Talea Guntrum wrestling her way to the big stage

Harding Middle School pupil headed to European tour as part of Team U.S.A.

READY TO GO — Talea Guntrum, a Harding Middle School pupil, will travel to Europe to compete for Team U.S.A. beginning Friday. -- Joe Catullo

STEUBENVILLE — Talea Guntrum, a fifth-grade pupil at Harding Middle School, does not remember the exact moment she fell in love with wrestling.

The 11-year-old vaguely recalls watching it on television when she was 6. Her oldest brother, Frank, and her other two siblings, Monte and Briella, also compete, so history runs in the Guntrum family.

And, it’s not World Wrestling Entertainment or any other form of professional wrestling.

“Real wrestling,” Guntrum said before hitting the mat on Wednesday at Smitty’s Floors in downtown Steubenville.

Her father, Frank Guntrum, believes she truly fell in love with the sport when she joined the Oak Glen Matmen. Her head coach, Brandon Davis, believes she’s one of the best he’s ever coached, and that goes for boys and girls.

“I saw wrestlers do it on TV, and I wanted to try it. When I started, I liked it and kept on doing it,” Talea Guntrum said. “I see girls that wrestle on TV and boys that have won championships or world titles.”

Talea Guntrum has been showcasing her talents all around, and now she’ll have the opportunity to do so with Team U.S.A. in Germany and Austria as part of a European tour. She leaves with her mother, Laura Guntrum, and her uncle, Lance Headlend, on Thursday, and the tournament begins Friday.

“This is her love, and it’s every day,” Frank Guntrum said. “This is what she wants. She’s a kid, so we’re not forcing this on her. When she’s not on the mat, she’s bored. I would say her older brother looks up to her.

“If she could do this five days a week, she would do it five days a week. She is the one who’s more into it than anybody else in our house.”

Talea Guntrum is 88-16 this season (41-1 against other girls) and finished second at nationals three weeks ago in Myrtle Beach, S.C. As a member of the Ohio national team, she took first-place honors.

“She’s a fierce, hard-working competitor who’s all business,” Davis said. “There’s not a lot of play — she comes in to practice. She’s like a sponge when it comes to her learning process. Once you show her a move, that’s normally the last time you’ll ever show her, at least 90 percent of the time.”

In order to make sure wrestling never leaves her mind, Talea Guntrum is always working. She runs about two or three miles before school begins, according Davis. On Wednesdays, she practices at Smitty’s as part of the Matmen. There is a mat in her basement when she gets the urge and cannot resist.

There really are no days off for her.

“Not all of my kids are as advanced as her,” Davis said. “Out of the 50 kids, there’s normally only about 20 that’ll catch on to all the moves that we teach throughout the year. She has a very good memory. She’s all business.”

Along with helping her wrestling abilities, Davis, who is in his eighth year with Oak Glen, also preaches to her about freestyle wrestling, which is an amateur style practiced throughout the world. It’s the style that would help her get the Olympics one day.

The other option is scholastic, which is the style taught at the middle or high school level.

“If she chooses the path to wrestle in high school, she’s going to be great at it. If she chooses the path to freestyle, it’ll be because she’s looking to go to the next level and gain an Olympic berth,” Davis said. “That’s what I’ve been putting in her head the last couple of years. You just never know what she will succeed in.”

Whatever her future may hold, first thing’s first, and that’s the trip to Europe. Just thinking about boarding the plane and landing on Thursday excited Talea Guntrum shortly before warming up at Smitty’s.

“Rarely will you get a girl of her talent on this team,” Davis said.

“Most of them that come out is because they have a brother wrestle, and the parents want them to do that so all of their kids can play one sport rather multiple. She and her sister have the potential to be good, but not many take it as serious as Talea.”

WORD OF MOUTH

Frank Guntrum and his wife moved to Weirton when they were first married. Originally from Beaver County, Pa., they later searched for a wrestling program for their kids. They knew Weirton didn’t have one, and the one in Steubenville only had roughly 10 in its program.

Asking all over, they eventually heard of Oak Glen Matmen, which has about 50 wrestlers between the ages of 6 and 12 every year.

“We were just told Oak Glen is a wrestling school,” Frank Guntrum said.

The Matmen compete in the Western Area Wrestling Association, and the program includes Toronto and East Liverpool. Oak Glen is the only team from West Virginia in the WAWA.

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