Photo by United World Wrestling.
Welcome to TheMat.com’s weekly series called USA Wrestling History Lesson. Each week, we will highlight one athlete that has wrapped up his or her wrestling career, sharing the impact that they’ve had on the sport.
This week, we take a look at Sara McMann, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and three-time World medalist in women’s freestyle.
Check out the other USA Wrestling History Lessons HERE.
McMann has a storied wrestling career, representing the United States at seven Senior World Championships (2000-03, 05-07) as well as the 2004 Olympic Games, which was the first to include women’s freestyle in the program.
Originally from Maryland, McMann was a member of her boys wrestling team at McDowell High School in Marion, N.C. She went on to compete collegiately at University of Minnesota – Morris, which was the first varsity program for women’s wrestling.
While there, she made the 1999 and 2000 Junior World Teams, placing top-six in the World in both showings. McMann also made her first Senior World Team in 2000, where she finished ninth in her Senior international debut.
Later, she transferred to Lock Haven University and competed on the men’s varsity team there.
After college, she moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., to train full-time at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center.
In 2003, McMann had a breakout year, winning golds at the Klippan Lady Open and Pan American Games, before collecting her first medal at the World Championships, a silver at 63 kg/139 lbs.
That success carried over into 2004 when she made the first U.S. Olympic Team in women’s wrestling, which also featured Patricia Miranda, Tela O’Donnell and Toccara Montgomery.
At the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, McMann scored wins over 2001 World champion Lili Meng of China, 2003 World bronze medalist Viola Yanik of Canada and Stavroula Zigouri of Greece to cruise to the Olympic finals. Ultimately, she lost in the finals to Japan’s Kaori Icho, an eventual four-time Olympic champion.
Continuing her international wrestling career until 2007, McMann claimed bronze medals at the 2005 and 2007 World Championships. She also has gold from the 2007 Pan American Games as well as a silver and bronze from the Pan American Championships.
She transitioned into a fighting career in 2010 and has made her way up through the ranks, competing in several different promotions, including the UFC. She got a title fight in 2014, but dropped the match to Rhonda Rousey during UFC 170. McMann’s most recent fight was in January, where she earned a win over Lina Lansberg to improve to 12-5 in her MMA career and 6-5 in the UFC. She is currently ranked ninth in the UFC women’s bantamweight division.