After taking up wrestling in sixth grade and continuing throughout his time at Andover, Head Coach Rich Gorham ’86 returned to Andover Wrestling as an Assistant Coach in 1993, later taking on the role of Head Coach in 1997.
Throughout his high school career, the wrestling program at Andover provided Coach Gorham with a strong sense of community, confidence, and identity on campus.
Coach Gorham said, “I was somewhat successful on the mat, but I was not a big time champion in any way. But, wrestling gave me a home at [Andover]. I struggled early in my career as a student [at Andover] and felt lonely and didn’t really feel part of the school. Wrestling turned out to be the place where I felt confident and I felt like I had a home at the school.”
According to Co-Captain Eamon Garrity-Rokous ’20 and Marisol Nugent ’20, Coach Gorham serves as an experienced mentor and a calming presence for wrestlers in both practice and matches.
Garrity-Rokous said, “He’s an intelligent man. I think he’s really crafty at the sport. He knows how to make all the in-the-moment decisions in the middle of a match, and he seems like pressure doesn’t affect him at all. He’s very experienced. He’s been doing this for years and years. He’s also very witty, very fun, and he’s very straight to the point, honest, blunt.”
“He’s really reserved. He’s very calmed. I feel like a lot of coaches if you lose a big match or something like that, they have a really big tell whereas [Coach Gorham is] just very well-mannered in the corner,” said Nugent.
Coach Gorham’s greatest lesson for his wrestlers is that despite wrestling being an individual sport, they must derive their strength and their courage to compete from their team.
Coach Gorham said, “[Wrestling] is not a sport anybody can do alone. It looks like an individual sport and can feel very lonely at times, but you have to have a team behind you because that’s how you learn the sport. That’s how you practice, and you have to have someone to wrestle with. The sport has taught me, and what I try to impart to my athletes, is the idea of individual sport that comes out of a team.”
Coach Gorham and his team have established three core values for the 2019 season, setting a standard for all 30 team members.
Coach Gorham said, “Number one is inclusion, that everyone is welcome whether they’ve been wrestling for 15 years, or they’ve never wrestled before, or if they’re a boy or a girl or don’t identify on the gender binary. And regardless of ethnic or racial background or social-economic background, everyone is welcome on our team.”
Gorham continued, “Number two is hard work. We don’t cut anybody. If you’re willing to come out and work hard, then you are welcome to be here, and you’re part of the team.”
“Third is team concept. That we believe in the team, the power of the team. The success of any individual wrestler is the success of the team. The struggle of any individual wrestler is the struggle of the team,” said Coach Gorham.
According to Assistant Coach Kassie Archambault ’06 and Jack O’Neil ’19, Coach Gorham’s system of core values cultivates a community in which athletes can develop not only wrestling skills but also valuable life skills.
Coach Archambault said, “The thing I admire most about his coaching is the character building and inclusive environment he creates.”
O’Neil wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Since I joined this team as a [Junior], Coach Gorham has taught me so much about this sport, most of all being the importance of hard work. This applies not only in the sport, but in other areas of my life, as successes in wrestling are the result not only of efforts in practice, but of a dedicated lifestyle.”
With Coach Archambault’s help, Coach Gorham has been successful in his attempts to welcome more female wrestlers into the program. The first female wrestler joined the Andover team in 1993 and Coach Archambault established the first all-female tournament in New England Prep wrestling when she returned to the program as a coach in 2012.
He continued, “The sport of girls and women in wrestling has grown enormously over the last 20 to 25 years, and I’m proud to say that [Andover] has been a leader in that regard. We were one of the first schools to have a girl on our team. We are, I believe, the only New England prep school right now that has a woman as an Assistant Coach. We host the only girls-only tournament for girls in New England Prep wrestling, so that’s been a big shift in the program.”
Coach Gorham said he hopes to have a winning record in dual meets this season and qualify multiple wrestlers for major tournaments at the end of the season. He also said he hopes to ensure every wrestler represents the team’s core values to their fullest capacity.
Coach Gorham said, “We have some specific goals in terms of winning, but more importantly than that, it’s that each athlete understands and lives our values.”