Most 8th grade athletes don't get the opportunity to travel around the country in pursuit of their dreams, but Sparta's Alice Todryk is about to do one better, take on the world.
The 14-year-old girl will travel to Sweden February 13-15 to compete in the Klippan Lady Open, an international wrestling tournament that showcases some of the best female wrestlers in the world.
While Todryk is talented, and she is excited for her first international competition, she wrestles for a different purpose. Since she was 4, she has dreamed of attending West Point and joining the Army. Ten years later, she is doing whatever she can to obtain the leadership skills necessary to go toe-to-toe with her peers once enlisted.
She has found a way to learn those skills and wrestle at the same time as a youth wrestling coach. Twice a week she helps teach Sparta's up-and-coming wrestling talent at a gym on Franklin Street. The wrestlers range in age from pre-K to 8th grade.
"It's been helping me get more focused when there's so much going around," Todryk said. "It really helps me focus on what I really want to do."
Her father and former wrestler Mike Todryk suggested she begin coaching to prepare for a leadership position in the Army.
"If you want to be a leader of men, you have to be willing to go toe-to-toe with them," Mike Todryk said. "You don't have to be stronger, smarter, faster, bigger or anything like that, but you have to be willing to show them that you can lead from the front, and wrestling is the best way I know how to do that, because it's a great equalizer once you're out on the mat."
John McDonald leads the youth wrestling sessions and began working with Alice this past fall. He said she already possesses a lot of leadership qualities.
"She's come up to me numerous times asking 'John can I do this? John how do I help you? Can I help with the little kids?'" he said. "She was the one that first approcached me, which I was floored, not many kids her age would come and say, 'Can I help a bunch of kindergartners and second graders with a youth wrestling program'?"
Todryk will travel with between 12-20 other wrestlers as representatives from the United States at the Klippan Lady Open. They'll spend a few days in Georgia training before heading to Sweden.