COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — An after-school activity has the power to change a person's life. Wrestling did exactly that for one Colorado veteran who is sharing that same passion with kids today.
Wrestle Like A Girl is a non-profit organization that started in Colorado Springs and has expanded across the nation.
"I'm a two-time world bronze medalist in women's wrestling, a combat veteran in special operations, and the founder and CEO of Wrestle Like A Girl," said retired Sgt. Sally Roberts.
Roberts said she first started wrestling in middle school while living in Washington.
"My mom had been married five times, and I didn't like being at home after school. So, I would go out and shoplift and break into houses," Roberts said. "I actually got arrested so many times that I was given an ultimatum by the juvenile detention officer: I could either find an after-school activity, or I would face going to juvenile detention."
Roberts said she was cut from several sports because coaches said she did not know how to play well with others.
"When I looked at the list of offerings, I saw that wrestling was a no-cut sport. And I thought, 'That's it, as long as I go out and wrestle and I don't quit, then I won't face juvenile detention,'" Roberts said. "And that one single decision forever changed the trajectory of my life.
Without wrestling, Roberts does not know if she would have become the person she is today.
"It teaches you resiliency, bravery, courage. You're going to get knocked down countless times in wrestling, and all you have is yourself to get back up," Roberts said.
Roberts said she started Wrestle Like A Girl around five years ago.
"I wanted to name the organization 'Wrestle Like A Girl' because it was taking this derogatory term that girls felt shameful about, and we gave it power, we gave it position, we gave it authority," Robert said.
Cheyenne Dyess, 16, is one of the ambassadors of Wrestle Like A Girl. Dyess began wrestling around six years ago.
"When I was in middle school, there was no girl's program that I could enter. So, I wrestled only boys or the occasional girl that would come in," Cheyenne said.
Now, Cheyenne wrestles at Vista Ridge High School, where the boys' and girls' teams practice together.
"Being on this team is like no other. You are there for each other, just like you're there for your family," Cheyenne said.
Cheyenne was diagnosed with cancer in January of 2015 and has been cancer-free for about four years.
"Fighting cancer definitely taught me that things are temporary, and you can go through anything and fight through it," Cheyenne said. "It's really just your mindset. The pain is only temporary, and one of our practice rules is you can always do one more. So, that's really instilled just throughout wrestling, and I had that mindset throughout cancer."
Roberts said Wrestle Like A Girl bridges the gap between access and opportunity when it comes to wrestling.
This story was originally published by Colette Bordelon on Scripps station KOAA in Colorado Springs.