Although she knew the decision was right, Adeline Gray admits, months later, that leaving home isn’t easy.
“It’s hard when all your friends and family are back home and you’re so far away,” Gray, 17, said.
Several months ago, Gray decided to forgo her senior year at Chatfield Senior High School to attend the Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan. The Olympic Education Center will provide Gray with the opportunity to continue to develop her freestyle wrestling skills while competing against the top girls from around the world.
Gray’s move has paid immediate dividends, as she recently won the World Freestyle Wrestling Championships, held in Istanbul, Turkey, at 67 kilograms.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling,” said Gray last week from her Littleton home. “I was expecting to go in, get beat up a little and taught a lesson. It’s a little shocking to know that I’m the one that finished on top.
“I’ve won big tourneys before, but nothing like this.”
One tournament that will forever elude Gray is the Colorado High School Activities Association’s state wrestling tournament. Gray competed on the Chatfield varsity squad the past two seasons, but injuries, amongst other things, kept her away from the Pepsi Center floor.
“That was the most difficult part of my decision to leave Chatfield,” Gray said. “I had this dream of making state every since I was little. I know I can compete but to not prove it is disappointing.”
Gray certainly proved she belonged the elite females of the world when she on her world championship. The gold medal match, though, was anything but a sure thing.
According to Gray’s father, George - who thanks to the wonders of the Internet was able to watch Adeline’s match - said the match against a girl from Mongolia came down to the final seconds.
After two periods, Gray’s match was even, leaving the third and final period to decide the winner. Gray gave up a takedown with 30 seconds left, but returned to her feet and in the final 10 seconds, shot in for a single-leg takedown. As her opponent was headed out of bounds, Gray drug her back in the circle and scored two exposure points to win the match.
“That wasn’t my best match,” Gray said. “But I got the victory and that’s the biggest thing.”
Moments after having her hand raised, Gray took her spot atop the medal podium and stood proudly as the American flag was raised and the National Anthem was played.
“It was surreal,” Gray gushed.
Over the last week Gray has enjoyed some quiet time at home, but soon she departs for Michigan to resume her training and schooling.
“I’ll be competing in a lot of national- and international-level tournaments,” Gray said. “I’m really looking forward to continuing to compete against the top girls.”