COLORADO SPRINGS — An after-school activity has the power to change a person's life. Wrestling did exactly that for one local veteran, who is sharing that same passion with kids today.
Wrestle Like A Girl is a non-profit organization that started in Colorado Springs, and has expanded across the nation. "I'm a two time world bronze medalist in women's wrestling, a combat veteran in special operations, and the founder and CEO of Wrestle Like A Girl," said Retired Sergeant Sally Roberts.
Sgt. Roberts said she first started wrestling in middle school while living in Washington. "My mom had been married five times, and I didn't like being at home after school. So, I would go out and shoplift and break into houses. I actually got arrested so many times that I was given an ultimatum by the juvenile detention officer. I could either find an after-school activity, or I would face going to juvenile detention," explained Sgt. Roberts.
She said she was cut from several sports, because coaches said she did not know how to play well with others. "When I looked at the list of offerings, I saw that wrestling was a no-cut sport. And I thought, that's it, as long as I go out and wrestle and I don't quit, then I won't face juvenile detention. And that one single decision forever changed the trajectory of my life," remembered Sgt. Roberts.
Without wrestling, Sgt. Roberts does not know if she would have become the person she is today. "It teaches you resiliency, bravery, courage. You're going to get knocked down countless times in wrestling, and all you have is yourself to get back up," said Sgt. Roberts.
Sgt. Roberts said she started Wrestle Like A Girl around five years ago. "I wanted to name the organization Wrestle Like A Girl because it was taking this derogatory term that girls felt shameful about, and we gave it power, we gave it position, we gave it authority," Sgt. Roberts told News5.
16-year-old Cheyenne Dyess is one of the ambassadors of Wrestle Like A Girl. Dyess began wrestling around six years ago. "When I was in middle school, there was no girl's program that I could enter. So, I wrestled only boys or the occasional girl that would come in," said Dyess.
Now, Dyess wrestles at Vista Ridge High School, where the boys' and girls' teams practice together. "Being on this team is like no other. You are there for each other just like you're there for your family," said Dyess.
Dyess was diagnosed with cancer in January of 2015 and has now been cancer free for around four years. "Fighting cancer definitely taught me that things are temporary, and you can go through anything, and fight through it. It's really just your mindset... The pain is only temporary. And one of our practice rules is you can always do one more. So, that's really instilled just throughout wrestling and I had that mindset throughout cancer," Dyess said.
Sgt. Roberts said Wrestle Like A Girl bridges the gap between access and opportunity when it comes to wrestling.
Wrestle Like A Girl's annual fundraiser is scheduled for October 22 at the US Olympic & Paralympic Museum. Sgt. Roberts said all of the tables are sold out, but that there are still some seats left. To learn more about the gala, email Sally@WrestleLikeAGirl.org.