Twelve female wrestlers from Andover, Hotchkiss, Thayer, Concord, Taft and Governor’s participated in Andover’s third annual Female Wrestling Tournament this past Sunday. The tournament served as a valuable competitive experience for the girls and increased awareness about wrestling’s co-ed nature.
Second-year wrestlers Martha Gao ’17 and Josie Simmons ’17 and first-year wrestlers Elizabeth Seero ’18 and Melanie Tlaseca-Verde ’19 placed in the top four positions of their respective weight brackets.
In the 106-112 pound weight group, Gao recorded multiple pins against her opponents, which ultimately earned her an impressive first-place finish.
Gao said, “I’m really proud of how everyone performed. We all showed a lot of determination in our matches, and it was great to see our own individual improvements.”
In the 123-137 pound weight group, Simmons and Tlaseca-Verde placed first and fourth, respectively.
“Prior to wrestling, I had never been in a team sport in my life, or in any sport for that matter. The dramatic shift in exercise, time commitment and both mental and physical pain was pretty rough the first few days, and I often found myself wanting to quit,” said Tlaseca-Verde.
“Honestly though, after those short periods of low self-esteem,” she continued. “I found that the pain was worth it. All of the sweat is worth it because I’m no longer focused on working hard to please others, but working hard to please myself. The times that I have lost, I’ve come to realize, are not because of my gender or body.”
Seero claimed a first-place finish in the 148-159 pound weight group, with hard-fought pins against her Hotchkiss and Governor’s opponents.
“During the meet, I was able to talk to these girls, many of whom are the only girls on their team. Andover is lucky to have such a big girls team where we can support each other and have that essential locker room environment and bond,” said Seero.
Andover Wrestling has a history of strong female participation, with girls on the team since 1993. In fact, Coach Kassie Archambault ’06 made league history in 2004, when she became the first girl to place at an interscholastic tournament with a second place finish in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council [NEPSAC] Class A Interscholastic Tournament.
Although the female wrestling program at Andover has been strong in the past, there now exists a lack of female participation in the sport at the high school level. Due to the gender imbalance, girls currently in the wrestling program usually face boys on the mat in the varsity and junior varsity matchups.
“The question is not what being a female wrestler means to me, but rather what it is to be a wrestler. Saying it’s hard work is an understatement, but the pay-offs make it all worth it, through all the blood and sweat forever-present on the mat,” said Seero.
The girls will compete in two more female-only tournaments this month before heading out to the Nationals tournament at Lehigh University.
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