“I knew I could do it from when I first started wrestling. I felt that I could be an Olympic champ so I kept going… I did it.”
Tamyra Mensah-Stock couldn’t help but break down after winning a gold medal.
The 28-year-old Morton Ranch graduate always believed she could become an Olympic champion, but it was overwhelming for her when that finally became a reality on Tuesday at Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba, Japan.
“I knew I could do it from when I first started wrestling,” Mensah-Stock told NBC. “I felt that I could be an Olympic champ so I kept going… I did it.”
Mensah-Stock beat Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu 4-1 to claim the Olympic gold medal in the women’s 68 kg./ 149.5-pound class.
“I surprised myself,” she said. “I pray that all the practice and the hell that I go through and that my coaches prepare me for pays off, and it every single time it does. I keep getting better and better. It’s so weird that there is no cap to the limit that I can push myself to. I’m excited to see what’s next.
Mensah-Stock’s journey to Olympic champion started in Katy, when her twin sister Tarkyia convinced her to join Morton Ranch’s wrestling program as a sophomore.
While she didn’t take to the sport immediately, Mensah-Stock stuck with it and won two state championships in 2010 and 2011 before going to Wayland Baptist and winning a women’s collegiate wrestling national championship in 2014.
But that whole time, it was Tarkyia that was her biggest motivator.
“My twin sister got injured our first year of wrestling and then as seniors after two years of not wrestling, she became the second state champion at our entire school after I was the first,” Mensah-Stock said. “Just looking at a family member do that, I was like ‘this girl is just so strong, so powerful and just a comeback kid’ and she was inspiring to me.”
With the win, Mensah-Stock became the first American black woman to win a wrestling gold medal. She has made it a point to be a role model for younger generations.
“It’s amazing because it means that they see someone like themselves on that podium, someone like me and Helen (Maroulis) on that podium, showing them that just because you’re female it doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish the biggest of goals. Being an Olympic champ is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life and I have to say it’s well worth it. Now I just can’t to be at home with my husband and my dogs celebrating with them.”
While she was dominant on the wrestling mat, Mensah-Stock had her fair share of pre match jitters.
“I watched everyone on the USA team this morning and it just made me even more jittery,” she said. “There was just a lot of nerve wrecking moments where it was almost impossible to stay calm. I don’t even know how I did it. I kept telling my coaches ‘I’m nervous, I’m scared, I’m nervous and I’m freaking out here, help me. It wasn’t pretty.”
Mensah-Stock can’t wait to get home to her family and plans on using some of her winnings as an Olympic champion to help her mother start a business.
“I wanted to give my mom $30,000 to get a food truck because that’s her dream," Mensah-Stock said. "I told her five years ago I was going to do it so my mom’s getting a food truck. She’s going to have a little cooking business. She can cook really well.”