Women Wrestlers Aim for Olympic Stage

Victoria Anthony
Victoria Anthony defeats opponent at 2016 Dave Schultz Memorial International. (Erin Barney/MEDILL)

By Carlos D. Williamson

Most women simply aren’t encouraged to participate in male-dominated sports. Even the few who do won’t get the opportunity to represent their country in the Olympics.

But Victoria Anthony may be the exception. The 24-year-old freestyle wrestler said she’s been competing for 10 years and has had her mind set on the Olympics since she was a child.

As a result of Anthony’s determination and diligence, she won the 2016 Dave Schultz Memorial International at 48 kg/105.5 lbs.

Most wrestlers must win this tournament in order to qualify for the Olympic Wrestling Team Trials. For Anthony, however, it was just practice since she had previously qualified for the trials, which will be held in Iowa City, Iowa on April 9-10. But to guarantee a spot on Team USA, Anthony has to win this two-day tournament as well.

Anthony started as a judoka

While Anthony has excelled as a wrestler, she got her start in a martial art: judo. When she was six years old, she said she watched her father and sister train and wanted to imitate them.

“I was just like a little kid running around,” Anthony said. “I’m really competitive and have a lot of energy. I’ve always been kind of hyperactive. I just really wanted to get into [judo] if I was going to be there anyway watching.”

Anthony also attended judo clinics held by mixed martial artist and Olympic bronze medalist Ronda Rousey. Since then, Anthony has aspired to compete at the highest level.

“It’s just always been my goal, and it never really seemed like something out of reach,” Anthony said. “But I know I’ll have to work to get there.”

Before Anthony began high school, an accident sent her down another road: She broke her wrist while practicing judo and needed surgery. So she transitioned to wrestling, where she knew could be successful because of her experience in a combat sport. She was reluctant to join at first because she would only be wrestling men, since there wasn’t a women’s team.

“It would be like social suicide to join the boy’s wrestling team,” Anthony said. “It was just a strange, outsider thing to do.”

But after watching a demonstration during physical education, the Huntington Beach, California native noticed a few similarities between the two sports and decided to join the team anyway. As she became more skilled in wrestling, she began competing nationally during her senior year, she said.

Although Anthony is no longer a judoka, she said she still aspires to be the best.

“My goal has always been to be an Olympic gold medalist,” Anthony said.

Puerto Rican wrestler looks ahead to future gold 

Sheykaliz Cintron
Sheykaliz Cintron attempts an escape during her final match. (Jasmine Cannon/MEDILL)

Sheykaliz Cintron also defied social norms when she began wrestling in her home country, Puerto Rico, at the age of 10. But Cintron’s national coach, Otoniel Perez, gave her plenty of encouragement and support.

“Sheykaliz is a young woman with strong potential,” Perez said.

Perez also noted that Cintron was the first woman from Puerto Rico to wrestle at 48 kg at the 2016 Dave Shultz Memorial International.

Since wrestling is not a popular sport for women, Cintron said most people are caught off guard by her career path. “People look at me and say, ‘Wow, a girl wrestler,’” Cintron said.

While the 20-year-old did not place at the tournament, she said she’s not disappointed by the outcome because she’s young and it served as a good learning experience.

Cintron said, however, if she qualifies for the Olympics in the future, she wants to place gold.

Photo at top: Victoria Anthony defeats an opponent at the 2016 Dave Schultz Memorial International. (Erin Barney/MEDILL)