Four female wrestlers from Andover competed at the 2016 U.S.A. Wrestling Massachusetts State Girl’s Folkstyle tournament over Spring Vacation, which was held at Springfield Technical Community College. Second-year wrestlers Josie Simmons ’17 and Martha Gao ’17 both won individual titles in the 120-pound weight group and 130-pound weight group, respectively. First-year wrestlers Lizzy Seero ’18 and Melanie Tlaseca-Verde ’19 each claimed second place in their respective weight groups. Andover’s strong performances ultimately led the girls to win the tournament’s team title.
In the semi-finals of her weight group, Simmons won by pin with a time of 4:45 minutes. Despite losing to the 139-pound champion in an exhibition match, Simmons went on to pin her opponent in the finals with a time of 2:42 minutes, sealing her a first place victory. Simmons’s efforts and impressive performances in the championship bracket earned her the title of “Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.”
Gao said, “The week before the tournament was finals week, so we all tried to fit in an hour of training a day to stay fit. Since all of our training was done during the season, that week was just to keep our skills up.”
Gao won an individual title in her weight class. In her exhibition matches, Gao won 9-6 and pinned her opponent with a time of 1:29 minutes.
Gao said, “At the tournament, I won state with no contest at 121 pounds, so my highlight was during my first match where I was down by two points with only a minute to go, but I managed to reverse and get back points to win the match 9-6.”
“I’m super proud of the way our girls team has gained recognition this year, and how far we’ve all come since last year and the start of the season. I’m especially proud of our first year wrestlers, who kept with this demanding sport, learned to love it, and improved so much from the start of the season, when neither of them had ever set foot on a mat,” continued Gao.
As one of the few competitors in the 160-pound weight class, Seero claimed a second-place finish after losing by pin in the finals with a time of 1:30 minutes, as well as in her exhibition match with a time of 5:00 minutes.
Seero said, “Training for this meet was unique, because we had to schedule practices around finals, and we could only be on the mat for an hour with the coaches. But finals were the least of our obstacles, as we went from six sections of the mat in the Smith center to just one hidden away in the Cage… It was really intimate and a wonderful way for all of us to bond.”
When asked about her performance, Seero said, “My very first match in the season I was pinned in 17 seconds, and now I am second in the state for female wrestlers. I was extremely self-conscious of my ability and I refused to see myself as worthy competition, but through hard work and support from the team, I have found joy in competing instead of dreading it.”
Tlaseca-Verde also earned an impressive second place finish in the 140-pound weight group. Although she lost by pin in both the finals and in the exhibition match with times of 3:01 minutes and 4:51 minutes, respectively, Tlaseca-Verde maintained good focus and strong technique throughout her matches.
Tlaseca-Verde said, “Winning the tournament was my second priority, having fun was my first. Being able to share the joy of victory with my team was definitely a highlight of the tournament.”
The girls hope to wrestle with the same intensity and focus, and they will look to finish their season on a high note. The girls will travel to Oklahoma City from March 25 to March 26 for the U.S.A. Wrestling Folkstyle National Tournament.