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Continued from page 30


hurt my brother. He’d keep smiling. I got the tattoo so I could get the subject more notice. Every time people ask me about the tattoo, I explain what autism is.” Burkert’s development on the mat has been rapid. After her sophomore year in high school, she won the Junior Nationals. As a junior, she earned a spot on the U.S. team for the first Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore. Only four Americans were able to partici- pate, and she was the only girl on the U.S. YOG wrestling team. Burkert placed fifth in her division.


“I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it. It opened up our minds. I saw people from other countries who didn’t have very much. I went there focused, and when I didn’t win, I was upset. Then I saw all these other people who we had to do cul- tural activities with. It was fascinating that I could bind with people from other coun- tries. The wrestling was great also. It was a huge deal, and the people there were magnificent,” said Burkert.


This season, Burkert wrestled on the Senior level for the first time. She took her lumps in some early international events. In March, she won a bronze medal at the Klippan Lady Open in


level,” she said. “If you make a mistake, it will cost you the match. On the age- group level, you could get away with some mistakes and still win. It has helped my style. I went in with a good mindset. It took the whole year to get to this point. I had to say to myself that I was as good as they are.”


Burkert will compete in her first Junior


World Championships in July in Romania. Coach Gillespie believes if she is focused and wrestles to her potential that she has a chance to do very well.


Jenna Burkert captured a Junior Nationals title in Fargo in 2009. John Sachs photo.


Sweden, beating two-time Senior World medalist Agata Pietryzk of Poland. Her fourth place at the U.S. Open shows she can compete with the best in the USA as well.


“The style is different on the Senior


“I’ve been around the world and seen many of the best Olympic wrestlers. What I have noted about them, and what Jenna has, is that they are good athletes and good wrestlers. Her strength is great, her power is great and her ability to under- stand tactics is great. She mixes that ath- leticism with being able to wrestle well. When she learns something, she puts it in her toolbox and never forgets it,” said Gillespie.


Burkert is excited and confident about her chances at the Junior Worlds. “I am in it to win it,” said Burkert. “I know it is a big challenge. All of the hard work and preparation all season to make the team will help me. I want to be at my best there and bring my A game.”


31 USA Wrestler


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