A junior at South Lenoir High School is turning heads on the wrestling mat this season. Gracie Elliot is currently 8-1 and plays a vital role for the Blue Devils.
Elliot says she was first introduced to the sport by her brother, who wrestled all four years at South Lenoir.
“I would be at all of my brother’s practices,” Elliot said. “One day my brother convinced me to wrestle with him on the mat, so we rolled around a little bit and from there I fell in love with the sport.”
Prior to wrestling, Elliot played soccer for 11 years and did jiu-jitsu at the local MMA gym. When the gym implemented wrestling into its program, Elliot made her transition there with the head wrestling coach at South Lenoir, Carlos Dodd.
“I began working at the gym when they wanted to include wrestling into their training,” Dodd said. “I already knew Gracie since her brother wrestled for me, but that’s where I became her coach.”
Elliot wrestled as a freshman, but suffered a shoulder injury during her sophomore year which required surgery and sidelined her for the season.
“There was a time where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue wrestling after my surgery,” Elliot says. “But it was a breath of relief when I was able to come back.”
Dodd said that while she was out, Elliot would still attend every practice and work with her teammates on their techniques.
“She acted as a coach during her injury,” Dodd said. “Even when she couldn’t get on the mat, she continued to push her teammates. She’s the kind of athlete every coach looks for.”
Since returning from injury, Elliot has excelled on the mat, wrestling in both the 106- and 113-pound weight classes. Her only official loss came vs. a returning state champion.
Elliot believes her success during the season comes largely in part to the training she does in the offseason.
“Every athlete is only as good as the work they put-in in the offseason,” she said. “I don’t have much free time in the offseason due to the work I put in and it allows me to be confident in my skills when I step on the mat.”
Elliot is currently being recruited by several colleges for their women’s wrestling programs, and she hopes to try out for the World Wrestling Team after college. If unsuccessful, she wants to begin her career in MMA.
This article originally appeared on Kinston/Jones Free Press: South Lenoir's Gracie Elliot part of rise in successful NC girls wrestlers