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|Women’s World Team member Erin Tomeo strives for high goals|
By Michelle Thilges USA Wrestling
Erin Tomeo, a member of USA's Women's Wrestling team, has been chasing her dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete since she was five. Tomeo, who wrestles at 130 pounds, has shown throughout her career that she can be a winner.
Tomeo beat Sally Roberts, a two-time World bronze medalist at the 2006 U.S. World Team Trials to calm her spot in the World Championships. Tomeo, from the Sunkist Kids, said she gained more confidence in herself as an athlete after the victory.
"It wasn't the first time we had wrestled," said Tomeo. "I knew I had to be patient and have a good game plan."
After Tomeo's game plan worked she made her second U.S. World Team. She said good positioning, a sense of mat awareness and a good offense helped her achieve her victory over Roberts. Once Tomeo has secured the first match in the best-of-three series, she said she knew from there she would be able to beat Roberts.
"I wasn't going to let my emotions get too intense," she said. "I knew anything could happen and I had to prepare for a good wrestling match."
With her family supporting her in the stands, Tomeo said it was a huge boost in the excitement level for the match.
Tomeo has been working on her skills since she was five years old. She saw her two older brothers wrestling and wanted a try as well. Tomeo said her parents thought the phase would pass, but after winning a first-year tournament, Tomeo's parents knew she was serious about the sport.
"They thought I would get rolled up and that would be the end of it," she said. "After the tournament they saw I was serious and were very supportive."
Tomeo wrestled throughout her junior high and high school career with the men's team. She said her parents noticed more the friction from others in the community and those watching in the stands about being on the men's team than she did.
"I had wrestled around the county and people knew I was serious; that I wasn't just trying to prove a point," said Tomeo.
Tomeo said she look at each opponent as just that, an opponent in which gender didn't matter. She said the guys on the team were some of her best friends and her girlfriends gave her support for her choices.
"I was fortunate that I wasn't given a hard time by the administration or community for wrestling," said Tomeo.
After competing one year on the men's wrestling team at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pa., Tomeo came to the U.S. Olympic Training Center and has been a resident-athlete since 2002.
Tomeo has been to the World Championships twice, once in 2001 and again in 2006. In her first appearance, Tomeo said she didn't have many expectations for the tournament and didn't set any goals. She did not place in the top ten that year.
However, it all turned around last year, when Tomeo place seventh at the World meet.
"I won 3 out of my 4 matches and proved to myself that I am right up there with everyone else," Tomeo said. "I expected a lot more out of myself and set higher goals.
"You learn there are so many competitors at each weight class that want to be the best," Tomeo said about the World competition. "You have to be the best that day and make no mistakes to be victorious."
Tomeo also worked with a sports psychologist while preparing for the World Championships. She focused on preparatory work through visualizations and not getting herself too worked up before a match.
National Women's Coach Terry Steiner said Tomeo has been a talented team member that can do very well in competitions.
"She is very capable of winning and capable of being a World champion. The sky is the limit with her," Steiner said.
Tomeo improved from her first appearance in the World Championship to her second appearance. However, the USA Women's World Team did not do as well as expected as a group. Tomeo said one of the big changes in the team since the World Championships in China has been their camaraderie. Before practices, the team huddles together to encourage one another to have a good practice.
"All the girls push each other to improve and make the team better," said Tomeo.
The challenges and obstacles of each day is what Tomeo said keeps her in the sport. Being a team sport, yet still an individual one, is something Tomeo said has made her stronger.
"There is no one else to blame if you mess up," she said. "You have to do what you have to to be great. You never stop learning and can learn from every level. You can go to an elementary school match and see something that can help you."
For now, Tomeo's short term goals are to win golds on her winter tour competitions, which include the Dave Schultz tournament, as well as traveling to France and Ukraine.
"She knows how to wrestle and understands what it takes," said Steiner.
Tomeo is still keeping her dream alive of becoming an Olympic athlete by working hard and focusing on growing as a wrestler everyday.
"My main goal is to have fun and I will keep doing the sport as long as I am having fun," she said.