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Native Sun News: Olympic medalist visits Pine Ridge Reservation

The following story was written and reported by David Michaud, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Olympic silver medalist in wrestling and former UFC title contender Sara McMann Photo from Facebook

Olympic medalist visits reservation schools
By David Michaud
Native Sun News Correspondent

PINE RIDGE—It is not often that kids from a secluded Reservation in South Dakota are able to welcome a UFC title challenger into their schools. That's why the students of Little Wound, Wolf Creek and Pine Ridge consider themselves lucky.

On September 3, Olympic silver medalist in wrestling and former UFC title contender Sara McMann visited the Reservation and spoke with the children of several schools. The visit was set up by Mike Kelly, who previously set up a visit from Dan Hornbuckle, who held MMA titles in Japan, last year. After the visit from Hornbuckle, Kelly saw how excited the students were and decided that he would try to bring another MMA star this year.

At each school kids were treated to her story before the floor was opened for questions. Following the short question-and-answer sessions kids from each school lined up for autographs and photos with the third-rated 135 female Mixed Martial Artist in the world.

McMann’s day started at Little Wound, where she spoke to kids throughout the school in the morning. At the end, when the kids were getting pictures and autographs, many of them took “selfies” with McMann and posted them on their social media, such as Tacie LeBeaux, who posted on Twitter “It was an honor to take a pic with @Sara_McMann” along with the photo of them.

After visiting Little Wound, McMann traveled to Wolf Creek to visit with the middle school students there. After her initial speech at Little Wound she answered some questions from kids, ranging from light “what's your favorite color,” light blue, almost neon but not quite, to harder questions about her upbringing.

The last school visit for McMann happened at Pine Ridge High School. This visit ended a little differently, as at the end the students of Pine Ridge honored her and Kelly with an honoring song and a star quilt, thanking them for visiting the Reservation and sharing her story with the students.

“It was so amazing having all the kids be so curious and to give me this gift,” said McMann. “The things I told to these kids are things I haven't told to any ’MMA media’ or anything. I only like sharing my story when I think it can help someone,” said McMann, who mentioned she didn't want to try to promote herself that way.

Following the visit at Pine Ridge one of the teachers, Darrin Merrival, took the group out to his fathers to feed his buffalo, which McMann did out of her mouth. After that she was invited to a sweat lodge ceremony.

The next day, September 4, was a little more exciting for some students. Some of the students from Pine Ridge and a few from Red Cloud were allowed to take a mini seminar from McMann. During the seminar they learned boxing and wrestling techniques, an experience that people have paid hundreds of dollars for.

“It was awesome learning from one of the best MMA fighters in the world, said Shane Phillips, Pine Ridge Student. “She was really helpful and fun, we played some games after and it was a good time.”

With her visit done, McMann will now look forward to her next MMA bout. She is unaware when that may be as she recently fought, taking a split decision win over Lauren Murphy on August 16, so for now she is training and waiting for her next call from the UFC.

(Contact David Michaud at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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