Photo by Tony Rotundo/Wrestlers are Warriors
In 2019, Katherine Shai returned to wrestling after several years of not competing. In case anyone forgot how tough Shai (formerly Fulp-Allen) is, she reminded them, making her sixth National Team and earning the No. 2 spot at 53 kg. Katherine took some time to answer some questions for us this week.
What is your favorite movie?
The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Memoirs of a Geisha.
Who is your favorite musical artist?
I like a lot of different music. I enjoy old school 70s folk and pop like Crosby, Stills Nash & Young and James Taylor, but I also like modern stuff like Nathanial Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Shakey Graves. I listen to modern pop too.
What is your favorite food?
Pizza, my favorite topping is mushrooms.
What is your favorite sport to watch other than wrestling?
I like watching the UFC. I have a lot of friends who compete. That’s definitely the sport I watch the most.
Did you play any other sports growing up?
I did cross country from middle school through college, and I did swimming in high school.
Who is your favorite wrestler to watch either past or present?
Kaori Icho and Seiko Yamamato
What are some of your other hobbies off of the mat?
Anything outdoors, especially hiking. I love cooking. Right now my husband and I have really gotten into making pizza, but my go-to dishes are a Moroccan lamb stew and jeweled rice. I also run my own business, LuchaFit, so business entrepreneurship is a passion of mine.
What is your biggest fear?
Being held back by all my little fears. I want to be my best on the mat, my best for my family and my best at serving others. I don’t want fear to prevent me from giving my best effort.
Do you have any plans once your wrestling career is over?
I want to grow LuchaFit and figure out ways to better serve the wrestling community. I also would like to grow my family and have another kid.
How did you first get involved in wrestling?
My dad (Lee Allen) was a two-time Olympian, wrestling in the 1956 and 1960 Games. I grew up around it. My older sister (Sara Bahoura, formerly Fulp-Allen) got into it which definitely pushed me into it too. She went really far in the sport, so having those paths in front of me definitely influenced what I wanted to do.
What was the best advice you’ve received in your career?
You train and put in the work, at some point you have to let go and be open to whatever the results are. There are a lot of things you can’t control. Learning how to let go and trust in yourself can be a hard concept to understand. Giving yourself patience and acceptance can be challenging, but it’s one of the most important challenges we can do. My coach, Steven Paprocki has been quintessential in helping me develop that mindset.
What advice would you give to a younger wrestler?
We can forget how to learn and to how to be ok with making mistakes. New athletes tend to think they can catch on very quickly and can get frustrated when they don’t understand high-level technique right away. I think that being hard on yourself is one of the most detrimental things you can do. Be easier on yourself, accept that you are in a state of learning and that you’re going to make mistakes. The sooner you can move on, the better off you’re going to be. Self-determination is what really drives success, not being the quickest to learn technique.
Do you have any pre-match rituals?
I always end up wearing the same type of thing. Right now I wear leggings and a long sleeve shirt. I don’t wear my singlet under my warm up, and I change my shirt because I like having a fresh shirt. I always do the same warm-ups too. All the little things building up to being ready are pretty second nature at this point. To an outsider, it would probably look pretty ritualistic.
What motivates you during training?
One of my biggest strengths is my ability to dig deep. It’s a lot of self-motivation and telling myself to keep going. It’s developed from practice with sports psychology and returning to the moment and being present in the moment. When you’re present in the moment, you’re not thinking about the next thing. You’re focused on doing what’s right in front of you.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
I’m a counter attack wrestler. A lot of people don’t like shooting on me because of my crotch lift. That’s just one aspect of my wrestling though.
What is your best wrestling memory to date?
I had a really hard day at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials. I lost to Helen Maroulis in the semifinals. It was a very good match. My sister was in my corner and was with me all day. She encouraged me and helped me work through the semifinal loss. I ended up taking third and making the National Team. It was a hard-fought match for third. It had been a long day, and I was exhausted. I was losing, and I hit a feet-to-back double leg takedown for four points, and that gave me the lead. It’s not second nature for me to celebrate, but I celebrated after that match and looked up to my family in the stands. I lost my dad in 2012, and there were a lot of ups and downs competing in the next quad. That was kind of the culmination of all of that.
You just competed in the Olympic Test event, how was that?
It was a great experience. I got to go with my mom, so that was really cool. It was a tough event that featured some of the top wrestlers in the world. No one was there besides the athletes and coaches because the stands hadn’t been built out yet. It was definitely good for visualizing next year.
Talk about recently joining the Northern Colorado Wrestling Club as a resident athlete
Coming back from pregnancy, I was looking for a place to wrestle. I networked like crazy in Denver, and when I realized Troy Nickerson was coaching at Northern Colorado, I reached out. Previously, we competed at the Olympic Training Center together. Last fall, I started working out at Northern Colorado when I was getting back into shape. This has been in the works for a while, and all the pieces finally fell into place. They have a room full of great training partners for me.
The Shai file
Hometown: El Granada, Calif.
High school: Half Moon Bay
College: Menlo College
Residence: Denver, Colo.
Club: Titan Mercury/Northern Colorado WC/DCOMMA
• Two-Time WCWA champion (2009, 2010)
• 2008 World University champion
• 2016 Dave Schultz Memorial champion
• Three-time U.S. Open runner-up (2019, 2014, 2013)
• 2019 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament champion
• Third in 2012 and 2016 Olympic Team Trials