Lindsey and Laurie Carlson started their athletic careers as standout basketball players at Logan View High School while growing up in Hooper, Nebraska.
They went on to play at Peru State College and the College of St. Mary, where they also earned master’s degrees in occupational therapy in 2012.
Fast forward a decade and the Carlson twins, who are 35, have taken both their athletic prowess and their professional training to the next level in sunny Florida.
The twins have joined the world of professional wrestling as part of the WOW-Women of Wrestling, where they’re known as Miami’s Sweet Heat. (Lindsey is blond; Laurie is a brunette.) They’re also running a contract home therapy firm, Carlson Care Therapy LLC, and working to start an assisted living center that focuses on memory care.
The mix of careers has them wearing scrubs and caring for patients during the week and sporting short shorts and jackets in Miami Dolphins colors on weekends.
In the ring, they treat opponents to moves like the Heat Wave, the Carlson Crusher and Miami Vice. (WOW–Women Of Wrestling airs on KPTM-Fox 42 in Omaha at 9 p.m. Saturdays.)
While those paths might seem as far apart as Hooper and Miami, the twins trace them to their youth. Both of their parents stressed education as a means to fulfill their dreams. Their maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother, who inspired them to go into occupational therapy, both suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Not only do they love the sport, the twins say, wrestling also gives them an opportunity to inspire other women to pursue their dreams, no matter their ages or day jobs.
Lindsey Carlson said their mother inspired them to pursue the sport. Deb Carlson, who had been a stay-at-home mom, went to college after giving birth to the pair, who are the youngest of her four children, and eventually completed a doctorate. She now is president of Nebraska Methodist College.
“It’s never too late to pursue your dream,” Lindsey said. “ … It’s going to be hard and you’re going to cry, but you can do it.”
After graduating from college, the twins wanted to do big things. They also love the beach, so Florida was a natural choice.
It also was a practical one. “Everybody retires here, so there’s lots of health care needs,” Laurie Carlson said.
After working in the field for a time, they started their business, which their father helps them manage. Duane Carlson was a teacher and football coach at Logan View while the twins were growing up and through their high school years. Laurie said the sisters often went to school with him while their mother was busy with school work. “That’s where we got into basketball,” she said.
After college, Laurie said, they missed the competitive aspect of sports. Lindsey said they tried body building and other sports, but none of them filled the void.
Then Laurie watched a wrestling training session. She signed up her sister.
The twins, who live about 10 minutes apart, are inseparable. “I feel like all of our adventures in life we’ve done together,” Lindsey said.
The twins trained at a center run by former tag-team wrestling champions The Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika. Afa, a WWE Hall of Famer, became their coach.
“When we walked in the doors, they were immediately like family to me and Laurie,” Lindsey said. “We were blessed to learn from the best in the business.”
As much as they love helping people, the sport also gave them an outlet from the stresses of health care. It also gives fans a chance to escape their everyday struggles.
“When you have an empathetic heart … you hold that in,” Lindsey said. “Wrestling has given us a way to help let that out.”
Quipped Laurie, “So I guess throwing a punch helps, right, Linds?”
As they trained, patients noticed the bruises and scrapes, Lindsey said. Many became interested and invested in their wrestling journey. One patient early in their wrestling career set a goal of being able to transfer in and out of a car so he could come watch them wrestle.
“He made it to our first match, and I remember holding back tears when we saw him cheering in the front row,” Lindsey said. “And that was a moment we will never forget.”
The twins had been training and wrestling for about three years when they saw a WOW tryout flyer in Miami last December. The tryout was canceled by COVID-19, but WOW founder David McClane called and invited them to come to California and train.
WOW is owned by Jeanie Buss, co-owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. WOW relaunched in September in partnership with Paramount Global Content Distribution.
“We’re thankful for them giving us women this huge platform,” Laurie said.
The Carlson Twins’ next goal is to become WOW’s tag-team world champions. After winning over the weekend, they advance to the finals against the Tonga Twins, another pair of twin sisters. “It will be happening,” Lindsey said.
As to the age-old question surrounding pro wrestling — how much is real and how much is acting — Lindsey said, “It’s very real, and our bodies feel it.”
Deb Carlson admitted that she cringes when her daughters hit the ground. But the show has been fun to watch. “It is great to have a show committed to strong women,” she wrote in a text.
Laurie said the sport requires a lot of athleticism, like basketball, but it’s more technical. “I love wrestling,” she said. “I want to keep doing it until my body won’t let me.”
Their characters, and those of the other wrestlers, are simply amplified versions of themselves. “In real life, even little girls and older women watching the show can relate to these characters somehow,” she said.
Lindsey said she loves that the women are of different races, ethnicities and body types.
“We’re just showing that women can show their athleticism and hard work and still have fun doing it,” she said. “Be confident. And beautiful. We can do that.”