By Bruce Karnick
The PanAmerican Championships took place last week in Buenos Aires Argentina for U17 wrestling and Hastings own Skylar Little Soldier brought home some hardware along with her Team USA teammates. The United States walked away from the games with a whopping 225 team points, 101 points ahead of runnerup Brazil who finished with 124. Mexico claimed third place among 11 nations at the event. The US’ domination was fueled by a 285 overall record in the 10 weight classes.
Little Soldier competed in the 57 kg weight class, for those of us that do not know the metric conversions, that is 126 pounds (technically 125.663). Little Soldier was the state champion at 132 pounds just a few months ago.
“I was up until midnight cutting weight, the night before,” said an exhausted Little Soldier. “Then I was back up at five a.m. because I had to make weight at seven.”
Making weight is an interesting process, these athletes are in peak physical condition so there is not a bunch of excess they can lose, except water weight.
“I normally throw on extra layers and run. And then after I got a sweat going, I had to go sit in the Steam Room in the hotel room because there are no saunas down there. I also couldn’t run outside because it's cold. So, I was running down the hallway at five a.m. in the morning waking everyone up,” laughed Little Soldier.
The nice thing, dropping weight doesn’t have much of an impact on the wrestlers because they are able to replenish the fluids after they weigh in. Cutting weight is one of those weird things to nonwrestling people. Done properly, it is safe, and the Hastings wrestlers are always smart about the process.
“Sunday. I got to eat whatever I wanted,” added Little Soldier. “I got to go watch the boys wrestle freestyle. So that was probably one of my favorite days of the trip.”
The first match of the tournament, Little Soldier said she felt a little ‘off’, but she managed to get the win. Little Soldier defeated Guatamala’s Fatima Figueroa Alvarez with a 100 technical fall, known as superiority in international wrestling.
The second match, Little Soldier had the lead 126 when she won by pinfall against Canada’s Ella Finding.
“It was kind of weird because they don't really hand fight that much. All she was doing was just attacking my wrist. So, I had to go through that and just try to get past that. But I was getting my takedowns getting my scores,” explained Little Soldier.
For the gold medal match Little Soldier lost 71 to Ecuador’s Leonela Gruezo Ortiz by points to earn the silver medal. “She scored right off the bat. And then after that, she's sort of just wrestled really defensive. So. it was hard for me to get any attacks in.”
Wrestling internationally has some oddities to it according to Little Soldier. “It was weird with the refereeing because you never really know what they're saying because they speak a different language. So, you cannot really tell what's going on. But there was just like subtle changes. Just the way they wrestle and the environment.”
Even though she was exhausted from the long travel day, Little Soldier had a great time on the fiveday trip, and she was thankful for the opportunity and her teammates.
“There wasn't really anything that was like a big surprise. Because I have had one international trip it was kind of similar like a different language, but it was nice to have the team with me. And it's not like I was just traveling by myself. So, they sort of navigated me through most of it,” added Little Soldier.
What is next for Skylar Little Soldier? A trip to Fargo in a few weeks to compete for another national title then preparing for the world stage again with her eyes set on the 2024 Olympics.
Friends and family gathered at Dugarel’s in Hastings to welcome home Skylar Little Soldier after her silver medal winning performance at the Pan-American Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo by Bruce Karnick