Tinley Park HS Alum heads to the world beach wrestling scene

TINLEY PARK, IL — Maren Anderson probably isn’t the only 18-year-old spending hot summer days on the beach. But she’s probably the only one with medals and trophies for doing it.

This summer, Anderson took on and pretty much took up the beach wrestling challenge, adding several big wins to his accomplishments, including a second-place finish at the U.S. Beach Wrestling National Championships in May. With this ranking, she is qualified to head to the World Championships in Romania, from August 30 to September 30. 4. She is also eligible for the Beach Wrestling World Series, which offers several tournaments in Europe before the championships.

A 2021 Tinley Park High School graduate, Anderson began wrestling her freshman year in high school – the only girl on a team full of boys – but it wasn’t until this summer that she started exploring beach wrestling. . She is trained by Mitchell Cook, at the Natural Athlete Wrestling Club in Orland Park. It was Cook’s elbow that Anderson gave the beach fight a shot.

“I started with that, because I was looking to compete in the summer off season,” Anderson said. “When I realized it wasn’t a freestyle tournament, I almost didn’t go. … But I decided to do it because it was just an excuse to go to the beach during the summer. ‘summer.”

But there’s not much relaxation for Anderson. Hot summer sun, heat and different combat scores provide an interesting challenge.

“The sand is different, when you push it away,” Anderson said. “It forces you to pay attention to how you move and how you spend your energy.”

But she seems to be doing it. Anderson recently traveled to Greece to compete, where she placed 7th. She started a GoFundMe online campaign to raise funds to continue pursuing this new dream abroad in Romania.

During this time she works hard, training as often as she can, with hours on the mat several days a week, and training in a volleyball sandbox whenever her partner can. .

“I’m very spoiled in the sense that I can spend as much time on the mat and on the sand as I want,” she said.

Maren Anderson, with her trainer Mitchell Cook. (Courtesy of Maren Anderson)

Anderson’s early success in the sand came as no surprise to his former high school wrestling coach, John Pfeffer.

“Maren as an athlete was always a learner and never shy away from competition,” Pfeffer told Patch. “We always talk about having the ‘white belt’ mentality in our training room, which means everyone has something to learn from everyone else. She’s grown every year as a wrestler and is now enjoying great success at the next level, which is quite an accomplishment for someone who didn’t wrestle until high school.”

Anderson was not only the only girl on an all-male wrestling team, she was also the only female on Bremen’s District 228 lacrosse team. She now attends North Central College in Naperville, where she also continued to play lacrosse.

“I am extremely proud and excited for Maren,” Pfeffer said. “Hearing about all of her successes has me excited to see where her competition will take her next. Maren has consistently developed as a wrestler since she started with us as a rookie. She has flown under the radar with her accomplishments and I’m as proud of her as Eric Schultz (’16) who became a 2x All-American in Nebraska or Justin Morgan (’17) who entered the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. placed 4th in the IWCOA (Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association) state tournament the year before IHSA finally held a state tournament for girls.”

Maren Anderson, during the fourth leg of the European tour in Katerini, Greece. (Courtesy of Maren Anderson)

His success in different types of wrestling is not typical, Pfeffer said, and speaks to Anderson’s dedication.

“Because she’s eager to learn and loves tough competition, she’s been very successful in the different styles of wrestling,” Pfeffer said. “For wrestlers to succeed in different styles and different levels, they need the experience that only comes with training almost all year round.”

His debut in wrestling was spontaneous – a girl in his art class had mentioned that there was a group that would stay behind after school for “open mats”.

“I had to call my mom and ask if I could stay for the open pigtails, and she laughed and said, ‘Why do you want to wrestle, you don’t even have any brothers?'” Anderson laughed.

But on these mats, she found a community. Everyone welcomed her, even lending her a pair of shoes to wear on her first attempts in those early days.

“It all happened naturally and so quickly,” Anderson said. “I never expected to compete at such a high level, it was never something I thought I could do. Seeing all of this happen now, it’s just exciting and nerve-wracking, something I hope to do it again next summer.”

Robert J. King