Kayla Miracle and Sarah Hildebrandt were on the mats at Memorial Coliseum over the weekend seeking championships and valuable experience that they both hope will pay off someday in Olympic gold.
"I think if I keep working the way I am, it’s definitely possible," said Miracle, a freshman at Campbellsville (Kentucky) University, when asked if she’s on a path toward making the 2016 Olympic team.
Miracle, who attended Culver Academy, helped Campbellsville to a fourth-place finish at the Coliseum in the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association’s National Duals, which were part of Mat Mayhem, a three-day event that featured about 200 teams from youth to college levels.
Hildebrandt, who like Miracle is on the national team, helped King (Tennessee) University to the NWCA championship.
Also like Miracle, Hildebrandt has Indiana ties – she is from Granger – and in high school wrestled against boys.
"This is the whole team’s favorite event. It’s so much fun. It’s a good venue for it," Hildebrandt said. "Everyone’s adrenaline is high. We don’t wrestle in front of this many people this often."
Hildebrandt, a senior, wrestled at 130 pounds and went 3-0, defeating Missouri Baptist’s Bree Rapoza in 1 minute, 24 seconds, beating McKendree’s Gabrielle Weyhrich 11-0 and defeating Oklahoma City’s Carla Ponce 10-0.
"I’m definitely going to keep going after college. I haven’t figured out where I’m going to be training yet, though, so I need to figure out my life. It’s my first year on the national team and it’s good to work out and travel with the top girls," said Hildebrandt, who normally wrestles at 123 pounds and wants to get down to 116 for international competition.
"My technique, it’s endless what I need to work on. And I need to really need to focus on my diet. You can always find me running. But there’s lots of dieting work I need to change up."
Miracle wrestled up two weight classes, at 143 pounds, and emerged from the Coliseum 4-0. She finished with a 10-0 victory over Oklahoma City’s Rachel Young and a 4:05 victory over McKendree’s Cassandra Herkelman.
Miracle is coached at Campbellsville by her father, Lee, who has worked with the U.S. Women’s World Team.
"When I was in high school, he was down in Bloomington (with the Hoosier Elite Academy) and I was up at Culver. We had our space," Kayla said. "He would come to almost every meet and still be in the stands and stuff. I could hear his voice. Once you get a voice in your head, it won’t leave."
Kayla had reservations about going to wrestle for her father at Campbellsville, which has had a women’s wrestling team for only two years, because they’re "basically the same exact person" and she was "afraid they would butt heads" too much.
But it’s ended up improving her wrestling even more than she could have hoped. She’s gained a lot of confidence by defeating wrestlers at the senior level.
"Having him in the practice room and at the mat, he sees everything, all the little things, and we can address it," Kayla said. "Otherwise, it would be a text (message). It would be really difficult to read it and figure out exactly what he’s talking about. It’s nice. A lot of little improvements have been made."
Whether Miracle and Hildebrandt make it to the Olympics or not – the 2016 games will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – they have already given Indiana wrestling fans much to talk about and had experiences they’ll never forget, including some from Fort Wayne.
"I don’t even know what I want to do after wrestling," said Hildebrandt, who is majoring in business and marketing. "I love event planning. I’m going to delay the real world for a couple years, but I’m excited to get into the business aspect of life. I think being an athlete will really help me when I get into a different part of life."