Photo by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.
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 Sally Roberts, a two-time Senior World bronze medalist, who has become one of the most influential activists in wrestling.
Check out the other USA Wrestling History Lessons HERE.
Roberts’ wrestling career began when she was forced to choose between juvenile detention or an after-school activity. Roberts chose to join the school’s all-boys wrestling team.
She found success quickly and wrestled in college, first at UM-Morris then at Pacific University. She was eventually invited to become a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, where she stayed for eight years. During that time, she earned bids to the 2003 and 2005 World Championships and collected World bronze medals in each appearance.
Roberts also helped the USA to World Cup titles in 2003 and 2006. Additionally, she won three U.S. national championships. In 2008, Roberts became the first U.S. woman to win one of the toughest open events in the world, the Ivan Yarygin Memorial International in Russia, claiming gold medals in 2005 and 2008.
In 2008, Roberts fell just short of making the Olympic Team, taking second at the Olympic Team Trials. Shortly after, she decided to join the Army and was sent on deployment to Afghanistan.
When she returned, Roberts joined the prestigious Army World Class Athlete Program and competed for the squad for six years.
Upon finishing her wrestling career, Roberts founded non-profit organization Wrestle Like A Girl in 2016. Now, it is one of the most recognized organizations for empowering girls and women through increasing opportunities in female wrestling. Roberts and WLAG have had a huge hand in advocating for sanctioning high school girls’ state tournaments throughout the U.S., as well as helping women’s wrestling receive NCAA Emerging Sports Status.
In 2016, Roberts received the Women in Sport Award on behalf of United World Wrestling and the International Olympic Committee. Two years later, she was named the 2018 USA Wrestling Woman of the Year.