In March of 2011, Cassy Herkelman made national news when she earned a spot in the Iowa state wrestling tournament … and then became the first ever female to win an Iowa state tourney match when her first opponent refused to face off against her. Still, Herkelman did most of her prep wrestling against other girls in Iowa's female division, for which she later won a state title.
North Andover (Mass.) High wrestler Danielle Coughlin doesn't have that luxury. The junior stalwart who was a part of both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 North Andover state title-winning wrestling teams (she finished fourth in her 103-pound weight class in 2010-11) wrestles only against boys … and beats almost all of them.
As profiled by the Boston Herald, Coughlin is an integral part of one of Massachusetts' most storied wrestling programs, competing in the 106-pound weight class with stunning efficiency; so far in 2011, Coughlin is 9-1 and is currently ranked sixth in Massachusetts' 106-pound class. She is the only girl in those rankings.
"I really liked it from the start," Coughlin, who has wrestled since the fifth grade, told the Herald. "I guess I was pretty much a natural at it.
"Winning individual matches are nice, but it's amazing when you win as part of a team," Coughlin said. "Seeing everyone on the side of the mat cheering each other on, cheering your name, that's the greatest thing."
In fact, Coughlin is such a natural that at times it has proven difficult to find practice partners to challenge her on a daily basis. After all, it's not easy to sell a teenage male on the idea that they have to grapple with a girl and get beat time after time.
Despite those challenges, one talented North Andover senior admitted that he spends much of his practice time facing off with Coughlin, and he said doing so was just as tough as one might imagine.
"It's not like wrestling anyone else, that's for sure," North Andover wrestler Cody Alter told the Herald. "The first time she took me down, I was like, 'Wow, this is a girl taking me down.' But you start to realize that she's not just a girl, but a good wrestler. If she gets a hold of your leg, you're going down."
For the first time in December, Coughlin took down enough opponents in a single event to win an entire tournament. Competing at the prestigious Wayland Tournament, Coughlin emerged as the champion of the 106-pound division, pinning all three of her opponents.
Given her recent success and North Andover wrestling coach Carl Cincotta's policy of treating Coughlin just like the rest of his athletes, it's unlikely that individual triumph will be the junior's last.
"That was pretty cool," Coughlin told the Herald. "There were people in the stands who didn't know me who were cheering my name. I was a little nervous, but once I got out there, all I was thinking about was winning my match."
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