Army veteran’s journey from ‘derelict’ to champion wrestler 

Sally Roberts is an athlete, Army veteran and the founder of Wrestle Like A Girl. On this week’s episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast, she delivers her message: “It’s OK to suffer, it’s OK to endure, it’s the lessons we learn from it.”

Roberts, the first in her family to graduate from high school, had a troubled childhood and found her salvation in wrestling. Admitting she got into wrestling because she was a “derelict,” who was committing break-ins and getting into fights, Roberts credits wrestling for changing her life and helping her to build a winning mindset.

“Regardless of our limitations the only thing that holds us back is our mind,” says the three-time wrestling national champion and two-time world bronze medalist. “And it is up to us to determine, are we driving ourselves and are we going to drive that positive mindset narrative or is there going to be a different narrative that tells us we are unworthy, we are incapable, we are limited, we have a disability and it is going to hold us back?

“I’ve seen time and time again that people who show up and hit life hard and get hit hard by life, nothing holds them back but their mind.”

After not making the 2008 Olympic team, she joined the Army, went into Special Operations and volunteered for deployment in Afghanistan.

“My wrestling career really set me up for success in the military,” she said. “Foremost, it made me appreciate and find the joy in suffering. And depending on what you are doing in the military, there is a fair amount of suffering.”

Upon redeployment, she joined the world class athlete program.

After concluding her military and athletic career she founded Wrestle Like a Girl, the national advocacy organization for girls and women in wrestling. Her mission-driven organization aims to empower girls and women using the sport of wrestling to become leaders in life.

“Anyone can do hard things,” she says. “From my perspective, for far too long we thought girls should be these quiet, demure, very feminine and soft creatures. And I’ve learned from wrestling that women are either running from something or to something. And the idea that women don’t have to endure and they don’t suffer or have hardship is completely false.”

Also in this episode, co-hosts Stacy Pearsall, Joe Worley and Adam Marr:

• Riff on the discovery of an alligator sunning itself on a runway during a FOD Walk.

• Highlight American Legion-Olympic connections, including a World War I Army veteran and Paris Post 1 member.

• Talk about the Army’s new method to assess potential head trauma injuries.

• Discuss a new agreement to help military spouses with telework opportunities. 

Check out this week’s episode, which is among more than 250 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.