TAMPA — Maggie Palmore's University of Tampa wrestling career almost never happened. Palmore, a sophomore, started her collegiate career at North Central College in Naperville, IL. Then the neck and back injuries came. The Maryland native had four surgeries in 13 months, and she thought her grappling days were over.
Palmore transferred to UT to pursue a degree in entrepreneurship. That's when she discovered the Spartans club wrestling team.
"The support that I had was just insane," Maggie said. "The encouragement I had from my coach and my teammates to get back on the mat, and telling me that I’m going to be alright and that everything was going to be okay… really helped me push through and be able to wrestle again."
UT coach Rob McKnabb immediately knew he had a talent on his hands.
" I really was telling her from day one, after watching her wrestle that first time, you could be a national champ."
He wasn't wrong. Maggie ran through the competition to win the National Collegiate Wrestling Association title at 155 pounds. She won the championship match with a dominating 17-2 technical fall victory.
"It’s just awesome that I got to get back to the sport, even after all those injuries."
Palmore says her faith is a huge part of her life. Despite facing injuries that kept her off the mat she never doubted that she'd make it back.
"When those surgeries happened, it definitely brought me a lot closer to God," she said. "I know that the path God put me through and that I had to take because of these injuries. And having to leave wrestling and come back to it was part of what was supposed to happen."
Maggie didn't hold back during her return to competition. McKnabb says that's one of the reasons she's so successful. That, and knowing when not to push too hard.
"From her experience level and those beginning practices with her, and then the individual workouts that we were doing. It was able to see that as long as she’s in shape, she’s gonna be really good. It’s just making sure that the injuries aren’t there," he added.
Palmore admits she has one go-to routine that has before all of her matches. It's her favorite playlist.
"It’s called 'When Jesus Grabs The Aux,'" she laughed. "It’s basically just kind of like upbeat, Christian music. That helps me stay really calm, and know that it’s going to be alright."
Maggie said she wants to be involved with wrestling as long as possible, and she'd like to have a coaching job if the opportunity presents itself. Women's wrestling is growing on the high school varsity and college club levels. Both Palmore and McKnabb say they're excited about the potential of it becoming an NCAA varsity sport.