Andover All-Gender Wrestling’s Relentlessness Takes Co-Captains to First Place

Andover All-Gender Wrestling placed third in its Interscholastic Tournament on Saturday. Co-Captains Colin Nugent ’23 and Arnav Bhakta ’22 placed first, along with George Ryckman ’24 placing second.

Ben Forman ’23, a new wrestler who won three of his four matches, applauded the team’s unstoppable mindset that guided their wins. Its positive attitude guided the team to continuously fight, even while down on points.  

“I watched a bunch of [matches]. I thought we were kind of relentless. We didn’t give up in any of our matches. I remember I saw one by [Glen Cahilly ’23]. He was fighting the whole time. I think he lasted the whole six minutes, but he just never gave up, even when he was down. And that’s something I think we did really well over the tournament,” said Forman.

Ryckman congratulated his teammate, Bhakta, on placing first. Ryckman highlighted Bhakta’s efficiency and the effort he put into his two matches.

Ryckman said, “Arnav Bhakta, who’s the Senior captain, was hitting some very technical moves in his matches. He came out with two, with his first match [being] a pin and… his second match, he won by points, and it was just very technical wrestling. Very, very fun to watch as well.”

After wrestling two matches, Sakina Cotton ’24 credited her coaches, who prepared her to face strong wrestlers. She came away from the meet with one win and one loss. Cotton mentioned how she applied techniques she had learned during practice to her matches.

“I was a bit nervous, but the coaches prepared us for a lot and gave us a rundown on how [things] went on. My first match [was against an] Exeter kid, and it was what we practiced throughout the days leading up to the tournament. A lot of the rules came in handy, so I felt prepared for that one. There was a lot of help from the coaches, as [in] wrestling, you have to keep an eye out for what the coaches are telling you to do, and you’re just not thinking about that in the moment,” said Cotton.

Furthermore, Forman applauded Josh Espinoza ’25 for his win. Forman emphasized Espinoza’s relentlessness in a strenuous six-minute match.

Forman said, “[Espinoza] was down in a match. He kept fighting, he got a penalty, but he bounced right back. He ended up winning the match, and everyone was going crazy. A parent from the other sideline actually started yelling, but our coach stood up for [Espinoza], and honestly, it was a great win because it just showed the spirit we have.”

Ryckman is particularly excited for the upcoming New England’s Championship. All wrestlers placing in the top six will be able to compete in the National Championship.

“I’m looking forward to New England’s next week. I’m on Friday and Saturday and I know we’ve got a good amount of wrestlers going to New England’s as well. And I’m just looking forward to experienc[ing] another high school tournament and hopefully, possibly go[ing to] nationals if I place top six,” said Ryckman.

Before their next tournament, Cotton expressed her thoughts on where the team can improve. Although recent practices have been focused on more in-game situations, she explained that the team needs to work on endurance.

Cotton said, “I think we’re all going to start working on endurance. That’s something Coach [Kassie Archambault ’06] and Coach [Richard] Gorham expressed… in practice, we’re always working to make ourselves better and practices have been hard.”

According to Forman, nerves are unavoidable. However, he emphasized the importance of not letting his nerves override his excitement for the sport. 

Forman said, “I get a little nervous before matches or excited, like the butterflies. And it’s helpful just to think about just controlling what you can control. You know, just giving and giving all my effort and not thinking about the result because you can’t really control the result, [you] can control what you do… There’s really no secret to get rid of the nerves, so you just got to live with them.”

Ryckman acknowledges that wrestling can be a nerve wracking sport, but the feeling athletes get takes over feelings of fear.

“Wrestling could be [a] very stressful sport. Especially for a lot of the kids on our team, but I think it’s less stressful, and it’s more excitement is the way that I think about it. And the adrenaline rushing through your body. Just preparing you for the challenge ahead,” said Ryckman.

Andover will be competing in the New England’s Championship this Saturday.