IOWA CITY, IA — Sergeant Vanessa Oswalt of the U.S. Army Reserve is getting ready for her latest assignment, but it’s not a military one.
Oswalt, who graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 2005, is gearing up for a shot at representing the USA in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. This weekend, she will go for the glory in front of 10,000-plus fans at the University of Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena, in Iowa City.
Oswalt, a freestyle wrestler in the 53 kilogram women’s class, is currently in Iowa City preparing for the event. Her tournament is on Sunday.
It was four years ago that Oswalt was living and training at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Co. At the time, she was overcoming a surgically-repaired torn elbow and attempting to make the U.S. team that went to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Now 25, she has faced her share of challenges.
“I’ve actually had both of my elbows done,” said Oswalt. “When I moved out to Colorado, I had another surgery. In the past couple of years, I’ve torn the labrum in both of my hips — my right and my left.”
She has gotten through it with modern medicine and plenty of courage.
“I haven’t gotten surgery on the hips,” said Oswalt. “Hopefully, when I’m done wrestling, it will be okay. I’ll give it time, after I’m done wrestling, to heal up and decide if I want to continue wrestling. As of right now, I am done after these Olympics. This is my last hurrah.”
Oswalt was runner-up at the US Nationals in back in 2009, after which she joined the Army Reserve and became part of the World Class Athlete Program. Despite the physical issues, she continues to win.
“This year has been a rough journey with the injuries,” said Oswalt. “I ended up taking seventh at the (most recent) U.S. Nationals, which qualified me for the Olympic Team Trials.”
The Army’s World Class Athlete program has given Oswalt opportunities that she may not have gotten elsewhere.
“I work with other female and male wrestlers on the team, “ said Oswalt. “It’s a really good environment to be a part of and train for the Olympics because you have some of the best wrestlers to work with. You have former Ohio wrestler (and four-time state champion) Harry Lester on the team, too. It’s one of the best places to train. The World Class Athlete Program has done great things for me, in terms of being able to go to all of these different tournaments and all the training and support.”
All that is left for Oswalt is cutting weight and mentally preparing. And there is no room for failure — not for the ultimate goal of competing in London.
“The No. 1 in each weight class goes the Olympics, so you have to win,” said Oswalt. “I just want to thank my family and friends who have supported me throughout the years.”