The vision 10 years ago, said Phillips Andover wrestling coach Kassie Archambault, was to create a tournament that would be a destination for girls who wanted to get on the mat and compete.
On Sunday, in the ninth Girls’ Wrestling Invitational held at Phillips Andover, there were 103 competitors.
With 27 points, the hosts earned team honors, followed by Silver Lake (11) in which 30 schools were represented.
“This was always the dream,” said Archambault, a 2006 Phillips Andover graduate who is in her 11th year as her alma mater’s wrestling coach. “To have this many people who are interested in coming to our tournament and knowing there are more girls out there who want to come. It’s a labor of love. It’s a lot of work to put on this tournament.”
When was she hired, Archambault made it a priority to give the girls on her team the opportunities she had when she was wrestling at Phillips Andover. Her first victory was at a girls’ tournament, and it gave her a much-needed confidence boost.
“It gave me drive and motivation to keep training in the summer,” she said. “When I came back my second year, I was able to make varsity. Having the confidence boost where I can actually win matches was really integral.”
Phillips Andover freshman Ophelia Lee (133.4 pounds) experienced her first victory with a pin.
“Seeing the joy in what she accomplished, and seeing it across the board and what a positive experience it was for them, that’s why we do it,” Archambault said.
In the 180.3-pound final, Phillips Andover senior Tayla Tildsley won a 5-1 decision over Silver Lake junior Lindsay Laws. Both are reigning MIAA girls’ state champions, Tildsley pinning her way to the title at 147 (for Shawsheen) and Laws doing the same at 160.
“It was nice to have that challenge,” Tildsley said. “I knew Lindsay is not going to roll over. She’s tough, knows how to wrestle, she’s athletic. I just went out there, wasn’t nervous, but went out with an open mind.”
Sophomore Dani Nugent earned four wins to take first place in the round robin tournament at 164.8 pounds. It was her first action back after meniscus surgery on her right knee, which kept her out of Fargo Nationals last summer.
“It took a lot of practice to rebuild my confidence,” Nugent said. “Being able to adjust my style to a way I can avoid using my knee. It took a lot to get back here but I’m excited to be back.”
For Silver Lake, Laws and freshman Hailey Lewis (108.9) finished as runners-up, and senior Sydney Diauto (113) outlasted Phillips Andover junior Sakina Cotton for a triple-overtime win, 3-2.
“It was really cool,” Diauto said. “It was good to show that by putting in the work in the match and continuing to fight, even though it comes out to eight or nine minutes, you can still win it.”
Archambault said that girls connect with each other at the tournament, even with their opponents. They support each other and stay in touch.
“The girls’ wrestling community is a really small and tight-knit community,” she said. “Even if they are the only girl [wrestler] at their school, they’ve joined a larger community. That’s what we’re building.”
At the tournament, Archambault invites a guest clinician to talk to the competitors, answer questions, and teach moves. On Sunday, it was Katherine Shai, a seven-time national team member and two-time Olympic team alternate.
“For a lot of girls, it’s super important to see mentors they can identify with,” Archambault said. “Most have men coaches, for some they may be the only girls on their team. To see women who have competed with high success in the sport is really important.”
Added Diauto: “Back when they started wrestling, the sport was way smaller. It shows that even back then, [female wrestlers] can go far.”
Eastern Mass. winners:
105 — Jailyn Edwards (Quincy Upper)
113 — Sydney Diauto (Silver Lake)
116.4 — Sara McLaughlin / Outstanding wrestler (Scituate)
121.1 — Madeline Li (Andover)
124.9 — Hannah Bryson (Wilmington)
128.1 — Natalia Accorsi (Tabor)
133.4 — Linh Ho (Boston Latin)
151.4 — Xavia Banigan (Governor’s Academy)
164.8 — Daniela Nugent (Phillips Academy)
180.3 — Tayla Tildsley (Phillips Academy)
Heavyweight — Samantha Rabkin (Sharon)
AJ Traub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.