Gold medalist Mensah-Stock proved dreams do come true

Updated: August 3, 2021

Photo: Tamyra Mensah-Stock showed off her love for her fans at the Tokyo Olympic wrestling venue after the native of Texas became just the second American woman wrestler to claim Olympic gold Tuesday night. (John Sachs photo)

By Bryan Van Kley

TOKYO – Tamyra Mensah-Stock told a friend in high school in tenth grade, after she finished second in state in Texas, that they were going to the Olympics one day. She knew she was “destined for so much more” and should have won the state title that year.

That dream has now become a reality as the 28-year-old Olympian put her name in the record books as only the second woman in history to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States. The native of Katy, Texas, joined current Olympic teammate Helen Maroulis (who won gold in 2016) when she defeated Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu 4-1 for the 68-kg title at Makuhari Messe Hall A.

U.S. National women’s freestyle coach Terry Steiner said Mensah-Stock’s steady progression has made has been impressive after she failed to qualify the weight class for the 2016 Olympic Games at a tournament in Turkey.

Tamyra Mensah-Stock hugged her USA coaches Terry Steiner and Vladislav “Izzy” Izboinikov after she won the 68-kilo weight class. (John Sachs photo)

“The pain she felt in 2016 was real,” Steiner said. “She’s bottled that up and brought it with her.”.

The explosive 2019 World champ tore through the weight class in Tokyo, outscoring her four opponents 34-5.

She started the Games with an eye-opening 10-0 technical fall mid-way through the first period over reigning Olympic champion Dosho Sara of Japan. Then, the graduate of Wayland Baptist University tore apart China’s Feng Zhou by the same 10-0 score, an opponent she had lost to the only other two previous times they wrestled.

Landing a spot in the semifinals, Mensah-Stock was pitted against Ukraine’s Alla Cherkasova. The Ukrainian tested the American, taking Mensah-Stock down and turning her with a gut-wrench 30 seconds into the second period for a 4-2 lead. However, Mensah-Stock stayed poised and put the “foot on the gas” offensively, scoring eight straight unanswered points off two takedowns and two turns for the spot in the Olympic final.

The Texas native said after the semis that she was happy she got tested in the match with Cherkasova.

“I actually appreciated my semifinals because I didn’t want to come out unscathed,” she said. “To be able to battle and now be in the finals would have meant more than getting techs and pins. I fought for that. It was awesome and I appreciate that,” she said. “I’m so excited I’m getting better and am able to inflict my will. This is a dream come true. This is what I’ve been working for.”

Steiner joked with reporters that he’d be Ok with Mensah-Stock sticking with 10-0 first-period techs, but was more pleased that Mensah-Stock responded to the adversity of being down against Cherkasova.

“It’s the Olympic Games, you’re going to be tested,” Steiner said. “Anyone can keep going forward when everything is going right. Can you keep going forward when things aren’t going right? That’s the sign of a true champion.”

The bubbly, energetic Mensah-Stock was extremely entertaining for the large group of media Monday night wanting interviews after the semifinals, and Tuesday after winning gold.

She talked about everything from bringing along her and her husband’s karaoke machine to training camp in Japan to help her and the rest of Team USA to stay loose … to her desire to be a role model for young girls considering wrestling.

Mensah-Stock was especially talking about black girls who can “see themselves” in the sport having success like Mensah-Stock.

“When I first started wrestling, I wanted to be an emblem and a light to younger women and show them, ‘You can be silly, you can have fun, and you can be tough and strong.’ ” she said. “It doesn’t have to be like, ‘I’m going to be mean to you.’ ”

Mensah-Stock’s second of two days of Olympic competition came two days after Adeline Gray’s claimed silver at 76 kg for the powerful U.S. women’s team, which now has more medals than powerful Japan, who saw just one its first two wrestlers claim a medal.

The other American woman to compete so far for Team USA was Kayla Miracle at 62 kg. Miracle dropped a tough 3-2 decision to China’s Jia Long.

In addition to Maroulis, the U.S. also has medal hopes for 2019 World champ Jacarra Winchester at 53 kilos and 2018 World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt at 50 kg August 5-7 as the Olympic program features one women’s weight per day.


Comparing USA & Japan Women

The following illustrates how the six American Olympic women’s freestyle wrestlers are faring against World power Japan’s wrestlers — entering the medal matches at 62 kilos — at the six weight classes that are being contested in Tokyo this week.

United States (W-L/Medal) Weight (Dates) Japan (W-L/Medal)
Sara Hildebrandt (tbd) 50k  (Aug. 6-7) Susaki Yui (tbd)
Jacarra Wincester (tbd) 53k (Aug. 5-6) Mukaida Mayu (tbd)
Helen Maroulis (tbd) 57k (Aug. 4-5) Kawai Risako (tbd)
Kayla Miracle (0-1/dnp) 62k (Aug. 3-4) Kawai Yukado (3-0/in final*)
Tamyra Mensah-Stock (4-0/gold) 68k (Aug. 2-3) Dosho Sara (2-1/bronze)
Adeline Gray (3-1/silver) 76k (Aug. 1-2) Minagawa Hiroe (2-2/5th)
(7-2 record/two medals) Total Total  (7-3/two medals)
  • Kawai Yukado faces Aisuluu Tynyekova (Kyrgyzstan) in gold medal match