Samantha “Sam” Frank didn’t know what it meant to be dedicated, to want something, and to dislike something so much, until she met wrestling. As a year-round soccer player, she was good at that sport, until one day, she didn’t want to play anymore. She signed up for wrestling in seventh grade, because her father wouldn’t let her play football, and she hasn’t looked back.
“I like to be the outcast, to do what no one else will do. I wanted to be original,” Frank said.
This turned out to be a good gamble for her future, because with multiple state championships and a New England championship under the belt, she became eligible to compete in the National tournament in California where she finished in second place in the country in girls wrestling.
While at Windham High School, Frank broke many school records and earned the “tough man award” from her coach. She also was the first female captain on the wrestling team.
“When I started I was one of six girls in the State of Maine. I was too young to know what commitment was. You have to try to do well in anything,” said Frank. It was her sophomore year that it clicked for her and she began training and wrestling to her potential, she said.
Her schedule, on top of school, is a trip to the gym from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., then practice in Scarborough from 4 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. and finally practice in Windham from 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Some mornings she goes to the gym at 5 a.m. to workout in addition to her regular routine.
During her sophomore year, she won New England in the 101-pound category and was given the open invitation to attend Nationals. The wrestling association called Frank this year and asked if she would attend. Frank had already decided her wrestling career was over. She planned to go to college to study nursing and she knew that would take too much time to do wrestling as well.
When she told her father about California, he was “all on board,” Frank said. “We’re definitely going,” said her father, Ed, who went along as her coach. Because she won New Englands at 101 pounds, she had to cut weight from her present wrestling weight of 110 pounds to wrestle in that category.
“My teammates are so supportive,” she said, although they did rib her about her strict diet and workouts.
Wrestling is important to Frank, even as she tries to tell herself that she’s no good. When she flew to the competition she had in her carry-on bag warm up clothes, two singlets, two pairs of wrestling shoes, headphones, head gear, a water bottle and good luck notes from friends and one from herself.
According to Frank, girls’ wrestling in California is huge. “There were a lot of teams there,” she said. “I was the only person from Maine and New England. I didn’t know anyone. I’ve never been so nervous. I kept my headphones on and walked the lines because I could not focus.”
She tried to think of the people in Maine who were rooting for her. “So many people at home know I’m where I am. That’s a lot of pressure. I have to make everyone proud,” she said. While there, she had many offers of full-ride scholarships to wrestle.
Frank has a fan base of girl wrestlers around the state, she said. She chose to represent Windham High School over the New England region because of her high school career. All of her wins get totaled into her career record, which stands at 80 wins.
Frank has learned life goals, self-control, self-management, respect and sportsmanship from wrestling. “It builds character,” she said.
“I really should give God all the glory, because without him none of this would have happened. He blessed me and protected me through every match and gave me strength to push through every task that was thrown at me along the way. Also, like I said, it's just been six years of training all for that one competition that I never saw in my future. Coach Johnson spent all summer last year training me a few times every week, lifting and getting me bigger, and stronger. He spent so much of his time working on me, I will never be able to repay or thank him enough. And Coach Pelletier, he changed my life. He’s like a father figure and a role model. He teaches you how to do things yourself. He said ‘pound for pound’ I was the best wrestler on this team.’ I live up to it,” she said.
When it’s not wrestling season, she thinks about it and watches wrestling matches, but during the season, she admits that she hates it. “No one loves everything about it. I love to win. I love to beat the boys. I hate practice. I hate spending four hours at Windham High School training. It’s a love/hate sport. It changes your outlook on life,” she said. “I think one day, girls wrestling will rule the world.”