Captain Feature Sports Wrestling

J. Richard Lux Awardee and Captain, Riggs McGrath ’21 sees Wrestling as both a Physical and Mental Sport

Courtesy of Riggs McGrath

Captain Riggs McGrath ’21 has been on the varsity wrestling team for four years and acts as a role model for his teammates.

Wrestling Captain Riggs McGrath ’21 has inspired his teammates with his devoted attitude. McGrath has wrestled since the fifth grade and has wrestled for Andover since his Junior year. Teammate Nicholas Buehler ’21 sees McGrath as someone that he strives to be like in the wrestling world. 


“Riggs is just incredibly, really, insanely, unrealistically fit. The guy just does not quit. We’ve all wrestled through pain and injuries, and gone through rough patches, but Riggs does it relentlessly. He leads by example. It’s been a pleasure to wrestle with him these last four years,” said Buehler.


How do you think rowing for the crew team has informed you as a captain of the wrestling team? How has that experience changed your approach to leading a team?


Maintaining a team dynamic is very helpful, especially in a different season. This is how high school sports work. If you go two seasons without competing, I wouldn’t say you lose your edge, it’s just good to get the practice in. Crew is another one of those sports that’s super tough, that’s what I like about it. It’s another team which means I get to see even more leadership, so as a captain of the wrestling team I have more sources to pull from in order to develop my own leadership strategies and have more role models. It’s overall very beneficial.


With wrestling being a coed sport, how does it differ from a single gender sport?


As a team we practice together and however much you weigh, that’s generally going to be who your drill-partner will be. We don’t really think of it as coed or any different from another team, we’re just practicing together. For competitions sometimes they do split it up. Our season is generally broken up into two parts, we’ll have a dual-meet season where we individually compete against opposing teams, and whoever the best wrestler is at that weight, we’ll put them forward and they will wrestle whoever the other team puts forward. For tournaments usually they will have specific girls tournaments and boys tournaments, but generally that’s when it turns into a more individual sport.


What’s your relationship like with Head Coach Archambault and how has it grown throughout your years on the wrestling team?


She’s a great coach and when I got here, she was an assistant coach so she was always in my corner and our wrestlers’ corners, and generally towards the beginning she focused a little more on the girls program, trying to grow that, and I had a little more coaching from the other coaches. But as she moved into her head coach role, she made sure to connect with our athletes and our wrestlers. She went here [to Andover] and she wrestled here, so she knows what it’s like. She’s very in tune with who we are and what it means to be a wrestler at Phillips Academy which is very helpful. Outside of wrestling she’s done a lot of great stuff for team bonding.


You received the J. Richard Lux award in 2019, how did you feel when you were awarded this?


When I showed up to the award ceremony I forgot about the different awards so I was definitely surprised. In my [Junior] season I made the varsity team, but to be honest I pretty much just stepped on the mat and got beat up everyday. I may have won one varsity competition, so I was not doing very well, but that’s expected from a [Junior on the varsity team]. Over the summer I worked hard because I cared about wrestling and I wanted to win, and then I showed up and did really well in my [Lower] year. It [J. Ricard Lux] is the most improved wrestler award, and I guess in the team’s and the coach’s eyes I improved the most, and I’m very proud of this award and it means a lot to me that I’m recognized for the work and effort that I put in. 


Whenever you are facing someone that has a physical advantage over you, are you still intimidated or are you just thinking of how you can use your lack of size to your advantage?


Last year I ran into that a lot because I was sick and I lost a lot of weight, and there’s some rules about weight-class and how I couldn’t go down to a lower weight-class so I had to wrestle-up [wrestle heavier opponents]. I’ve had to wrestle a lot of heavier opponents and I know going into the match that this dude is bigger than me and stronger than me, and you just have to change up your strategy and know that it’s going to be a slog of a match. It’s more of a mental game in that case because you have certain techniques and you just have to know when to gamble and take that risk and you’re going to rely on that move. When it’s more evenly matched you generally come in and you have your strategy for taking them down and you just go and try to execute, whereas if they’re a little bit bigger than you ideally you can go out and execute your plan, but it’s a bit more reactive and on the fly because you have to take every opportunity you get and you have to have a lot tighter of a game and grit it out and keep going.