWednesday: Transition Wrestling website expands college women’s wrestling coverage

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Nov. 06, 2019, 4:33 p.m. (ET)
As women’s wrestling grows across the nation and around the world, there are new voices within the sport emerging in the media space. This year alone, two new websites have been developed covering women’s wrestling, as well as a new podcast. TheMat.com will be publishing updates on these new media outlets as part of its #WomensWednesday series.

Our first feature focuses on Transition Wrestling (https://www.transitionwrestling.com/), a website covering collegiate women’s wrestling. This new media platform was founded by Gabrielle Lord-Klein, a former collegiate wrestler and coach, who has a passion for the sport and the women athletes who participate in it.

About Gabrielle Lord-Klein: A high school wrestler in Wisconsin, Lord-Klein spent two years on the women’s freestyle wrestling team at the U.S. Olympic Education Center (USOEC) at Northern Michigan University. When that program was discontinued, Lord-Klein wrestled for Waldorf University, where she became a two-time WCWA All-American. She was a member of the Junior Pan American Team, as well. After starting her career in financial planning and analysis in California with little connection to the sport, Lord-Klein changed her path and became a graduate assistant coach at Waldorf, where she received her Masters degree. Lord-Klein launched Transition Wrestling this year, while still working full-time in the business community. She runs the website and its social media, with some help from intern Allison Petix (who competes for King University). Highlights of our conversation with Gabrielle Lord-Klein follows.

Q: Why did you create Transition Wrestling?
Lord-Klein: This has been a long time in the works. It is so important to me. I had finished wrestling in college and moved out to California for two years. I was completely separated from the wrestling community. There was no space to be a fan of anything wrestling-oriented. My choice was either you are in wrestling or out of wrestling. I had assigned so much of my identity to this sport. I had given my whole life to it. I was trying to figure out life without wrestling, which was very hard. I moved to Oakland, was doing financial planning and analysis and running with a really good group of people, small business owners and entrepreneurs. I started questioning myself, why am I working with them? What am I going to do? I was realizing that my identity was about all the things that I did.

I created a new relationship with wrestling and it was really powerful. It hit me when I was driving to work one day that I could be the person to know about women’s college wrestling. I could create that space. In 2017, that idea hit me, and I decided I definitely wanted to do this. I studied business and really love business, and there was a need for this. I knew I would do it, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it happen. A couple months after that idea hit me, I got a text from Coach Tyreece Gilder at Waldorf, asking ‘Hey, do you want to be a graduate assistant?’ That was perfect timing. It was an opportunity to get back into the wrestling community while earning a degree with principles that would impact and grow a business. With Transition Wrestling, it really grew and I was understanding what it was going to be.

Women needed a voice at the college level. Knowing what I knew, and how hard it was going through college, I knew that those stories had to be told. I knew it needed to be covered, not only with results and tournaments and interviews, but also to share the stories of the women who are wrestling in college. It is incredibly important to me because of my experience going through the trenches. It is like an extension of me.

We need to cover it now, because, one, the girls who are joining wrestling at a younger age need to be able to see a path where they can go and make it very realistic. If we don’t share the stories and they don’t get the visibility, they keep joining and it is an abyss. If we don’t create it, we are failing them by not sharing the stories and not giving them access to what is the potential for them. The other thing is for the women who graduate, they will have a space where they can be fans, and there is hype about the sport. It is an incredibly powerful and impactful sport.

Q: Your background is business. How do you fill in the communications skill sets?
Lord-Klein: We did not study that in business. All of the multi-media stuff, all of the little intricacies, I had to learn hands-on. When I was in finance, I was managing millions of dollars. It is really about going toe-to-toe with the learning curve. I want to do this, so I need to learn this. It is about knowing what questions to ask, so I can go get the resources. It really is about being open to learning. I really enjoyed writing in college. I like speaking and I like writing, so as much as it was never a focus in my life, I had a tendency for that.

Q: Many people don’t know about the women’s college experience. What things don’t people know about women’s college wrestling?
Lord-Klein: What a lot of people don’t understand is there are a large number of highly-trained athletes in college that nobody sees. I want to expose more of is that there are women who are using wrestling to further their road in life. When you are wrestling in college, it’s about wrestling, but it is never actually about wrestling. It is about your education, the opportunities to improve your situation and to build community. It is about how do we transfer that to life. You have college coaches who are focused on wrestling, but also focused on building great humans. What I am trying to expose is that there are great competitors, but there are also great people. If we share those stories, and we hear more women’s voices, it becomes natural for women to be in spaces where we might not have been before. I didn’t realize how important it was for me to have women who were in leadership positions until I had stories and noticed women in leadership positions. It is sharing stories of strong women doing great things in the world.

Q: What will you do with Transition Wrestling that has not been done before?
Lord-Klein: They are going to see a process. For instance, I am working on a series of “What are women doing now?” But, on the women’s wrestling side, I would say everything. There are places that do it at a smaller level, but we would want to do it at scale. We can grow, and when I put more time in, we can build. It will be very unique to us. It is about women’s stories and there is a woman doing it. I learned so much as I went. On the athlete side, it will be told by women who have had that experience personally.

Q: What will need to be done to make this successful, so it reaches its potential? How does it sustain itself?
Lord-Klein: We have some ideas rolling around right now, which I am not comfortable sharing right now. We do have ideas for sustainability. The questions we are battling now is, if we make it a subscription-based model, are we cutting off availability to more people? As a business person, you have to exchange value for value. You can’t do things for free. You have to have sponsorship, you have to have subscriptions in place. We are thinking about high school girls, if they are able to pay for it, and making it acceptable to broader-based consumers. This is an entire process. It is not about getting to a certain place or being established in a certain way. It is about growing. It is never about comparing to somebody else. It’s about “How am I better than I was yesterday?” When we have that mentality, we are no longer accomplishing for anybody but ourselves. That builds sustainability long term.

Q: On your website, you speak about having “fire and energy.” Has that grown since you actually started the website and launched the business?
Lord-Klein: That is the biggest challenge, getting started and actually doing it. It is never glamorous. It is not all fun and dandelions. It is really hard and there is a lot of work that nobody will ever see. And I love it. If you ask my family, it is like organized chaos. There are challenges I have run into where you have to figure out a way. You have to show up no matter what. That is the whole concept of Transition Wrestling. We show up all the time. There is never an end or a beginning. It doesn’t matter what you do, you have to show up. That’s the whole thing. That is why the fire doesn’t die. There are going to be dark days and hard times, but that doesn’t actually matter. You are still going to show up for yourself, because you have to show up for other people.

Click here for Transition Wrestling