Where It All Began (0:00)
On this episode, Ben Askren sits down with World Medalist and newly signed RUDIS ambassador Sarah Hildebrandt. Fresh off winning gold at the Yarygin Grand Prix, Hildebrandt tells Askren how she got started in the sport of wrestling. With one older and one younger brother both wrestling, from a young age, she was taken to wrestling tournaments every weekend. It wasn’t until about 11 years old when Hildebrandt really began paying attention and sparking an interest beyond living room wrestling with her brothers. She attempted to start an intramural girls wrestling team at her school but, no one came out to join. She was able to join the boy’s team wrestling at 75 lbs and won her very first match.
High School Wrestling (4:31)
Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports at the youth and collegiate levels. When Hildebrandt was first wrestling there were only about four girls wrestling on boys’ varsity teams in her state of Indiana. At Askren Wrestling Academy, Askren noticed at the youth level there currently are a lot of girl wrestlers but around the high school level, there are less than a handful. Askren attributes this to puberty. Once boys start to become more muscular, the older they get, they begin to separate themselves from the women that were once toe to toe with them. Hildebrandt experienced this as well. In order to mitigate the differences in strength, Hildebrandt would cut from 130 to 103 lbs during her high school years. This is a big hurdle for women’s participation in the sport. As of now, there are only 12 states with sanctioned women’s state championships. During high school, Hildebrandt was also competing in women’s national wrestling. She won Fargo and Body Bar Women’s Nationals.
College Wrestling (11:45)
At the time when Hildebrandt chose King University, it was not the top women’s wrestling program in the country. What she didn’t know was that wrestling room was full of future women’s world and Olympic medalist. Oddly enough, one of the biggest factors in committing to King University was how much fun she had on her visit playing intramural sports. This was Hildebrandt’s first experience on an all women’s team competing solely against other women. She says it was humbling her freshman year going against the best women wrestlers in the country. During her time at King, Hildebrandt was a 4x WCWA national finalist and 2x national champion.
Discipline Through Self-Reflection (24:01)
Hildebrandt goes on to talk about how she was able to step onto the national team at 25 with a dominating presence when many girls who are that level make the team earlier. In 2017 she dislocated her elbow losing her chance at making the national team. She used her injury as a moment for self-reflection. Another factor was the change of weigh-in procedures which in return made Hildebrandt become disciplined on her nutrition. This new elite level athlete discipline translated to the rest of her life as well.
World Championships (12:38)
Leading into the 2018 World Championships Hildebrandt was very emotional. Askren reflects on his experience at the national level and representing the U.S. at the 2008 Olympics. The wrestlers who made the team have to keep their weight dialed in and they are focused on certain opponents. The other training partners and wrestlers who didn’t make the team are relaxed and maybe just a little upset they weren’t able to make the team. Often times the one who made the team is getting beat up in the wrestling room. This was the case for Hildebrandt as well. It can mess with your confidence getting beat in the room against your teammates when you’re about to go out and represent against the best in the world. Despite the training leading up to Worlds, Hildebrandt loves the big stage and was excited when she got there. One thing that lead her to her Silver Medal at Worlds was the fact that she is comfortable no matter where the match goes. She isn’t hesitant or reluctant to wrestle from all positions orthodox or not.
Growing Women’s Wrestling (34:24)
Hildebrandt is the first female wrestler with her own clothing line. She says it’s exciting to help lead the way for all of women’s wrestling. Askren asks what advice she would give to someone like himself running a wrestling academy to build up female participation. Hildebrandt says the first step is letting girls know they’re welcome in the space as well as coaches reaching out to girls at their schools and in their community.
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Ben Askren and Matt Dernlan host the RUDIS Wrestling Podcast. Askren, World Champion, and Olympic Wrestler joins in official partnership as a content provider for all things RUDIS. Matt Dernlan joins from years of experience in D1 college coaching at Binghamton, Clarion, and Penn State University.
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