Tinley Park’s Maren Anderson vying for beach wrestling title
Maren Anderson has long represented the American team on his car.
Now the Tinley Park High School alum has a chance to compete for her country.
Anderson, a graduate of Tinley last year and now a wrestler and lacrosse player at North Central College in Naperville, recently qualified to be part of Team USA at the 2022 World Beach Wrestling Championships.
“It’s something I never expected to be able to do,” Anderson said. “I joke with my mom because I have a USA Wrestling sticker on my car and she was like, ‘If you keep it on long enough, it will happen. Now it’s happening.
“It’s really surprising and very exciting to have this opportunity.”
In addition to qualifying for the World Championships in September in Romania, Anderson is also eligible for the Beach Wrestling World Series, which includes several tournaments in Europe leading up to Worlds.
Anderson recently competed in an event in Greece and is raising funds in hopes of continuing to compete overseas.
“It’s absolutely amazing to see her get to do this,” said Tinley Park High School wrestling coach John Pfeffer. “I told her we would do whatever we could financially to help her, but I wanted a picture of her in her Tinley Park wrestling shirt when she wrestles at the world championships. She said, ‘Okay’.
Anderson has a lot of experience as a pioneer.
She started wrestling as a freshman in high school and was for a time the only girl on a team full of boys. She was also the only woman on School District 228’s lacrosse team.
Today, she is embarking on a new adventure in beach wrestling, a variant of this sport still little known in the United States.
“It’s big in Europe, but it’s just starting to gain interest in America and we’re getting more people here,” Anderson said. “I think for the other girls, it’s definitely something that everyone can benefit from. It’s a lot of fun.
“The scariest part is getting out there, but once you’re there, you’re going to have the time of your life.”
Anderson had never tried beach wrestling before traveling to North Carolina to compete in the United States National Beach Wrestling Championships in May.
She had to be convinced by Mitchell Cook, who coaches Anderson at the Natural Athlete Wrestling Club in Orland Park.
Cook, a Sandburg graduate, also competed and qualified for the Worlds team.
“I thought it was a regular tournament and when I heard it was beach wrestling I almost didn’t go,” Anderson said. “But (Cook) really wanted me to do it and it was an excuse to go to a beach in North Carolina in the summer.”
Anderson ended up finishing second in his weight division to earn a spot at Worlds.
She said wrestling on the sand presented all sorts of new challenges. There are also different rules from freestyle wrestling that Anderson is used to.
“It’s completely different,” Anderson said. “It’s really hard to push the sand away because it’s constantly moving. I think the biggest difference is the score. This is the first three-pointer. Getting those points is very different. Almost everything is a point unless you throw someone, which is three points and automatically wins the game.
“I was really confused the whole time. I kind of read the rules on the way. I struggled pretty much like I normally would in freestyle and then made adjustments as I went. measure and learned the rules.
Pfeffer wasn’t surprised to see Anderson take a risk and try something different. He’s been watching her do this for years.
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“Maren came in as a new wrestler in high school and she never gave up,” Pfeffer said. “She just kept going. She was ready to ask for help. She was constantly pushing herself to get better. I would tell her to watch a video or follow someone on Twitter for advice and she always did.
“She became a student of sports.”
Anderson has an online fundraising page to help him get to the World Championships at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-maren-wrestle-for-team-usa.
She hopes to be in Romania to wrestle in a Team USA uniform.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me, something I never expected, and I’m so excited,” Anderson said. “The hardest part was getting started and committing to the tournament.
“Now I’ve found something new which is great fun and I’m really looking forward to continuing.”
Steve Millar is a freelance journalist for the Daily Southtown.