Soldier pride has Conder more focused in her return to Worlds

Updated: June 10, 2014

(Editor’s Note: On May 31 and June 1, USA Wrestling hosted Phase I of the World Team Trials in Madison, Wisc., where 12 of the 24 spots on the 2014 World Team were filled in either men’s or women’s freestyle. Six Greco berths will be filled June 13 in Daytona Beach, Fla., while the remaining six spots over the three styles will be determined during the Junior/Cadet Nationals, July 19-24, in Fargo, N.D. In honor of this seven-week period of World Team Trials events, WIN is providing features on those who have qualified to compete in Uzebekistan in September.)

By Mike Finn

Whitney Conder said there were two reasons why she joined the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP).

“First of all, I want to be a soldier,” said Conder. “I want to serve our country and be able to represent our country, not just as a wrestler but as a soldier.”

The native of Puyallup, Wash., holds the rank of sergeant in the United States Army. But she also holds the No. 1 rating by USA Wrestling at 53 kilograms (116.5 pounds) after beating Katherine Fulp-Allen in two straight matches (3-0 and 5-0), June 1, in the Championship Series during Phase I of the World Team Trials in Madison, Wisc.

Whitney Conder (left) celebrated after defeating Katherine Fulp Allen in two matches at the World Team Trials after beating her two months ago in the U.S. Open final. (Ginger Robinson photo)

Whitney Conder (left) celebrated after defeating Katherine Fulp Allen in two matches at the World Team Trials after beating her two months ago in the U.S. Open final. (Ginger Robinson photo)

And even though this 5-foot-3 wrestler won a Junior World championship in 2007 at 51 kilograms, she hopes her connection with the WCAP helps her improve her No. 12 World ranking and performance at this September’s FILA World Championships in Uzbekistan.

“(Representing WCAP) is amazing,” said the 26-year-old Conder. “I get to train with the guys and girls at the same time. The guys are bigger and stronger and their techniques are quicker too. It’s amazing being able to work with them as a team. They push me because they’re moving faster than me and I want to keep up with them.”

This marks the second time that Conder earned spot on the United States World Team. In 2011, she qualified at 51 kilograms, but settled for a 1-1 record in Istanbul, Turkey, where she defeated Estera Dobre of Romania but lost to North Korea’s Kum-Ok Han.

“I was definitely lacking experience at the Senior level,” said Conder on her only other World performance. “I did not get to wrestle the type of matches I wanted. I over-thought things a lot so I really needed to get myself to where I want to be.”

Competing at the old FILA weight of 51 kilograms (which was not an Olympic weight) also became a dilemma for Conder, who was forced to cut to 105 pounds for the 2012 Olympic Trials where she lost to Alyssa Lampe in the Challenge tournament. Later that summer, she returned to 51 kilos and lost against to Lampe in the wrestle-off for that weight class. Then in 2013, Conder settled for the runner-up spot again at 51 kilograms to Victoria Anthony in the 2013 World Team Trials.

That’s why beating Fulp-Allen in this year’s U.S. Open final and Trials Championship Series was important for the graduate of Northern Michigan.

“It definitely took a lot because I really had to work on my conditioning and work on techniques that I’ve had problems with and definitely get into where I need to be in order to get back to the World Championships,” she said.

Conder was also delighted to hear FILA announce the new weight classes and that 53 kilograms would become one of six Olympic weight classes in 2016.

“53 (kilos) is a great weight for me because I’m not cutting too much weight or having to gain too much weight either,” said Conder, who hopes to ride the momentum of this year’s Trials to success at the Worlds in September. “I know I work harder and I want to win this time around. The last time I didn’t get anything of what I wanted.”

Conder, the soldier and wrestler, has come to learn that the only one person who can deliver what she’s really after is herself.