Tateum Park has never been afraid to be an outsider. She played football against the boys for several years growing up. She competed on the Davenport North wrestling team the past four seasons.
When Park enrolls at Augsburg University in Minneapolis this fall and wrestles for its women’s team, she admits it’ll be an adjustment participating on a squad with all girls.
“I’ve been on girls’ national teams and so forth, but basically having an everyday group of girls around is going to be hard and different,” Park said, “but I’m looking forward to it.
“Girls teams can become more of a family. We just connect better and push each other more. I think it will feel more like one big family for me more than on an all-boys team.”
Park recently received the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award. Saunders was a four-time World Champion and women’s wrestling pioneer who was inducted into the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011.
The award recognizes the nation’s most outstanding high school senior female wrestlers along with classroom achievement, citizenship and community service.
Park, a two-time Iowa girls state champion and ranked among the nation’s top 25 at her weight class, was the recipient from Iowa.
“I was very shocked and surprised when I won it,” said Park, who also claimed the Dan Gable Ms. Wrestler of the Year in Iowa in March. “It feels really good to get that recognition. With all the craziness going on this year (with COVID-19), it felt really good to have a little bit of joy.”
This will be the second year Augsburg has fielded a women’s wrestling team. The Auggies have one of the top men’s programs in Division III.
Augsburg placed ninth at the inaugural women’s Cliff Keen/National Wrestling Coaches Association National Collegiate Championships in early March.
Park chose Augsburg over North Central in Naperville, Ill.
“I went up there and worked with the team a little bit,” Park said. “I knew the girls there would be able to push me. It is a small group, more of what I was looking for. It is a place I’ll be able to succeed and reach my goals.”
The coronavirus has disrupted Park’s training this spring. Her sister and workout partner, Sydney, is recovering from injury. Park hasn’t been on the mat in a couple of months.
“Wrestling is my main thing and what I do all the time,” she said. “I haven’t been able to do it for the last couple of months so that has been upsetting. I’ve started making my own workouts to try and stay in shape.”
Park plans to wrestle at 116 or 123 pounds. She expects plenty of competition for the starting spot at Augsburg.
“There are going to be girls I have to compete with for the spot, but I'd rather have that than walk in and be given the spot,” she said. “They’re going to push me to get better to get that spot.”
Park has a leg-up in the classroom already. She recently graduated with her Associate in Arts Degree.
“That has really helped me,” she said. “I know what college classes will be like, styles and teachings that work. I feel I’m pretty prepared for what is to come.”
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!