Olympic trials finalist teaches wrestling to aspiring girls

Inside Ringers Wrestling Club in Menomonee Falls, you'll find some aspiring female wrestlers. Coaching them is Kylie Welker.

At just 18 years old, Welker is the nation's top pound-for-pound recruit, a 2021 Junior World Champion and a U.S. Olympic Trials finalist. These girls are learning from the best of the best. 

"It's really nice to have a freestyle girl that's been to the Olympics coaching us," said Julianna Lasavage, a 9-year-old aspiring wrestler.

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"It's really cool to meet her, because she's done a lot of really great things for the sport and women's wrestling," said Asymina Zwart, a Wauwatosa East junior.

Welker teaches in Menomonee Falls and in Burlington.

Kylie Welker

"It's exciting," said Welker. "It's definitely a lot of learning, but I want to give the younger girls an opportunity to do freestyle."

Welker wrestles freestyle herself, which is an Olympic style of wrestling. Her transition into coaching has taught her a lot.

"Coaching literally makes you look at a completely different perspective," said Welker. "When you're wrestling, you're feeling it out. You're thinking in a different way, and then as a coaching perspective, you're breaking down other people's techniques. You have to know the move to perfection in order to coach it, so I've definitely grown as a wrestler."

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Welker embraced this new role on the mat because of an UCL injury in her left elbow. That led to Tommy John surgery, a six-month recovery window and a pause in her own personal journey as an Olympic-level wrestler. 

"It sucks because I'll probably miss out on trials," said Welker. "I'll miss out on Junior World Team trials, U23 World Team trials and Senior World Team trials, which are the teams that I made this year.

"In the end, I want to be ready for the 2024 Olympics, so pushing this year off and taking this year off could be a blessing in disguise."

Kylie Welker

During this period, Welker has relished the chance to coach this next generation of female wrestlers. 

"I want to grow the sport as much as I can while I'm in the sport and even after I'm retired, and I hang my shoes up," said Welker.

It's also a big reason why she became the first member of the Iowa women's wrestling program. The Hawkeyes are the first Power Five school to start such a program. They'll start competition in 2023-24.

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"I think that it's an opportunity to help grow women's wrestling and also grow myself as a brand," said Welker. "I think also, Iowa started something that's going to push a lot of other schools to start women's wrestling on that level."

To wrestle at the highest level and inspire those who have similar dreams, Welker has a lot ahead of her. That also includes her ultimate goal: the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. 

"It's what I've set my mind to since I was little," said Welker. "I think I would be failing myself if I even thought of anything else right now. I've been doing this for so long, and I've put so much into this sport. I think just having that goal in mind is what keeps me driving forward."

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