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Belgrade, Serbia–Legends feel a calling to their craft that is difficult to explain. It is a pull to express themselves through competition, not results. It is a never-ending cycle of self exploration and discovery, with each lap providing additional armor in the form of lessons learned and experience gained. 

Sarah Hildebrandt has felt that calling to wrestling for as long as she can remember. Already a centerpiece of Team USA’s women’s freestyle lineup,  Sarah added to her legend in Belgrade by earning her fourth World/Olympic medal with a win over Emilia Vuc of Romania in the bronze medal bout. Not only does this medal further solidify her as one of the faces of USA women’s wrestling, but it drives home to the worldwide community that she remains a contender at the world level. 

Hildebrandt’s journey has not been a linear or easy one. She burst onto the international scene in 2016 by making her first senior world team, but failed to medal and came home heartbroken and focused on the result. A year later, she suffered a devastating injury at the World Team Trials that forced her to spend six months off the mat and re-evaluate her approach to the sport. Her love for competition had soured, her desire to chase the dream had disappeared, and she had begun to wonder if wrestling was still the path she wanted to take. It was time for her to dive deep within herself, and she wasn’t sure what she would find. 

That time away proved to be exactly what Sarah needed. Free from the self-imposed stress of arriving somewhere and focused on her renewed excitement for competition, she went all in like never before. She won her first World medal in Budapest in 2018 and followed that up with a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics and a silver medal at the World Championships in Oslo in 2021. More important than the medals, though, was the opportunity to do what she loves and engage in the never-ending process of growth.

Unbridled joy on the mat has long been a staple of Sarah’s legendary career. A truly free spirit who has found her home in the world’s oldest sport, Hildebrandt can often be seen smiling ear-to-ear and sticking her tongue out as her hand is raised in victory, sharing her emotions with all who watch. 

At 28, Sarah has helped lead Team USA’s women’s freestyle program into a golden age while also serving as a role model for girls who feel called to wrestling. As only the greats can do, Sarah will continue to listen to her heart and embrace the magic of growth. The next step of her journey will take place at next year’s World Championships in Krasnoyarsk, RUS, where she will take the mat armored with lessons from the past and knowing in her heart that she is right where she belongs.


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