Why is Sarah Hildebrandt different?
A wrestler is usually associated with the negative aspects of society like bullying, aggression and indiscipline, amongst other things. They are seen as single-dimensional personalities who dedicate their entire life to the mat. But when you talk to Olympic bronze medalist Sarah Hildebrandt, she makes sure to toss those stereotypes away - just like she does to her opponents on the mat. The Penn State graduate will tell you that her wrestling career alone does not describe her.
Sarah Hildebrandt is an aspiring writer, a chain-breaker of societal stereotypes, a role model for many young women and also a social media influencer. These are just a few aspects she is proudly associated with.
“Sarah Hildebrandt outside wrestling is one who loves creative stuff. I love to write, read, draw. If I am not cutting weight, then you would find me in the kitchen baking. I just love eating too,” she said about herself.
Sarah Hildebrandt has been writing since the age of nine. She began writing down her thoughts and dreams in a journal and even wrote about the Olympics even before she knew what it was. There is a page that even talks about how she feels after realizing the Olympic dream, and now moving ahead for the world championships.
“I feel like each journal entry has gotten a little more positive and, you know, we're kind of shifting focus towards World Championships. So yeah, writing helps me get a clear chain of thought,” the 2018 world championships silver medalist says.
A fan of fantasy stories and what looks like a Harry Potter's lightning scar tattoo on her wrist, the Granger-native will compete in the 50kg weight bracket at the World Championships. Sarah Hildrebrant will be the favorite in a field that will be without Olympic champion Yui Susaki (Japan), Maria Stadnik (Azerbaijan) and Yanan Sun (China).
She will face Ukraine’s Bohdana Kokozei Yashchuk in the opening round. And just like before every bout in any competition, Sarah Hildebrandt will tune into Australian rock band AC/DC’s iconic “Thunderstruck” to get pumped up and get her maiden Worlds title home.
“I love AC/DC. I love rock music I love getting super high AC/DC. They're like the band of wrestling. I love “Thunderstruck” I feel like that gets me the most pumped up. It's like a classic and that was probably the one I would listen to at the Olympics. If I felt like I was getting a little too low then I would put that on and it's like let's go!” she says while showing off her AC/DC t-shirt.
Sarah Hildebrandt – The breaker of tides
Sarah Hildebrandt never loved wrestling. For her, it was a boring sport that took an entire day to complete. She said she would initially just whine about it as her parents would take her to watch her brothers wrestle. But after a regular trip to wrestling competitions, things changed for her.
Sarah Hildebrandt, in the seventh grade, decided to take up the sport and also start a girls team –something which was way ahead of its time back then. However, things did not go as planned and she had to eventually take the usual route of training with the boys.
“So, my brothers wrestled, and I was always brought to their tournaments. And I'm just like, I did not like it. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, these tournaments take the whole day.' I was just bored, so I would just keep whining."
“But eventually I was like, I want to try this. So, I tried to start a girls team, nobody came out. This was in seventh grade. They didn't have anybody small enough for the smallest weight class in our middle school team. Since my brother had been through the programme, they were like, if you want to try this, just go out there and don't get pinned. I was like I can do that. I ended up winning my first match and was hooked to the sport,” she recalls.
To Sarah Hildebrandt’s surprise, the society which is usually against girls taking up sports let alone a combat sport was very supportive of her. In her words, they shielded her from any backlash that came her way.
“Surprisingly, I didn't face a ton of backlash from like, the general community. My team, coaches, and teammates were incredible. My parents did a pretty good job of shielding everything. Some people had their opinion, but for the most part, it was, overwhelmingly positive,” Sarah Hildebrandt says.
Sarah Hildebrandt – The Social Media Influencer
Fast forward to August 2021 post the Tokyo Olympics and Sarah Hildebrandt is one of the flag-bearers of women’s wrestling alongside teammates Adeline Gray, Tamyra Mensah-Stock and Helen Maroulis. When she returned to her hometown, it was a heroic welcome for the Olympic medallist. She understands the value of it and realizes how life has changed for her.
Sarah Hildebrandt is now a role model to many young girls who were scared of taking up sports. She has become a voice for millions of women worldwide to feel okay about their body type. Sarah Hildebrandt is also using her social media platform to educate people about fitness, weight cuts and mental health. As for the haters, she simply does not care.
“I just remember when I was that age and the women I use to look up to. Now I am the one who youngsters see as their hero. It is just kind of things that drives and motivates you every day I think it's super important to be on there. Seeing people speak out about their feelings has been huge and then you can connect with them."
"It’s just adds another layer to what I am doing. I feel it is super important to help people in any way beyond the sport. Hopefully, that can make a difference in our sport or one person's life and that's enough for me,” she says swith a bright smile.
Sarah Hildebrandt plans to take a long break after the world championships in Oslo, Norway. Although there is still “unfinished business for Paris Olympics”, she does not know if she will make a comeback. But she will continue to be a multi-dimensional personality and be an ambassador for the sport beyond the mat.
“I'm going to compete at Worlds, I'm going to take time away. Does that mean I'm taking a year off from competing? I don't know...I know that my body needs to heal. I know my heart needs to heal. So, however that looks I'm not going to put lots of time stamps on any of it."
"For now, I have goals set and one of them is to write a fantasy book. Others include helping young girls get comfortable training with boys and they do have Paris on their minds. So, I think it's going to be a fun three years,” Sarah Hildebrandt says.