Rio Olympics: Adeline Gray, U.S. women’s wrestling champion, aims to make history

Gray, 25, could become the first United States gold medalist in women’s wrestling.

Reigning three-time women’s wrestling world champion Adeline Gray begins seeking an Olympic gold medal Thursday, while also striving to be a role model for young women with similar lofty goals.

“I just hope that young girls everywhere are looking at these Olympics going on right now and realizing that they can be that,” Gray said from Rio, where she’s competing in her first Olympics. “And they can pursue those dreams. And they can go on to do amazing things with their minds and with their bodies.”

Gray, 25, can become the first United States gold medalist in women’s wrestling, an Olympic sport since 2004. The Denver native has strong Big Apple ties, wrestling for the New York Athletic Club, her sponsor and support system.

“It’s been wonderful, and I’ve just been very, very blessed to have them in my life,” Gray said of the NYAC.

Wrestling at 165 pounds (75 kg), Gray is walking the walk. She’s riding a 38-match winning streak and is unbeaten in over two years. She’s also talking the talk, using the wrestling mat as a pulpit.

“These woman role models matter to these young girls,” Gray said. “And I think that’s the important thing that people need to realize. That we as young women right now didn’t grow up with that many role models to look up to. Just because they weren’t overly put on media, or billboards, or in sponsorships.”

The oldest of four girls, Gray began wrestling at age 6 coached by her father, George. She competed against boys in high school, becoming team captain as a junior and winning a Colorado state championship.

A proponent of combining outer beauty and strength, Gray recently posed for ESPN’s popular Body Issue.

“[I] looked at the photos and loved them,” Gray said. “I was really excited that they turned out well. And that I looked strong, and powerful and beautiful.”

Having earned a business degree from DeVry University this year, Gray will focus on her career outside wrestling after the Olympics.

“I’ll have to figure that out after I have that gold medal around my neck,” she said.

Joey Wahler