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Magruder alum Helen Maroulis takes gold at wrestling World Championships

The thing about tunnel vision is the tunnel doesn’t open quickly.

Rockville native Helen Maroulis had spent so much time fixating on a wrestling World Championship that when she finally earned it, she could not unwind.

The emotions are still seeping in after Maroulis, who as a freshman at Magruder in 2006 became the first girl to place at the Maryland state wrestling championships, defeated Russian Irina Ologonova for an 11-0 technical fall at 55 kg/121 lbs Thursday in Las Vegas.

“The whole experience hasn’t really set in yet,” Maroulis said. “I think I had such tunnel vision. I wanted it so bad. It’s my sixth world team. This summer I just didn’t care what it was going to take. I don’t know. I just really zoned a lot of things out. Even when the tournament ended, I couldn’t get out of the zone. I couldn’t relax.”

Now the 23-year old gets emotional thinking of what she’s accomplished and the people who supported her along the way.

The beginning of Maroulis’s wrestling career can be credited to chance. She took up the sport at 7 years old when her younger brother’s group was short on participants.

She said her parents wanted her to quit grappling with boys early in her career. They didn’t see a future in a sport that wasn’t included in the Olympic Games. Women’s competition was introduced in 2004, giving Maroulis a purpose in the process.

“Ever since I was 7 I remember saying I want to go to the Olympics,” Maroulis said. “I just realized why not set it at my highest goal.”

Wrestling boys came with its own set of challenges.

“That had its ups and downs,” she said. “I was accepted by most people, but there was definitely a period of time when I first started when coaches didn’t want to work with me and people didn’t want to help.”

One man who wanted to help was junior league Coach Mike Desarno, who also tutored a young Kyle Snyder. Even when she worked with Max Sartoph and Kelvin Phelps at Magruder, Maroulis would meet with Desarno on off days and weekends to work on positioning.

[Former Good Counsel All-Met Kyle Snyder becomes youngest World Champion in U.S. history]

In the hopes of accelerating her wrestling career, Maroulis left Magruder at 17 after another sixth place finish at the state tournament as a junior. She would study at the U.S. Olympic Education Center while training with female wrestlers at the Northern Michigan University.

A couple months after she began the training program, Maroulis pulled an upset to win the U.S. World Team Trials. She would finish eighth at her first World Championships appearance in Tokyo.

By winning gold on Thursday in Las Vegas, Maroulis has won her third medal in the past four years. She took silver in 2012 and bronze last year.

With her first world title in hand, Maroulis is riding high leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, where a 7-year old’s dream is suddenly attainable.

“It’s just important to me that when I set a goal,” Maroulis said, “I can achieve it.”