photo courtesy of Richard Immel
Jenna Burkert has always been a trailblazer in women’s wrestling. She started wrestling at the age of six and was one of the few girls involved in the sport at the time in Long Island, New York. While still in high school, before girls wrestling was prevalent in clubs and high schools, Burkert enrolled at the US Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Michigan, held at Northern Michigan University. In 2010, Burkert became the first American woman to qualify and compete in the Youth Olympic Games, where she ended up taking fifth place. Six years later, Jenna joined the Army and competed as a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). Three Senior World Championship appearances later, Jenna is still pursuing her Olympic dreams, a goal that was set while watching the Winter Olympics as a young girl.
In addition to Jenna’s exploits on the wrestling mat, she’s also become a leader in the wrestling apparel business. Burkert an ambassador for Adidas, who came to her almost four years ago now, with the idea to design singlets that cater to girls and women in the sport. During that time, Jenna has received numerous samples from Adidas as they worked to create the perfect singlet. On each occasion, Burkert provided Adidas with “honest feedback and critiques,” to which she credits the company for “taking the feedback well” and applying it to future designs. Jenna also employed the help of her teammates to give the designers a sample of various body-types.
The end result was that there is no one “perfect” singlet that will fit every girl or woman the same way. With that in mind, Adidas is ready to launch the PRO FIT women’s singlet this summer. Jenna is extremely passionate about the product and sees Adidas as “leading the charge” in regards to women’s wrestling apparel and at this point, “everyone else is playing catch-up.” The PRO FIT singlets will allow consumers to design singlets to their unique specifications. Wrestlers can modify their singlets based on their bust, waist, hip, and thigh sizes. The finished product will be a singlet made especially for their body.
Jenna has always subscribed to the theory that, “the better you feel, the better you’ll compete.” As a seven-year-old that was forced to wrestle with a tee-shirt under her singlet made for boys, she knows how uncomfortable and intimidating that can be for new wrestlers. With the release of the PRO FIT singlet, young girls will be able to design singlets that fit them specifically, which Burkert feels will “give them a huge boost of confidence.” In a sport as tough as wrestling, having your singlet as one less thing to worry about, is crucial.
Burkert “takes a lot of pride” in working with a company like Adidas that has spent so much time, money, and effort into designing a product like the PRO FIT singlet with young girls and women in mind. “I care so much about it, because they care so much.” Just like on the wrestling mat, Burkert is not content to rest after helping create a product that will “knock it out of the park” like the PRO FIT singlet. She already has her sights set on more innovations for girls and women’s wrestlers. After making handfuls of national/world teams during her two decades in the sport, Burkert has found that team-issued gear “isn’t really designed with females in mind.” Particularly compression shorts, a popular item for wrestlers of all ages. Could that be the next breakthrough for Jenna and Adidas?
Next on the mat for Jenna is the Olympic Trials. Initially, set for April 4th and 5th, the Trials have been postponed with no rescheduled date announced at this time. Whenever the Trials fall, the Army WCAP athlete’s mindset is, “not to make one match bigger than it actually is. Just think of it like another match.” Every time she steps on the mat, Burkert tells herself to, “put in effort, fight through every position, and have fun.”
The last time Burkert stepped on the mat in an actual competition was in early-February at the Pan-American wrestle-off’s which were held alongside the Women’s College Wrestling Association (WCWA) National Championships. Though she fell to 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Helen Maroulis, Jenna was pleased to have the opportunity to compete against Maroulis. “I felt like I’m one of the lucky ones. I had never wrestled her before and some of the film on her is kind of dated now. It will really help me in the room and shows where I need to improve”.
As she’s gearing up to compete in her third Olympic Trials, Burkert notices a difference in her mentality this time around. She sees younger athletes who she can tell are getting nervous about the process and remembers feeling the same way. Now, Burkert is more grateful for the opportunity to compete in such a prestigious tournament. “One of the differences between then and now is I viewed it from the standpoint of “have to” to do something, where now I look at it as “getting to.”
Burkert also takes her responsibility as a veteran of the sport and a pioneer of women’s wrestling seriously. Like anyone associated with women’s wrestling, Jenna is excited about the growth of the sport, but she’s also thought about the future and giving back to the wrestling community. Over the years, she’s seen some Senior-level athletes “finish their career and do their own thing, which is fine. I’ve valued the time I’ve spent with the wrestlers that came before me and I was to do that to the next generation”. Jenna’s work with the Army recently brought her to the Georgia Girls High School State Tournament. The tournament was positive for both Jenna and high school girls who were competing. She didn’t anticipate the outpouring of support from the girls, while they did not expect that a three-time world-team member like Burkert would be in attendance watching.
With such an uncertain time in the world, and the wrestling community to a lesser extent, whenever the Olympic Trials are held, you can be sure that Jenna will be proudly representing her WCAP team (she has risen to the rank of sergeant in the Army) along with Adidas and their #ThreeStripeLife.
Wrestling has long been called a sport for “any body” as women’s competitors range from 94 lbs to 225 lbs in USA Wrestling’s 16U and Junior National Championships. Now with the Adidas PRO FIT singlet, there will be a uniform for any body, as well.
For more information on Adidas’ PRO FIT singlets check out the website: Adidas Wrestling