Two women wrestlers are going to the 2016 United World Wrestling Junior World Championships.
Freshman wrestler Rachel Watters and sophomore wrestler Becka Leathers went to Mâcon, France, Sept. 1 and 2.
Leathers competed and won a bronze medal in last year’s Junior World Championships. She said she is excited to compete again this year and plans to win the gold.
“I’m looking forward to going, competing, representing my country, hopefully becoming a world champion, then spending four extra days roaming around Paris and hitting Geneva afterward,” Leathers said. “I’m just looking forward to the vacay afterwards and getting to relax.”
Leathers is taking September off after returning from Worlds, which means she’ll miss some of preseason.
“The reason I’m taking September off is because I have not stopped wrestling at all,” she said.
“The other girls were at home during the summer and got their time to mentally recoup—it’s very difficult training and being gone all summer. I need that time to mentally recoup and get re-motivated for the college season.”
Leathers returned from training in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games the weekend before the semester began. She had the opportunity to go to Rio as Haley Augello’s training partner.
“Rio was so fun,” Leathers said. “Going as a training partner was an experience that was gifted to me by Haley. We were pretty good friends beforehand and a year ago she was joking and was like, ‘I’m going to cut to 48 kg, make the Olympic team, and I’m taking you as my partner,’ and I was like ‘Okay, haha.’ But she did it, and it was the most amazing experience.
“Just being around all those high level athletes—I was around Olympians all day and just watched their work ethic, their diet, their mindset, and how they train. It was awesome.”
Leathers said her time in Rio didn’t change her goals because she already planned on making it to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“Now I just kind of got better insight of what it’s going to take to make that dream happen,” she said.
Prior to training in Rio, Leathers spent the summer training with Aguello in Colorado and competed in the Grand Prix of Spain in Madrid.
Watters also competed in Madrid, as well as in last year’s Junior World Championships. She took fifth at 72 kg last year, and Leathers said she is excited to see what she can do this year.
“It’s always awesome to have people on your college team that are on your world team because you can really see their growth,” Leathers said.
“Last year, she was in the bronze medal match and lost it, and I was in the bronze medal match and won it. This year—because she was a recruit and because she was around a lot more—I watched her growth. It’s all pretty incredible.”
Watters was recruited at the beginning of her junior year of high school by Matt Stevens, assistant wrestling coach at the time and now women’s head coach.
Since Watters came short of medaling at last year’s world championships, she said she plans to come back with a medal this year.
“I’m looking forward to getting another shot at medaling,” Watters said. “Also, my family in France will watch me compete.”
She also said she’s glad she gets to go to Worlds with Leathers and be at OCU.
“It shows that OCU is a successful program,” she said. “I just look forward to growing as a wrestler and as a person. I’m excited I’m here and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Stevens said going to Worlds is a great opportunity, and he is happy for Leathers and Watters.
Out of the 12 women on Team USA’s women’s freestyle team, six will return to collegiate competition after Worlds.
Leathers said she loves wrestling and the fact that women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
“The thing about wrestling is anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a specific body type,” Leathers said. “There’s people who are tall and skinny, or short and stout. Anyone can do it and be successful at it.”