After each placing second at the USA Wrestling Girls New England Folkstyle tournament at Springfield Technical Community College on March 5, Martha Gao ’17 and Liz Seero ’18 traveled to Oklahoma City, Okla., to represent Andover Wrestling and compete in the 2017 US Marine Corps Girls Folkstyle National tournament. Held at the Cox Convention Center on March 24-25, the National tournament consisted of five divisions with 945 total wrestlers.
In an email to The Phillipian, Coach Kassie Archambault ’06 wrote, “The environment is incredible; this kind of high caliber wrestling is just amazing to watch. Many of the top placers at this tournament will compete for spots on the US Cadet or Junior Worlds team and have Olympic aspirations. It’s a great experience for our wrestlers to see other girls who compete in this sport at a very high level and for them to see what the next level of competition looks like.”
Gao competed against 40 wrestlers in the 112-pound weight class and Seero wrestled against 31 wrestlers in the 152-pound weight class. Due to the strong competition from other wrestlers in various regions, both Gao and Seero went 0-2 and suffered double elimination from the tournament.
Archambault said, “At Nationals, we had four tough, close matches that we ultimately lost. Gao lost her first match 7-2 to an opponent from Wisconsin and lost her second match 5-0 to an opponent from Texas. Seero was leading in both of her matches but was ultimately thrown to her back and pinned by her opponents from Wisconsin and Tennessee.”
Both wrestlers, however, said they gained valuable experience from wrestling against tough competitors, and ultimately benefited from the high-intensity environment.
Seero said, “It was so inspiring and motivating seeing club teams with 50 plus girls all warming up together, cheering each other on. In places like Texas, and especially California, female wrestling is a lot more common than it is here, so it was refreshing to finally feel normal instead of a exception or anomaly.”
Gao said, “Going to Nationals was a totally different experience from New England’s. First of all, there were only four us from Massachusetts, while California alone was represented by about one hundred girls. Furthermore, the level of competition there was many many times that in New England, even among the boys.”
Joining Gao and Seero to represent Team Massachusetts at Nationals were Lucy Grignaffini, from Wellesley, and Bella Ricchiazzi, from Framingham. Grignaffini went 1-2 and Ricchiazzi placed fifth in her weight class, gaining an All-American title. According to Gao, the tournament served as a great bonding experience for all the girls who participated.
Gao said, “My favorite part of the trip, however, was right after weigh ins, and we all went to IHOP and all managed to eat a good percentage of our weights in pancakes. Second to that was right after our teammate Bella Ricchiazzi received her fifth place medal, and we celebrated with lots of hugs while downing whole cupcakes in one bite.”
“Overall, it was an amazing experience because we were able to watch a lot of quality wrestling and meet so many people who are so dedicated to the sport,” continued Gao.
While this tournament marks Gao’s last time wrestling for Andover, she hopes that her wrestling experiences at Andover will carry into her college years.
Gao said, “I think seeing the level at which girls from other parts of the country wrestle was really important for Liz in terms of her season next year, and I personally was able to watch the University National Freestyle competition that was going on simultaneously, as I may compete next year as a college student.”
Seero hopes to use the tournament as a learning experience, as well as practice as often as possible in the off-season.
Seero said, “I have made plans to wrestle over the summer and in the fall and keep in touch with girls outside of PA and encourage even more girls to participate so that more girls can experience such an amazing event.”