The last time Alyssa Lampe visited Madison, she was a teenager, headliner and pioneer.
It was February of 2006 and Lampe, then a senior at Tomahawk High School, was en route to becoming the first girl in history to wrestle for a WIAA state individual championship.
Lampe had already been the first girl to win a conference title, the first girl to qualify for the state meet and the first girl to have her arm raised in victory at the WIAA state tournament, which debuted in 1940.
Eight years removed from her silver-medal finish, Lampe is 26 but still a headliner and a pathfinder in her chosen sport.
Once again, the 180-mile ride down the middle of the state — her family in tow — brings her on a wrestling business trip of sorts.
Fresh off a dominating performance in the U.S. Open last month, Lampe is the top seed at 105½ pounds and will be looking to secure a spot on the American women’s team that will compete in the World Championships in September in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Her pursuit is one of the top storylines today and Sunday when USA Wrestling conducts its senior world team trials for men’s and women’s freestyle at the Dane County Coliseum.
Lampe said earlier this week that reminders of her last trip to Madison are sure to come flooding back as soon as she steps inside the Coliseum and takes in the scene.
“When I get into the arena and see all the mats, it will just bring back memories from state,” she said of the WIAA individual meet, which was held at the Kohl Center eight years ago. “Just being in that atmosphere.”
Lampe won 47 of 53 matches as a senior at Tomahawk, falling to Thane Antczak of Chetek/Prairie Farm 6-3 in the Division 2 state title bout at 103 pounds. Her journey to the podium, celebrated by a crowd of 13,000, brought attention and pressure that has helped her in her Olympic pursuits.
In addition to narrowing her focus and boosting her confidence, Lampe’s groundbreaking experience allowed her to embrace her inner pioneer. Young girls still come up to her and ask for her advice.
“It’s been a while because the novelty has kind of worn off,” Lampe said, “but now girls come up and talk about my senior-level career.”
A two-time world junior and senior bronze medalist, Lampe has lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the past five years, honing her craft at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Lampe’s homecoming is one of the marquee aspects of the world team trials, which will be contested today and Sunday in sessions that begin at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Arguably the biggest attention-getter will be the men’s 163-pound class where defending world and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs is the top seed in a field that includes David Taylor, the flamboyant Penn State product who won the past two Hodge trophies as the top collegian, and former University of Wisconsin national champion Andrew Howe.
“This is the first time in a long time our sport has had a marquee athlete draw like Jordan Burroughs is,” said Mitch Hull, the former longtime national team director for USA Wrestling who now runs the Wisconsin Regional Training Center. “People will come to just see him.”
As the No. 1 seed, Burroughs will await the survivor of the field in a best-of-three bout format. Howe beat Taylor in the 2012 Olympic Trials and Taylor returned the favor in the world team trials in 2013. In the U.S. Open last month, Burroughs needed a takedown in the final 30 seconds to defeat Taylor.
Lampe is moving along a path toward her ultimate wrestling goals: Compete for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics and come home from Rio de Janeiro with a gold medal.
“I definitely feel like I’m in the right place, training with the right people and accomplishing the goals that I’ve had since I was a little kid wrestling,” she said.