Marisol Nugent ’20 won the Super 32 National Championship in the women’s division for the 139 lb. weight class in Greensboro, N.C. back in October. Although Nugent has wrestled at the national level many times before, this was her first time claiming the title.
“In October, I wrestled at preseason Nationals in North Carolina, which I won, which is pretty exciting. I had a won over a national finalist. I have never broken the national finalist. I have always lost in the semifinals, it’s like a curse that I have. I’ve gotten fifth [twice], I’ve gotten third, but I’ve never been able to go to the semifinals. So, I was able to pin my semifinal opponent pretty easily going into my fourth match of the day, and my coaches and I were just like, we have to keep the momentum up. It was a good tournament for me, I didn’t really stress too much, it was the middle of field hockey season. I didn’t really feel like the results define that much, so I was just excited to wrestle,” said Nugent.
Nugent began watching her brothers and practicing under her father’s leadership in the sixth grade, since then she has risen to be one of the top female wrestlers in the country.
“My dad was my wrestling coach for the first part of my career, so he always kind of owned a wrestling club and my brothers both wrestled at it. After a while, I grew interested in the sport because I used to go watch the practices a lot. It was a big part of my home-life, so after a couple years, I slowly got involved. It wasn’t really popular amongst girls for a while, so I kind of was sidelined for a little bit, but after asking for a couple of years, my dad finally let me start practicing and then eventually, once I hit the sixth grade, I really started competing a little bit more,” said Nugent.
Nugent continued, “My dad – he’s probably my biggest supporter in wrestling. My mom is a really big supporter too, but my dad has been my coach. He goes to all of my tournaments with me, travels with me across the country. He’s like my go-to person.”
Nugent initially had difficulty practicing and retaining the moves and mat-awareness unique to the sport of wrestling. Nugent had played soccer, swum, and played other sports, but no sport she had experienced matched the physicality of wrestling.
Nugent said, “Kind of like any other sport, it’s hard to be thrown-into last-minute, mostly just because there are a lot of different moves, a lot of different techniques, you kind of want to develop a style. [The moves aren’t] actually similar [to any other sport] at all. It’s actually really uncomfortable to learn at first because there are a lot of motions about mat-awareness that you don’t really recognize at first. There’s nothing really similar. I guess if you’ve ever done judo or karate before, it kind of meshes in with that a little bit, but not super well. […] If you have raw athletic ability, it’s kind of easy to be able to catch up because it’s just so many different parts of your body that you’re working on, like it’s upper body, it’s lower body, everything, cardio.”
Within just a few years, Nugent began wrestling on the national circuit, with her debut at the beginning of her Lower year. Nugent earned titles not previously held by any wrestler in New England, giving her national recognition.
Nugent said, “This was my first big national tournament that I had competed at, and as a tenth or ninth grader, I double All American-ed in the Cadet and Junior divisions, which are like the senior division and the younger kids. So that was a pretty big deal because no one in New England had ever really done that before, and the first time I ever made rankings after, that was in October. I think I was ranked tenth in the country, and for me that was really exciting because I was a sophomore. That was the first time I think my name had been recognized by USA Wrestling.”
Nugent entered the national stage late in comparison to the majority of her competition that has been wrestling since elementary school. Regardless, Nugent earned third at nationals in the spring and was ranked fourth entering the national championship this summer. The national stage, brings a great deal of pressure, according to Nugent.
“I was really late to the national circuit. I didn’t think it would be stressful, but once I made my first national ranking and I started getting seeded at these big tournaments. It became a little more stressful for me just because you have the pressure to perform. Going into nationals this summer, I want to say I was ranked fourth in the country, because in March, I got third at nationals. For me, it was kind of nerve-wracking going into it. I was competing against a lot of seniors. Overall, it wasn’t my greatest performance. I definitely choked, I definitely let the pressure get to me, so it’s been hard adjusting to feeling all of these expectations coming towards you. You’re still a high school athlete, and you kind of forget that once you see your name in articles and on wrestling websites, which they have in every sport, but once you start getting recognized in them, it is just a different amount of pressure that you can’t really describe,” said Nugent.
Once Nugent took on a more relaxed approach at the national-level, she gained more confidence and performed better during competition.
“I think once I started taking it less seriously I definitely had a lot more success because it was more care-free. I was just confident in my ability to perform, not my ability through a ranking in a paper or prior wins. I was ready to do what I had to do to win a title,” said Nugent.
Nugent has worked to help build a name for girls wrestling in the area, in order to work towards a more inclusive environment for female competitors.
“I like being able to go into tournaments and know who you are. For me, as a girl, it’s mostly about a matter of respect. Most of the time, girls come out onto the mat and they’re brand new, and their opponents don’t really give them the certain amount of respect that I had to work for a really long time to build up, so now in my area, I’m not just a girl that’s wrestling, I’m an actual opponent that people have to worry about. For me, that’s what I want to see more. Even just the high school/interscholastic level for girls, them stepping out onto the mat isn’t a joke. When I was younger, it was kind of a joke for girls to wrestle. There were different motives involved for it, but it’s good to have female wrestlers that have the reputations of being hard workers and worthy opponents. It’s really hard to build up, as one of the few females in the sport, and I think me and the girls in my family have been able to do that just by working hard, winning some tournaments. We’re pretty well-known in the wrestling community,” said Nugent.
Nugent’s dedication to the sport and success has made her a role model for her teammates, according to Archambault.
Archambault wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “She’s one of the most experienced and decorated wrestlers to come through our program, as she is already a 4-time All American, having placed top 5 at Fargo, third at Girls Folkstyle Nationals, and first at Super 32. She’s also a great leader and role model for our newer female wrestlers to the team. I feel extremely lucky to get to work with a student-athlete like Marisol, who works hard on the mat and in the classroom. The landscape of women’s wrestling has changed drastically since I was a student, it’s an exciting time in our sport, and it’s fun for me as a coach and a wrestler to see opportunities open up for Marisol and to navigate our rapidly developing sport with her.”
Nugent’s major goal for this season is to win the national championship. She is overcoming injury by immersing herself in the sport to keep improving.
“I’m convinced that I’m going to win a national title this year. I’ve convinced myself. I’m off to a good start: I won preseason nats, so I just want to keep the momentum going. I’ve been hurt for a little bit, but I don’t really let it stop me. Just watching footage or coaching other people, getting in the room. If i’m hurt, I’m still getting on the mat because I can’t go without wrestling. I can’t go like two weeks without wrestling because I know I just need to be getting better,” said Nugent.