Megan Black needed a change.
No, not a change of scenery. The Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont High School graduate already had one of those when she transferred from King University to McKendree University two years ago.
No, not a physical change. The McKendree University junior has found her niche at 130 pounds, where she placed second at the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association’s National Championships for the Bearcats on Feb. 11.
No, the change Black was looking for was between the ears.
So Black sat down after her 10-3 loss to Cheyenne Youngblood of Missouri Baptist at the WCWA National Championships at Oklahoma City and had a little heart to heart with her coach, Sam Schmitz. Black did a lot of soul searching and finally came to one conclusion.
“I had to change my mentality,” said Black, who won the 55 kilogram championship of the USA Wrestling University Women’s National Tournament on Saturday back in Oklahoma City. “At a lot of tournaments, I talked myself out of winning by not thinking I was as good as the other girls or thinking I hadn’t put in the time yet, that I didn’t deserve to be at the top level. Since then I’ve gone out there with a different mentality and put away any doubts about myself.
“I read a book called ‘Chase the Lion,’ which is about chasing your dream and not settling for anything less. That changed the way I view wrestling and life in general.”
And just like that, Black’s whole outlook on life flipped 180 degrees. And it showed at the USA Wrestling University Women’s National Tournament.
Black came out like gangbusters in her first match against Kailyn Ramos of Oklahoma City. Black dominated the match from start to finish in a 13-2 technical fall to advance to the quarterfinals.
There, she faced a familiar foe — McKendree teammate and workout partner Lindsey Spjut. Once again, Black came away with a convincing 9-2 victory to advance to the semifinals.
“Her and I practice together every day,” Black said. “She gave me a good match, but I won.”
In the semifinals Black came up against Tamara Tillman of Missouri Baptist. In a match that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated, Black moved on to the finals with a 6-5 win.
“She is super athletic, very explosive,” Black said of Tillman. “Even though it was only 6-5, I felt like I was in control of the match the whole way. I never felt like I was on the ropes at all.”
In the finals, Black met another familiar face — McKendree teammate Gabby Weyhrich. This time, there would be no stopping Black. Not with her new mentality, her fresh outlook on life. Black left no doubts, pinning Weyhrich in 4 minutes, 48 seconds to secure the title.
After the match, Schmitz had one question for Black.
“Are you content or are you ready to get back to work?” Schmitz asked.
“That tournament ignited a fire in me. It made me even more hungry. I feel like I just can’t get enough wrestling,” Black said. “I can’t wait to get back to training and see where it takes me.”
Where it will take her is to the 2017 USA Open Senior World Trials April 27-29 in Las Vegas.
Black’s last trip to Las Vegas ended in disappointment. The new and improved Black vows to change that. Now, she knows she belongs.
“I’m excited. I went out there in December and didn’t have a very good tournament,” Black said. “I’m excited because I feel like I’m a much better wrestler now than I was then. I want to wrestle the best of the best, and I’ll get to do that to qualify for the World Team. That’s always been one of my goals is to have an opportunity to do that. Now I have that chance.”
Black still has one year of college eligibility remaining at McKendree and she has big plans for next season, as well. She plans to become a physical education teacher when all is said and done and hopes to coach wrestling at the middle school level, preferably somewhere in southern Iowa, close to her family’s farm in Batavia. And she wants to help develop girls wrestling into a sanctioned sport in Iowa.
“Iowa is legendary when it comes to wrestling. I don’t want to see Iowa fall behind in women’s wrestling,” Black said. “I want to come back to southern Iowa and get a girls wrestling club started. We have them in western Iowa, but not so much in southern and eastern Iowa. My little sister is wrestling now, too, and it’s fun to see that passion she has for the sport.”
As for her dream of competing in the 2020 Olympic Games? Well, that is still on her radar, too.
“I plan on training through the next three years, maybe be a graduate assistant somewhere after I graduate and continue my training,” Black said. “I’m not sure where wrestling will take me. I may go to the Olympic Training Center for a couple years. We’ll see. But the one thing I do know for sure is I want to continue to wrestle.”