The FILA Junior Nationals, the FILA Cadet Nationals, the Womens Body Bar Folkstyle Nationals, and the Senior Mens Olympic Qualifier were all held at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, MN the weekend of March 13 - 14, 2004. The tournament is one of the better-attended major womens freestyle tournaments. There are several age groups in both the folkstyle and freestyle divisions. Because this is an Olympic year and the US Olympic team candidates will be preparing for the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis in mid May, the USA Wrestling National Womens Coach, Terry Steiner, decided that the champions of the Womens FILA Junior Nationals competition would represent the USA in the Pan AM championships being held May 7, 8 and 9, 2004. The FILA Junior division includes both high school women and university age women.
Stefenie Shaw, a junior at Waterford High School in Waterford, CT, wrestled at 144 lb in the Womens folkstyle division and at 63 Kg (138.75 lb, one of the womens four Olympic weights) in the FILA Jr. National freestyle division. In the 2004 Body Bar folkstyle Nationals division Stefenie met one of the other top Jr. division female wrestlers, Vanessa Oswalt of Ohio, in the semi-finals and lost 2-0. In the freestyle competition Stefenie overcame three university women to win her pool for the right to again wrestle Vanessa Oswalt in the finals. In the freestyle competition, drawing motivation from her earlier loss, Stefenie worked to out score her opponent in the first period and then pin her in the second. Winning this tournament was important to Stefenie in two ways. First, she earned a place on the team that will represent the United States at the Pan AM championships in May. Secondly, it was the first time that Stefenie had placed ahead of other women that she has lost to in several tournaments in the past.
Stefenie has been wrestling USA Wrestling youth tournaments in junior high school and in high school since she was eight years old. In 6th grade Stefenie place first at the McGee Jr. High tournament, one of the largest in the state of CT at that time. In 7th and 8th grade she placed 2nd at the McGee tournament. It was not until 2001 when she was 13 years old that she began to wrestle other girls. There were surprises and lessons from those early womens events. In the 3 years that Stefenie has been wrestling freestyle she previously placed 6th and 5th at the FILA Nationals. She has also placed 6th and 3rd at the USAW Wrestling Jr. Nationals in Fargo.
Stefenie has always been a good wrestler amongst her peers. One of the important things about her wrestling career has been the continual change in her peer groups. It began in youth wrestling, progressed through junior high school and high school. In the last few years it has really become the national USA Wrestling Junior womens group. With this victory in the Womens FILA Junior Nationals it has broadened into the university age group.
The next step in the progression of peer groups for Stefenie (seen in the picture on the right refereering) will be the national and international Senior Womens division. The important thing, for Stefenie and for any aspiring women who want to become competitive wrestlers, is that it is another step in a progression. Over the years Stefenie has made an ongoing investment in the sport of wrestling. She has wrestled boys / men in junior high school, high school and open tournaments. Wrestling at 135 and 140 Lbs she has faced a significant challenge being on a high school team that wrestles all of the top 10 teams in the state.
Her first tournament in the womens Senior division will be at the Brockport, Northeast Olympic Qualifier in mid April. To prepare for this challenge Stefenie is balancing her school work and working with the best freestyle coaches that she can, as many days a week as possible, to prepare for both Brockport and for the Pan AM championships. In early May she will travel to Guatamala to represent the USA in the Pan AM games against the best women from all over the Americas. Countries like Canada and Venezuela who have strong 63 Kg women have already completed their Olympic trials and will be sending their Olympic competitors. Stefenie will be spending the next six weeks maintaining her schoolwork and preparing for this great opportunity and challenge.