North Andover junior Danielle Coughlin is a big proponent of the MIAA's addition of girls wrestling, starting in the spring of 2013.
She just doesn't want to be part of it.
"I think it's a good thing," said Coughlin, the Knights' talented 106-pounder. "I know a lot of girls have some interest in wrestling, but they don't want to wrestle boys so they don't come out. This will help.
"For me, I'd rather wrestle the boys. The girls will be wrestling freestyle (type of wrestling), which I don't like, and it's more of a challenge against the boys."
Coughlin has certainly been up to the challenge thus far. She entered the weekend 9-2 with six pins and last month she won her first tournament crown, pinning Randolph's Timmy Hoang in the finals after getting two previous pins. She is currently the first-ever girl to lead her weight class in the Eagle-Tribune's Kings of the Ring rankings.
Her lone setbacks coming into the weekend came in the finals of the Marshfield tournament, a 4-3 setback she feels she should have won, followed by a loss to Triton's Victor Ramirez, last year's Cape Ann League champion and Division 3 state runner-up
Ramirez is clearly one of the top wrestlers in the state, but Coughlin is still irked by her loss at Marshfield.
"I didn't have a good match — I messed up," she said. "I was getting a takedown on the side of the mat and I let up when I could have gotten it. Coach (Carl Cincotta) always says to wrestle until you hear the whistle and I didn't do it."
But Coughlin has done almost everything else right, including being surprisingly aggressive. She's tough to keep down and shows great tenacity when she's on the top position trying to keep her opponent down.
In the toughness department, she has definitely come a long way from her freshman year when, after losing to Whittier standout Shannon Constantine, she confessed that she didn't think she'd ever have the mental and physical toughness to be as successful as Constantine.
"I was definitely shy my freshman year and not very confident," said Coughlin, who started wrestling in the fifth grade on the heels of older brother Larry, a former All-Scholastic standout and New England placer for the Knights. "I'm stronger now, I'm not as nervous as I was then and I'm a lot more confident. I've found out that confidence is really important in wrestling."
Coughlin's increased confidence is understandable.
She won 36 matches last year, including a pivotal opening bout in the dual-meet state finals against Natick, she finished third at sectionals and fourth in the Division 2 state meet, became the first girl to win a match at All-State and wrapped up her season by becoming a national champion at 103 pounds by placing first at the United States Girls Wrestling Association national championships at Eastern Michigan University.
That has set the stage for what she hopes is an even more successful junior campaign.
"My goal is to not get pinned all year, to win sectional — although I know that won't be easy — and I wouldn't rule out (advancing to) New England," she said.
There's that confidence factor, something Constantine had and Coughlin has — with justification — taken on.
"She's tough," said Cincotta. "When she's in a match, she doesn't let up. She's grown up a lot in the last two years, and I thought that would happen. She works as hard or harder than anyone in the program."
The older brother has taken notice.
"At first, when I saw her wrestle, I was so nervous ... she seemed small and I thought she might get hurt," said Larry Coughlin. "Now, guys try to rough her up and she gives it right back. It's just amazing the wrestler she's become. It does make me proud."
Coughlin on the rise
— Won 15 matches as a freshman
— Finished with 36-15 record as a sophomore, came in third at sectional, fourth at state and won a key match in Division 2 dual-meet state championship victory over Natick
— Off to a 9-2 start with six pins and championship at Wayland Tournament; leads all 106-pounders in Kings of the Ring
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