Eight-year-old Olivia Maldonado took part in the World of Wrestling’s 25th annual Kick Off Classic Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma Nov. 19-21.
The Mitchell resident placed seventh at the tournament after becoming the state champion back in March.
“It was okay; I just didn’t like the (11-hour) drive. Next time, we are going to fly,” she said about the experience.
In the bracket of 16, she won her first round before running into Kaiulani Kekahuna (the number two girl in the nation in her weight class), who won the whole tournament. When in the consolation bracket, Olivia won her way into the heartbreak round and lost.
Olivia started wrestling almost five years ago after her dad Carlos took her with him to her cousin’s wrestling match.
“When she was little, I’d want to watch my little cousins wrestle and my wife would be like ‘take her with you,’ he said. “So I take her and she’s sitting there with her popcorn and watching and eating. After their first year, she asked her mom if she could try it. She begged her and we finally sat down and talked about it.”
She started wrestling when she was four years old and won the very first tournament she was in as the only little girl in the bracket. One of her other cousins is also on her team and they’ve wrestled together since she started out.
“I watched (wrestling) when I was little and I wanted to try it. That’s when I fell in love with the sport,” she said. “I love winning and I like traveling as well.”
Olivia plays multiple other sports as well, including softball and basketball--and wants to play volleyball and golf--but wrestling is her favorite.
Olivia is the only girl on her team as of now, so she has been wrestling boys pretty much her whole life. Before this tournament, she hadn’t wrestled a girl since she was with the Panhandle Wrestling Academy.
“Right now, she is the only one,” Carlos said. “I think there’s some new wrestlers that are getting ready to start a beginner’s class; I believe there are one or two little girls there.”
He is proud of how far she’s come since starting out almost five years ago.
“It’s been an amazing journey to watch her go from where she originally started to now. It’s just night and day,” Carlos said. “She looks just like any other kid out there, male or female. It’s awesome watching her win her state title. Watching her mom cry was a shining moment. State was exciting because she pretty much blew through all the girls.
“These ones were a little more eye-opening because I told her, 'You might be the best here, but these girls are the best in their areas.’ She showed some great sportsmanship. She usually hugs the other little girls, whether she wins or loses, and tells them congratulations. I’m just very proud of her.”
With NSAA having sanctioned girls wrestling as a high school sport, she feels excited.
“I feel good about it because not a lot of people like girls wrestling,” she said.
Her ultimate goal when she gets older is to win the Olympics.
She will continue to compete at wrestling matches with the next leg of the nationals tournament in Tulsa in January.