It began as a high school dare. 18 years later, Kelsey Campbell is an Olympian, training full-time to win gold at the 2020 Olympics.
A multi-sport high school athlete, Kelsey also pursued her passion for music. But her path changed when wrestlers dared her to “last two weeks” on the team. After becoming a two-time All-American that first year, she had a new dream: Olympic Champion.
She’s the first female to wrestle for Arizona State University and the third to win back-to-back U.S. Olympic Trials. She’s a 9x National Team member.
Kelsey volunteers in youth wrestling and for the Arizona Humane Society. She’s also co-producing and recording an EP, with performances lined up in 2020. She earned the regional title of Ms. Arizona, and will participate in the 2020 Majestic International Pageant.
Kelsey is grateful for her journey because of the opportunities created for women on and off the mat.
Tell us how your journey first started!
I had just moved to Arizona in 2006 to help grow a college ministry for a new Church in Phoenix. I had only been wrestling for 3 years and wasn’t anyone of importance in the sport. I new I wanted to keep training and competing, but I was like many college students: overwhelmed by the course load, independent but barely making it financially, working full time, and with not a ton of direction. I was training at a lowkey grappling club at Arizona State University, and I was spotted by someone that would go on to be a mentor and coach as different times in my life. He saw something in me and encouraged me to try out for the ASU Wrestling team. No female had ever done so, but after much thought and input, I tried out for the team and became the first female to wrestle there in history.
What made you come up with the idea?
It wasn’t really me. I feel that I was lucky in that I was truly surrounded by people that saw something special in me and encouraged me to step out on faith.
What have you learned along the way?
I’ve learned a lot about breaking glass ceilings. Being a female in a male dominated sport, and in sports in general, is extremely challenging. I’ve learned that I always have to fight for big things and big dreams. I’ve learned that there is absolutely nothing glamorous about being the first to do something, especially being the first ‘female.’ I’ve learned that the sacrifices don’t end with one big success. I’m still learning. It’s still a daily decision to grow, to go, to be a better version of myself every single day.
How has this contributed to your career and success?
Wrestling for ASU really established some major structure in my training. It provided support, even scholastically. My grades improved, I even won the US Open my second year on the team as an unseeded wrestler. It opened many doors and relationships for me that have continued to this day. I met my athletic heroes and some political heroes, I am about to graduate with an MBA, I’ve competed at the Olympics, I’ve seen the world and I’ve lived out so many I never could have imagined.
Success is such an extensive term, how do you define it for yourself?
The definition of success changes for each person over time. Success when I first started wrestling was literally making it through a practice. Success at ASU was establishing myself as a member of the wrestling team, regardless that I am a female. And also maintaining success in the classroom and serving my ministry. Success in my sport- what I train for and sacrifice for day in and day out- is the podium at the Olympics. But as I’ve matured and I’m nearing a different phase in my life, and success is so much more than the medals and the podium (although I REALLY want that, too;)). It’s about the person ‘success’ makes you. It’s about my friendships, the platforms I choose to give back to, and who I choose to be without the bells and whistles. I guess success is integrity.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share to females trying to do the uncommon and become firsts in their field through awards, entrepreneurial journeys, etc.?
Remember who you are in all that you pursue. It is so easy to lose yourself and to get talked out of your dreams and goals. Sometimes it’s so easy to get talked about of even the littlest things, day to day. Remember who you are, remember your why and what you believe. Remember your values and the person you truly want to be.
What does honoring women mean to you and how can we continue to strive towards acknowledging more women and the work they are doing?
Honoring women that, like me, are working hard to simply do what they love with integrity- that is everything to me. We live in a world of reels and flexing and truly climbing over others. We are taught to succeed at all costs. I am so grateful for the women that have lifted me up and for the platforms available
Last but not least, how do you Lift + Rise?
To Lift + Rise is to decide every day that I will move forward, be better (even just a little bit better) every single day. But also, to build up those around us as we push forward.
To stay in the KNOW with Kelsey, make sure to follow her on social media:
You can also find Kelsey on page 121 of our Phoenix Volume 3 Book!