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At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Helen Maroulis became the first ever American to win a gold medal in women's freestyle wrestling at the Olympic Games. She wrestled four matches in the preliminaries before defeating Japan’s Saori Yoshida, 4-1, in the Olympic finals. Helen had previously lost to Yoshida twice (2011 and 2012 World Championships) by pin. Yoshida had not lost a World Championships or Olympic match in 16 years. Helen credits God for her victory and the journey. Her mantra on the day of competition was “Christ is in me, I am enough”. She believes God uses wrestling as a tool to shape her character and faith. The devastation from failing to make the 2012 Olympic Team also motivated her these past four years.
Helen Maroulis was born in Rockville, Maryland, and began wrestling at the age of seven,after her mother asked her to stand in as a drilling partner for her younger brother who had just joined the sport. After two weeks of training, she asked her parents if she could compete in a wrestling match. Her father made a bet with her that if she won her first match he would let her continue wrestling. That was the only match Helen won all year, finishing her first season with a record of 1-30. With no other option, Helen continued wrestling against boys through high school, where she competed for Magruder High School. In her freshman year, Helen made the varsity team and became the first girl ever to place in the boys Maryland Wrestling State Championships, finishing the season in 6th place.
Helen battled limes disease during her sophomore year and ended up qualifying for the State Championships again but failed to win her first two matches. She came back her junior year to place again at the State Championships with another 6th place finish. Helen finished her three years of wrestling for Magruder High School with a record of 99-27. She forfeited wrestling her senior year with the team and moved to Northern Michigan to attend the US Olympic Education Program, in order to train full-time against women in Olympic freestyle wrestling. At 17 years old, Helen became the second youngest female ever to make a Senior World Team. She competed a month later in the2008 Senior World Championships in Tokyo, Japan with an 8thplace finish.
In 2009, after attending her first year of university at Missouri Baptist College where she won her first college National Title, Helen transferred to Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. She won three more National Titles there, becoming the first woman along side her friend and teammate Victoria Anthony, to win four national titles. Anthony won her 4th title 10 minutes before Helen wrestled her finals match. She studied communications.
Helen has won seven Senior National Championships in women’s Freestyle wrestling , and competed on seven Senior World Teams. She has also won three World Cup gold medals. She has been an active member on the national team since 2008.
2012 Olympic Games
In 2011, Helenqualified the USA in the 55kg weight class spot for the 2012 Olympic Games by securing a 5th place in the 2011 World Championships. However, Helen lost in the finals of the 2012 US Olympic Trials the following year to Kelsey Campbell. She attended the London Olympic Games as alternate and training partner for Team USA, which she described as "one of the hardest things she's ever had to do, but one of the best learning experiences"
Helen tried out and made the 2012 World Team held after the 2012 Olympic Games. Here she won her first World medal, losing in the finals by pin to Japan’s3-time Olympic Champion and 10-time World Champion, Saori Yoshida.
In the 2013 World Championships in Hungary, Helen lost to Sweden’s Sofia Mattsson 7-6 in the quaterfinals and failed to medal.
In 2014, Helen won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan at55kg. Following these world championships, Helen met her current coach Valentin Kalika and moved to California to train under him. She also started working with world-renowned strength coach, Charles Poliquin, and nutritionist, Erik Aravelo.
In 2015, she won her first World Championships in Las Vegas at 55kg. She outscored her opponents 35-0.
2016 Olympic Games
In 2016, Helen decided to make the move from 55kg (a non-Olympic weight) to 53kg to try out for the Olympic team. She won the 2016 US Olympic Trials in April at 53kg, defeating reigning champion Whitney Condor, (10-0,11-0). Four days later, Helen and her coach Valentin Kalika flew to Mongolia for the World Olympic Qualifier. By making it to the finals of the tournament, Helen qualified her weight and country for the2016 Olympic Games.
At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Helen became the first ever American to win a gold medal in women's freestyle wrestling at the Olympic Games. The randomized bracket seeding placed Helen in the qualification round, which meant she would have to wrestle one additional match in order to enter the Round of 16. She won her first two matches easily, with both victories by technical fall,before facing a tough challenge from North Korea's Jong Myong-Suk in the quarterfinals. Maroulis trailed by 4 points with only a minute remaining before scoring two takedowns and a push-out to secure a 7-4victory. Moving into the semifinals Helen then pinned world No. 2Sofia Mattsson of Sweden, whom she previously lost to in the 2013 World Championships, to advance to the Olympic finals before where she defeated Saori Yoshida of Japan, 4-1.
In addition to wrestling internationally, training for the Olympics and traveling the world as an ambassador for the USA women’s wrestling team ever since, Ms. Maroulis runs wrestling clinics for wrestlers of all ages and loves to share her passion for the sport, her faith and the values of hard work and resilience. Her field of endeavor is athletics and her impact is far reaching as she is a source of inspiration for women everywhere.
Helen was chosen as one of eight women globally to be an ambassador for theSuper8 campaign, an initiative by United World Wrestling to focus on the development and growth of women in wrestling worldwide in 2013. ( https://unitedworldwrestling.org/node/1768).
Helen has wrestled in Times Square, New York as part of the Beat The Streets Fundraiser for the past six years. This match up hosts the top wrestlers in the USA against world renowned competition and raises over one million dollars annually to inner city children for wrestling and scholarship opportunities.
Helen currently serves as an athlete representative for the national governing body, USA Wrestling’s, Women’s Sports Committee.