Helen Maroulis

by Emily from Newark

Helen celebrates her win by raising the flag  (Sports illustrated  ())
Helen celebrates her win by raising the flag (Sports illustrated ())

My hero, Helen Maroulis, is my hero because she inspires me and so many other girls who wrestle. She is what I, along with every other young wrestler, aspire to be like. Also, she shows girls that wrestling is not only for boys - and that they can be great at it. Some people think that girls can't wrestle and that "wrestling like a girl" is an insult. Helen proves them all wrong. She is the first American woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal for women's wrestling. She was also a world champion in 2015, bronze medalist in 2013, and a silver medalist in 2012. She was a 4 time WCWA (women's collegiate wrestling association) champion. All of her success came with lots of sacrifice and hard work. She overcame and learned from every obstacle that stood in her way, ever since she was a young girl.

Young Helen Maroulis (twitter.com ())
Young Helen Maroulis (twitter.com ())

The future Olympian's wrestling journey began when she was just 7 years old. Her brother started wrestling and that's what introduced Helen to the sport. He went to his first practice and didn't have a partner to work moves with so their mother told Helen to "go be his dummy". After that first practice, she fell in love and knew that was the sport for her. She was not at all successful with any other sport that she tried and was often asked to quit. She was a shy girl but wrestling changed her. It gave her confidence and she was a natural. Not many girls wrestled so she always had to work with the boys who didn't always want to work with her. After months of practicing like everyone else, Helen felt it was unfair that she couldn't compete. She begged her parents to let her but they were hesitant at first. Her dad finally agreed to let her wrestle one match and, if she won, she could continue. That was the only match she won all year.

Maroulis started high school at Colonel Zadock Magruder High School and finished in Michigan, where she attended a facility for future Olympians. From her freshman to her junior year in high school she wrestled in the boys varsity division. Wrestling with boys made her stronger mentally and physically but people didn't always approve of it. In duel tournaments, she would often get forfeits because boys didn't want to wrestle a girl. This upset her because she always wanted to compete and she didn't care if her opponent was a boy, she accepted the challenge. She became the first girl ever to place in the boys' Maryland state tournament, placing sixth. Now it was time for her Olympic pursuit. She plans to wrestle all the way through 2020. Her weight class, 121 lbs (55 kg) was not an Olympic weight so she made the decision to drop to 117 lbs (53 kg), which was one of the hardest things about her Olympic journey.

Maroulis on the podium during the U.S. National Anthem (Sports illustrated  ())
Maroulis on the podium during the U.S. National Anthem (Sports illustrated ())

The determined wrestler struggled to get down to the required weight but was willing to make the sacrifice. She had to be on a strict meal plan that consisted of boneless chicken, a handful of spinach, half an avocado and, for dessert, a dollop of peanut butter. Helen was a favorite to make the 2012 Olympic Team. She was on a win streak of 57 matches, hadn't lost for 18 months. But she fell short in the finals by one point to Kasey Campbell who went 0-2 in London. She was depressed and discouraged that she was so close yet so far from her dream. Then she got back on track and was more determined than ever. Going into the 2016 Olympic trials she was once again a heavy favorite and wasn't going to let it slip away from her this time. She dominated all 5 of her matches by tech falls with a combined score of 55-2. She was hungry for a gold medal.

Helen Maroulis did what no one thought was possible. She beat the most decorated wrestler ever, Saori Yoshida. Yoshida, 33, was attempting to be the first ever 4 time Olympic Gold Medalist. Helen knew for a long time that Yoshida stood in the way of her own gold medal so she prepared for her for years. She felt that she was ready to beat her and in her prayers she repeated, "God, I am enough." She was. She outscored her 4-1. Before that match Saori Yoshida was yet to be scored on at all. Helen's win left them both in tears. Maroulis cried tears of joy, while Yoshida cried tears of heartbreak. After soaking in what had just happened, the gold medalist grabbed the American flag and ran around the mat. She burst into tears once again when our National Anthem played for the first time in history for the Olympic women's wrestling gold medal.

Page created on 4/14/2017 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 7/2/2017 2:14:38 AM

Related Links

NBC Olympics - Final match against Saori Yoshida
NBC Olympics - Semi Final match highlights
NBC Olympics - Quarter Final match against Sofia Magdalena
Team USA wrestling - Helen Maroulis new documentary