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Sherburn’s Lange strikes gold for USA at Pan-Am wrestling event

PAN-AM GOLD — Team USA grappler and Sherburn native Katie Lange (left) attempts to take down Mexico’s Karime Martinez Teran to the mat during the Pan-American junior wrestling championships’ first round at 56 kilograms in June. Lange went on to claim a gold medal for Team USA. (Photo courtesy of Katie Lange)

SHERBURN — Recent Martin County West High School graduate Katie Lange circled the mat on June 13, carrying the American Flag as she claimed gold for the United States.

Lange, a native of Sherburn, competed in the 65-kilogram weight class of the 2021 Pan-American Wrestling Championship tournament, a yearly amateur competition among the countries within North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Women’s freestyle wrestling has been a part of the championships since 1997.

The Sherburn native competed in the Juniors Class, where she wrestled two matches. She opened with a pin of Karime Martinez Teran from Mexico, then she shoved Canadian opponent Aylah Mohammed Mayali’s shoulders to the mat in the championship to claim gold.

“I was super excited because I knew a lot of people from my home town were watching me and I just felt like the whole community has just supported me through everything,” Lange said. “I was just super proud to be able to run the American flag around the mat, it’s like our win.”

In the moment she circled the mat, she was worried she had the flag upside down, Lange said with a laugh. She said the joy and overall emotion brought from representing the United States was overwhelming.

To join a USA roster for world wrestling events, you have to participate in the World Team Trials, Lange said. This year’s team trials where in Irving, Texas, May 7-9.

Lange faced a 32-person bracket at 65 kg during the trials, culminating in a best-of-three championship matchup with Alara Boyd from Indiana.

“Honestly I had no idea how I was going to do,” Lange said. “I had been injured, I wasn’t sure how my shoulder was gonna hold up and honestly, I haven’t wrestled that kind of competition for quite a while. … I actually won my first finals match, and then ended up losing the next two, but I was just happy that I was able to compete the way I did.”

First place at each weight in the juniors division moved on to represent the USA during the Junior World Championship in Ufa, Russia, this August, while the second-place finishers were set to compete in the Pan-American Championships, which took place in Oaxtepec, Mexico.

After the trials, Lange had a month to prepare for the championships, one week of which was spent in Colorado training with Team USA. She said the Cadet and Junior teams trained together and usually would have spent time at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, but because of COVID-19, the teams spent their time training in a hotel basement.

She said part of the fun of the training week was getting to watch Olympians practice and being able to pick their brains.

“They had some Olympians come down and we got to watch them practice and talk to them,” Lange said. “I mostly asked about how they got to the level where basically everybody’s at the highest level and what do you do to overcome your competition when everybody’s training all the time and doing whatever they can to win. I think we just talked mostly about mindset. Being confident in your skills and your abilities and that was the biggest takeaway for me.”

Lange said she spent four days in Mexico watching other USA team members compete at different weight classes, waiting for her matches, scheduled for the final day of the games.

She said she spent the first couple of games getting used to the environment and watching her competition online.

She said she watched the same video of her second opponent multiple times to try to learn as much as she could, but first she had to get by Mexico’s Martinez Teran.

“I was definitely really nervous going into it,” Lange said. “But I’ve been training for that point. … I was preparing myself mentally for that match and getting ready to just do exactly what I wanted to do in the match. Coming out with the win was pretty exciting.”

Lange then got the chance to watch Mayali and Martinez Teran go against each other in the day’s second match, with Mayali taking a 9-6 decision.

Lange said after she won her first match, she was much more sure of her skills.

“After the Mexico match, I kind of gained a little bit more confidence,” Lange said. “I felt like I was pretty dominant and then I got to watch the Canada girl … I was ready for it. I was, I think, more excited than I was nervous at that point.”

After collecting her gold medal, Lange said she celebrated with food she hadn’t been able to eat because she needed to make weight. She said she went out with her parents after getting home for more delicious rewards, then sat at the head of a parade.”

Now Lange will focus on her final high school-age tournament. She is currently competing in the U.S. Marine Corps Juniors National Championship in Fargo, North Dakota.

After her time in Fargo, Lange will join the Augsburg University Auggies’ women’s wrestling program, the only collegiate women’s program in Minnesota.

Lange said she is excited to join the Auggies.

“I’ve met a lot of my teammates that I’m going to have and I’ve met a lot of coaches,” Lange said. “I think there’s a lot of people that have the same dreams as me, and a lot of people that I know push themselves really hard. And I think just being in that kind of atmosphere is gonna push me to the level that I need to reach my goals.”

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