Choctaw’s Becka Leathers delivered a bronze-winning performance last week at the 2017 World Wrestling Championships in Paris, France.
After a successful career at Choctaw, Leathers went on to compete at Oklahoma City University, where she won a national title as a freshman.
Leathers then left school to train and live at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
She’s been chasing greatness, and made a big step in the right direction Aug. 23 when she made history as Oklahoma’s first female medalist at the World Wrestling Championships.
A 2015 Junior World bronze medalist, Leathers won her first Senior World medal on her first try, defeating 2017 European champion Bilyana Dudova (Bulgaria) in the 55 kg/121 lbs. bronze-medal bout, 4-2.
In the first period, Leathers was put on the shot clock, but quickly responded with a takedown and a turn for a 4-0 lead. Then in the second period, Leathers was put on the shot clock again, but this time could not score, making the score 4-1. In the closing seconds, Dudova forced Leathers to step out, making the final score 4-2 in favor of Leathers.
Last Wednesday, Leathers opened with a pin over two-time Junior World medalist and World No. 6-ranked Ramona Galambos, of Hungary, but was beaten in her second match by 2016 Cadet World Champion Haruna Okuno, of Japan, 8-0. When Okuno reached the finals, Leathers was drawn back into repechage, where she registered a 13-2 technical fall over Carola Rainero, of Italy, to reach the medal rounds.
“I’m just happy. It’s a lot of work and time put in by the coaches, teammates and everybody so this makes it worth it. I was very confident. The second I moved out to the OTC, I said ‘I’m making the world team and winning a world medal,’ and that’s what I did today,” said Leathers following her historic win.
“I want to be the best in the world. I’m not here for anyone else. I’m doing what I love, and I’m fortunate to be able to do it at the highest level. My work ethic is paying off, and my love and passion for it is showing on the mat.”
While Leathers remains confident she’ll be the best in the world, she’s quick to thank the support she receives from her home town of Choctaw.
“I have the best support system,” Leathers said. “ Benny Coleman, Darren Higgins, my coaches back home, my parents back home, sisters from my sorority and the coaching staff from the OTC. They’ve had my back forever, and I want to thank all of them.”
Teammate and Olympic champion Helen Maroulis, of New York, added to her legacy among the greats in American wrestling, claiming her third straight World or Olympic gold medal with a victory at 58 kg/128 lbs.
The other two U.S. wrestlers competing finished 0-1 and were not eligible for repechage: Mallory Velte, of Sacramento, Calif., at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. and Victoria Francis, of Colorado Springs, Colo., at 75 kg/163 lbs. Both were competing in their first Senior World Championships.
“It’s nice to see an Oklahoma girl win a bronze medal,” said Oklahoma State University Wrestling head coach John Smith, who stepped in to coach the USA Women’s World Team for the first time.”She’s been around Stillwater a little and in Choctaw, Oklahoma she’s had some really good people that have surrounded her. It was a good experience, and I had a lot of fun with these ladies. I’d definitely do it again.”