All-Gender Wrestling Leans on Each Other for Support During High-Pressure Nationals

Andover All-Gender Wrestling traveled to Maryland to compete at the National Prep Championships (Nationals). Many of the team members placed at the tournament, ending the season with a final record of 8-4. 

Suhaila Cotton ’24 reflected on the season and the team culture. Cotton described the team as a welcoming environment that included a variety of people, unlike many other wrestling teams, which may only contain people from a certain sport. 

“I do think it was a good season. The team is huge, but also so inclusive and welcoming. My friends from other schools are always like their wrestling team is ‘full of just big football guys,’ but Andover’s team is everyone. We have theater kids, band kids, singers, track kids, and ultimate frisbee players, like myself, and it’s fun because we all make it a supportive community and prove to ourselves wrestling is for everyone,” said Suhaila Cotton. 

Julian Rios ’26 highlighted some of the pressure that comes from competing at Nationals. Rios mentioned the importance of learning to overcome the mental pressure that comes with the competition, and just focus on what’s right in front of you. 

Rios said, “It’s a lot of pressure, there’s all the stands and it’s a big place and you’re in the middle and everyone’s watching you. When you advance through the tournament and every time the kids are getting tougher, it’s not getting any easier and the kids are really good. It just puts a lot of pressure on you, and it almost makes you nervous. But you have to learn how to overcome those obstacles mentally and just focus on your match on who you’re wrestling. There’s a lot of pressure within the event and everything like that, it makes it more difficult.” 

Leading up to Nationals, the team experienced a variety of excitement and nerves. Sakina Cotton ’24 stated that she experienced both. It was a big tournament and it came with a lot of pressure, but on the other hand, Sakina Cotton remembered it as a fun experience to go through with her teammates. 

“Leading up to Nationals, of course I was nervous. We were all going to leave everything at the tournament, that was the end of most of the team’s tournament season and I just remember feeling that I got to try my best and listen to the coaches and my teammates and get them ready too. But I also had anticipated Nationals being fun, I mean, you get to watch all this great wrestling, see your teammates at their best, and have fun with them. I remember last year this was fun, even though it was hard it was fun. I think that’s what’s great about our team because we know that the balance of pushing each other, giving each other space, and also just being teammates for each other,” said Sakina Cotton. 

Suhaila Cotton pointed out one particular performance at Nationals, highlighting Tayla Tindsley ’23. Tindsley had a really exciting quarter finals match in which she ended up defeating her opponent, according to Suhaila Cotton.

Cotton said, “I mean of course everyone performed well and left it all on the mats, but I think Tayla had a really exciting quarterfinals match against a Wyoming Sem[inary wrestler] and she won. She turned the tables near the end of the match to get a pin against a wrestler from a very top notch program, so that was amazing to watch.”

Rios reflected on one of the most exciting moments for him at the tournament. Rios had only one match that determined whether he would advance to the second day of the tournament and in turn place at Nationals. This match was a big deal for him, and when he ended up winning, he was elated and delighted to share his excitement with his supportive teammates. 

“I think the most exciting moment, for me, was the quarterfinals of the first day. Since for the boys it was a two-day tournament, if you make it to the second day it means you automatically place. I think just placing at Nationals is a really big deal, and when I ended up just barely winning my quarterfinal match, it was a really awesome moment and really exciting. With all my teammates watching, it was really cool,” said Rios.