The summer is nearly over, and Alexis Porter hasn’t caught any waves or spent any time in the sand. She simply hasn’t had the chance.
“This is definitely the busiest summer I’ve ever had,” she said. “I haven’t gotten to the beach yet, but everything I’ve missed isn’t that important. I’ll stop when I win a World Championship. I’ll be ready then.”
She’ll have that chance on August 22 when she takes the mat in Serbia for the Cadet World Championships at 65 kg/143.25 pounds.
It’s a goal she’s had in her mind for quite some time.
“My dad put it in my head a long time ago — way before I was even competing at this kind of a level,” she said. “He always said that I could be a World Champion or an Olympic champion – even back when I was nine years old.”
When she was nine, Porter competed at the Body Bar FILA Cadet Nationals for the first time, taking second place. She didn’t return to the event until May of 2013. This time, the tournament was held in the Sunshine State and served as the qualifier for the World Team. And she had a little extra motivation to put on a show.
“My grandfather, who lives in Florida, came to support me,” she said. “It was the first time he saw me wrestle. He had just gotten out of the hospital, but he was very adamant that he had to watch me. He was there, wheelchair and all. It kind of gave me an extra edge.”
She used that extra edge to perfection, blitzing through the competition. Porter began with a 6-0, 8-2 victory before recording a trio of pins, each in less than two minutes. She then finished things off with a 2-0, 7-0 triumph over Hannah Gladden in the championship contest.
That performance earned Porter spot in Serbia. And that was just the beginning of an action-packed spring and summer.
“It didn’t hit me until I got back home,” she said of making the World Team. “I was really excited. It’s definitely my biggest accomplishment so far. I feel really lucky – it was a great experience for me. I realized there were a whole bunch of camps I would be going to and that I was about to start traveling.”
One of the places she traveled to was the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs.
“I was at a camp at the OTC and with the elevation, my conditioning got so much better,” she said. “We did a lot of conditioning and strength work. It was really nice to be there competing. Everybody was there – the top three in every weight class, pretty much. I was able to drill and train with Elena Pirozhkova, who was really nice and helpful. I think it made a big difference before Fargo.”
Porter made quite a name for herself in Fargo in 2012, winning a pair of national titles – at both the Cadet and Junior levels. She expected nothing less than another first place plaque this time around. (She competed only in the Junior division in 2013).
Her finals opponent, Jasmine Mendoza of California, was the same as in 2012. And the result was the same – a championship for Porter. But her dominance was at another level. She picked up an 11-2 technical fall in the title bout – and those were the only two points she surrendered. Her other matches were a pin, 11-0, 10-0 and 12-0.
“Last year, I was conservative,” she said. “I was reserved – I wrestled safe and smart in the finals. I just wanted to make sure I won. This year, I felt like I could open up and make it a much bigger margin. I wrestled a lot more active and aggressive.”
That individual achievement wasn’t necessarily the highlight of the tournament for Porter. She was thrilled when Team New York made history, becoming the first squad other than California or Texas to win it all at Fargo in the Women’s Duals competition.
“I might have been more excited for that team win,” she said. “There are some pretty embarrassing pictures of me and how excited I was. A lot of my teammates hadn’t won a match or placed [during the individual competition] but [in the dual tournament] they beat people who were All-Americans. It was exciting to cheer for each other and show our support. Coach [Rob] Hirsch was adamant that no one trained harder than us. We showed everyone that New York is the best team in the country.”
That accomplishment was made more special for Porter because of the uniforms all New York wrestlers wore – with a picture of the late Jeff Blatnick on the back and the words “Dream Big”.
“I felt like Coach Blatnick was with us in spirit,” she said. “Wearing that singlet was a constant reminder of how much our state has gone through and why we deserved it as a team.”
Porter’s time in North Dakota was special for more reasons as well. Her brother Jesse, a rising junior at Shenendehowa, was the only male wrestler from the Empire State to medal in both Greco Roman and Freestyle. He took second and fifth, respectively, at 152 pounds after his high school campaign for the Plainsmen ended early with an injury.
“I definitely expected Jesse to do really well,” Alexis Porter said. “He didn’t have good luck during the season. I thought he could win a state championship this year. But having to sit out made him hungrier than ever. When he came back, he went full steam, training harder than before. He fell a little short of his goals in Fargo, but he did really well and I’m really proud of him. For us, wrestling is a family affair.”
Indeed, Alexis Porter said that she and her brother are often practice partners. They train at the Journeymen Wrestling Club, which Porter said has been a key component to her success.
She’s had her share of success on the national stage and she’s ready to take it to the global level.
“I haven’t done much international wrestling, but I’m pretty confident that no one in the weight can touch me,” she said. “I believe I should come back from Serbia as a world champion.”
And that won’t be all for Porter. After the Worlds, she’ll be doing another development camp at the OTC and will prepare for her final year at Shenendehowa.
What happens after that?
“I’m really taking it one day at a time,” she said. “I know how fortunate I’ve been this year. I can’t thank my friends, family and coaches enough because I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. I feel very blessed and lucky for the year I’ve had – staying healthy and staying successful. This has been the busiest and craziest summer of my life but it will definitely also be the most fulfilling.”