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Student Finds Balance Between College, Wrestling

Student Finds Balance Between College, Wrestling
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Cheers, boos, sweat, blood, tears and injuries. These are just some of the things that go on during a match while wrestlers risk it all to entertain a crowd.

When you see a petite girl, the last thing you’re usually going to think is “wrestler,” right? I’ve encountered this more times than I can count. But this is what I do and who I am: I’m Aria Blake and I’m a professional wrestler.

Balancing a wrestling career while being a full-time college senior is difficult. When I’m not in class, I’m busting my butt training, working out six days a week in the gym doing cardio and lifting, traveling to shows and studying different wrestling techniques.

Brutal Games: Nikki Sawyer is both a student and a professional wrestler. She regularly participates in intergender wrestling matches, where she will face a male opponent. Sawyer said that these matches can be taboo, because fans don’t think men should get violent with women. Sawyer said that these matches are often her favorites and that she believes in gender equality.
Brutal Games: Nikki Sawyer participates in intergender wrestling matches, where she will face a male opponent, which is often considered taboo by fans.

I sleep when I can, but my life, more often than not, is go, go, go.

Ever since I saw my first match, I was hooked. I knew that all I wanted to do in life was be a professional wrestler. When I turned 19, a wrestling school opened about 30 minutes from my house. My destiny felt within reach.

I began training in April 2014 under Jay Lethal, a wrestler currently signed with Ring of Honor, a promotion company. I had seen him on television and knew he was a big name in the industry. He’s been in top companies, wrestled all over the world and trained many other wrestlers. I knew his guidance would be key to a successful career.

Training began with learning the basics: chain wrestling, running the ropes, taking bumps. I also learned easier things like hip tosses and arm drags, before I moved on to more advanced moves like DDTs, suplexes, head scissors, body slams and more.

In January 2015, I made my debut in a student battle royal against others I trained with. It gave me a comfortable start because I was in the ring with people I trusted and who had experienced the journey with me.

Throughout my first year, I had booked a few events and was getting my name out there. Since I was still a rookie, I didn’t earn the most exciting accomplishments.

This year, my experiences have been unreal, but In the spring I got sick and needed to have surgery. Thankfully, the condition wasn’t serious, and once I got back in the ring I felt like a new performer. As a result, my drive and passion grew.

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Sawyer says that intergender matches are often her favorites and that she believes in gender equality.

I’ve had bookings all throughout Florida and put a good number of miles on my little Honda Civic traveling around the state.

I’ve been in the ring with many different competitors. Some my size (though few and far in between), many larger, some more experienced, others less, some female, some male – my preferred opponents.

Intergender wrestling, when men and women are opponents, is controversial. Many oppose it under the belief  that a man shouldn’t put his hands on a woman. Personally, I love it because I support equality between genders. You have to think of it as two consenting adults with different strengths and weaknesses working together to perform for the masses.

To me, wrestling guys helps me more because they can take certain moves that women physically cannot and they are more likely to support my weight for an aerial move than a woman.

This November, I wrestled in Chicago for the first time. I participated in Rise, which is part of a larger promotion called Shimmer Women Athletes, the top women’s promotion in the world. Rise is essentially preparing newer wrestlers for the big leagues.

Surrounded by strong, empowered women performing at the top tier of the independent wrestling business, I was in my element throughout the entire weekend. I was enamored with the amazing in-ring performances, athleticism and dramatics, as well as with the dedicated fans in the large venues.

My weekends are nearly full for what remains of 2016 and I’ve already secured bookings for 2017. Upon graduating in the summer, I’ll be heading to Japan for three months to wrestle and train in their “strong style” method. Wrestling in Japan is quite different, but being offered the chance to go with a woman’s company for an extended period of time is an immense honor.

Although my life is hectic, I wouldn’t give up what I’m doing for anything in the world. Seeing my calendar full of bookings and traveling to do what I adore is the best feeling.

I’ve learned that it is possible to chase your dreams. You can do anything regardless of the endeavor. Believe in yourself and you can make it happen.

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