Danielle Coughlin’s adrenaline was flowing mightily Wednesday night when she stepped to the mat in the 106-pound Division 2 state championship wrestling match.
This would be her milestone moment, the one that the North Andover senior had been working years to attain — to become the state’s first-ever girls state wrestling champion.
But, for this time in the spotlight, that career goal was not her biggest source of motivation.
“I knew that I had to win for the team to win the team title. That was my first priority,” Coughlin said. “The team title was on my back and that was what I was thinking about. I always want to do my job for the team. Especially as a captain, I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
That was bad news for Winchester standout boy wrestler Jordan Darby, who had lost to Coughlin four times over the last two years. When the team needs her in this sport dominated by boys, Coughlin delivers.
Although Darby made it close, there was little doubt about the outcome, as Coughlin captured a 5-3 decision at the match in Marshfield to make girls wrestling history in Massachusetts and make news nationally. Her state title story as picked up by news agencies as far away as Texas and California.
“It’s truly amazing for her to do that, to win a state title in a boys sport,” said North Andover coach Carl Cincotta. “It’s only happened a few times in the country and I think the others were small population states like Vermont and Alaska.”
Amazing as it was, Cincotta was not really surprised by Coughlin’s win, which did indeed lift North Andover past Winchester for the state crown. She’s been doing it for the team throughout her remarkable career, which includes more than 100 wins.
“She was key in all (three) of our (dual-meet) state titles,” said Cincotta. “As a freshman, she kept it close against Natick’s star and then she won her matches as a sophomore and junior. She had our only pin last year.”
Over the last several years, Coughlin, 18, has enjoyed many highlights on the mat, including winning a U.S. Girls Wrestling Association national title as a sophomore and being named the Outstanding Wrestler at the Methuen Tournament last year while winning her weight class.
But they all pale in comparison to what she accomplished Wednesday.
“This blows everything out of the water,” said Coughlin, who started wrestling with the North Andover Boosters team in the fifth grade. “It’s taken eight years to do it and to have it happen and help the team win, makes it even better.”
Coughlin doesn’t have much time to really cherish the moment just yet, however. She’s competing in the All-State Meet in Salem today and tomorrow and, if she places in the top six, she’ll advance to the New England Tournament March 1 and 2 in Providence.
And then there could be college wrestling. Several colleges offer wrestling as a varsity sport and one former area wrestler, Shannon Constantine, got a scholarship at King College in Tennessee, where she is now a senior.
“I hadn’t planned on wrestling in college,’’ Coughlin said, “but I haven’t ruled it out.’’