This is a guest column from Shannyn Gillespie
I first met Caitlyn working a table at a boys freestyle tournament in Illinois way back in 2002 or so. At the time, she was an aspiring Olympian still in high school. Later, Caitlyn was recruited to wrestle at the US Olympic Education Center (MI) after she sustained several injuries at the US Olympic Training Center (CO).
In 2005, Caitlyn qualified for the Illinois High School Association wrestling state championships and became the first high school girl to do this!
Because of her talents, she was highly recruited and decided to train at the USOTC, USOEC, & finally Missouri Baptist University where she was a 2X WCWA All-American.
Now, Coach Caitlyn is starting another chapter in her life and below is her interview…
What age did you start wrestling in competitions and what is your best wrestling accomplishment?
I started wrestling at age 10 and there were very few girl’s tournaments then. One of the first girl’s tournaments I went to was called the La Femme Nationale and we wrestled all three styles [freestyle, Greco-Roman, & folkstyle].
My best wrestling accomplishment… that’s a hard one. I have had so many accomplishments over the years that it is hard to pick one. I’ve won Fargo, was a Runner up in Las Vegas [Sr. Nationals] and placed at the Olympic trials.
My favorite accomplishments were always overseas traveling with the girls that are now my best friends. Gold medals can be won… But, I really think it’s those friendships that really made the sport invaluable to me.
How has wrestling helped you in your life?
Wrestling has taught me the hard way that failure leads to success. Any shortcoming life has thrown at me was always overcome by the endurance I learned through wrestling. Overcoming obstacles and succeeding through life with a positive outlook will make anyone successful.
How many years have you been coaching at the college level and what has that experience been like?
It is amazing to coach at any level. Watching young wrestlers grow and develop into young adults and leaders is truly something wonderful to experience.
How do you balance marriage & coaching?
One of the reasons I am able to balance marriage and wrestling is because my husband loves wrestling as much as I do. We both have goals, aspirations and love to give back to the community.
We focus on the communication aspect of our marriage. We both have busy schedules and sometimes we are each double booked. At the end of the day, it’s important to say, “I love you and I appreciate everything you are doing for yourself and others.”
My girls [daughters] are always with me. They are in the room interacting with athletes and they are active (like their mom and dad).
Exercise is great for children and the best place for a child to run around indoors is the wrestling room. They get to learn the same life lessons wrestling can teach without actually wrestling.
What will it take for high school girls wrestling to triple or quadruple in participation numbers? (Current estimates are 17,000 high school girl wrestlers.)
Once every state has sanctioned girls wrestling [state tournaments], the number will skyrocket. I love how the States are feeding off of each other to grow and obtain sanctioning. If regions and states work together for growth as far as tournaments, camps, clinics & meetings, I believe continued growth will skyrocket.
Why is women’s collegiate wrestling important in the USA? (Current estimates are 60 collegiate varsity teams)
Wrestling is a sport of endurance, determination, & grit. Any college student will need all 3 to thrive in college and be successful after.
What impact (if any) will women’s collegiate wrestling have on Japan’s world dominance in women’s wrestling? (Japan has won 22 of 29 team World titles.
College will affect how we compete at the senior level. However, I truly believe where will we beat Japan in the future, is if we also focus on our CADETS [age range 15-17]. Giving those girls international exposure at a young age will only increase their love for the sport and their understanding of wrestling someone in the US vs. overseas.
What was your experience like as a high school wrestler?
I was lucky enough to attend Glenbard North High School (IL). Wrestling for them was a privilege and the core values I learned from the program – I still carry to this day. It was amazing to be a part of such an intense wrestling focus room. I believe that anyone who comes from GBN has the character to overcome any obstacles if they chose to.
What current challenges do you see now for female wrestling?
The current challenge for female wrestlers is “what path to take.” Do they wrestle boys, girls, Freestyle, Folkstyle, go to Wyoming Seminary? Do they wrestle all year or do three sports? That’s why it’s important to know your athletes/children and what is the best healthy path for them.
How can people contact you to learn more about your program?
They can visit: www.Delval.edu
They can email me: Caitlyn.Baker@DelVal.edu
Bonus: What are your goals for the future?
I want to create leaders; the future of women’s wrestling lies in our youth. We will need more women’s: coaches, state directors, & teachers. I want to teach them [students] how to give back to a sport that has so much to offer.
Bonus #2: What are three things people don’t know about you?
1. I love to bake and if you tell me what you want – I will make it for you.
2. I am left-handed.
3. I am a morning person.
Bonus #3: What makes wrestling different than other sports?
You can never be perfect at it. It is a sport of constant learning. You are always evolving to be better.
Coach Caitlyn touches on the subject of high school aged girl wrestlers getting international exposure and wrestling athletes from other countries as a way to gain on the Japan Wrestling Dynasty. The international style of wrestling for females is freestyle while the style US high school girls wrestle is folkstyle.
This is pointed out because many high school students (or people) may not know this and they may also not know that collegiate wrestling for females is also freestyle or the international style. (For a great article about folkstyle & freestyle wrestling, read: The Great Debate for Female High School Wrestlers: Freestyle or Folkstyle.)
To bridge the gap between female Japan & US wrestlers, high school girl wrestlers now have the opportunity to compete at these freestyle tournaments (during high school) and get international experience: Cadet World Championships & U15 World Championships.
Both of those age group world championships have national qualifying tournaments or world team trials. These tournaments also qualify high school girl wrestlers to Cadet & U15 Pan American Championships.
For more from Shannyn check out his facebook page: http://facebook.com/uswomenswrestling.