Photo by Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling.
The USA women’s freestyle World Team representative at 57 kg, Jenna Burkert, has tackled one of the biggest roadblocks in wrestling: weight management. Since wrestling at the World Championships at 59 kg in 2018, Burkert has nearly perfected the discipline of healthy eating, resulting in a weight change down a weight to 57 kg.
“I don’t think I would have wrestled as long as I am now if I didn’t figure it out with weight management,” Burkert said. “I think I just had to get a new relationship with food. Previously, I thought I had to put on layers and cut a bunch of weight because that’s what wrestlers do, then binge eat and do it all over again. Sometimes wrestlers torture themselves. With the help of my fiancé, I really learned the importance of a good relationship with food and how to eat healthy. I had to not let it be a chore. Now I really view my body as a machine, and I know I have to put good things in my body to get good things out of it. When I eat like crap, I wrestle like crap. It’s really important to me to stay disciplined with my eating habits.”
The process wasn’t an overnight thing. Burkert explained that actually took a while before she saw big changes kick in.
“I missed weight in 2017 and had to wrestle at 63 kg. When the weights changed, I thought I would just go 62 kg,” she said. “Slowly but surely, I started getting leaner and more fit. 57 kg seemed more realistic because that’s what I actually weigh. On any given day, I wake up at 0.3 to maybe a one kilo over, but that’s kind of pushing it. I definitely the process now. My younger self would have never believed where I am now.”
Without the worry to cut weight, Burkert said it makes it easier to prepare for competition physically and mentally, but she doesn’t mind seeing her opponents struggle to beat the scale.
“When I get to a competition and I see these girls in their sauna suits that are cutting hard, feeling sorry for themselves and searching for pity, I love to see that. I’m not cutting weight so I don’t have to worry about that. You’re doing an extra workout because you have to. I’m getting in a workout because I want to and because my body feels good enough to. I can feel great because I’m on weight or under weight, but as soon as the whistle blows, it’s time to fight.”
Along with getting her weight under control, Burkert has put other parts of her life in order, leading her to a much more confident person and wrestler.
“I don’t even feel like the same wrestler that I was a year ago. I was looking at pictures thinking, ‘You know, this year’s Jenna would whoop last year’s Jenna’s butt. It wouldn’t even be close. I think that comes with a lot of confidence. I’m 26 now, and I’m a more seasoned athlete. My life outside of wrestling is really good; I’m really happy. I really feel like I’m on solid ground now. I’m not a little kid anymore searching for someone to tell me what to do or looking for people’s approval. Now, I really don’t care what anybody thinks. All that combined really gives me a lot of confidence to go on the wrestling mat or into a military setting or really any situation. I like me better now.”
Burkert is set to compete at the 2019 World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Sept. 18-19 live on Trackwrestling.com. Check out the full interview below!