MANCHESTER — Women’s wrestling is on the rise around the country. Manchester Central’s Alexis Dobson is working toward swinging some of that spotlight her way.
Dobson, a sophomore, is set to do battle today at the New England Girls’ Wrestling Championships, a regional folkstyle wrestling tournament put on by the Massachusetts Wrestling Association at Madison Park High School in Boston. This will be Dobson’s first time participating in the event and she’s the second-ranked wrestler in the 106-pound high school division.
“She’s served her notice,” said Central wrestling coach Jason Cumming after Saturday’s Queen City Championships, which the Little Green won for the ninth consecutive year over Memorial and West. “She’s considered one of the top wrestlers in the state now and everyone knows who she is.”
Dobson was ranked No. 4 among in the state among male and female 106-pound grapplers before she was pinned by Memorial’s Augustus Connors in Saturday’s meet. The loss will hopefully amount to a tune-up for bigger things today as Cumming expects Dobson has a good shot at being a finalist.
Dobson’s early rise on the mat was not a given. Her foray into wrestling, which came just three years ago, started with a desire to connect with her stepfather, who held interests in fighting sports but not wrestling in particular.
“I tried boxing first but then Jason pulled me into wrestling and it was just very easy for me to get into,” said Dobson, who trains at Manchester Police Athletic League and Doughboys Wrestling Gym in Lowell, Mass. “Wrestling is more natural. It’s kind of the original form of human combat you put towards boxing, so it all came naturally once I jumped in.
“Now I eat, sleep and breathe wrestling. I practice non-stop. It’s what I’m all about.”
Dedication to the craft was one of the many reasons why Cumming liked what Dobson offered from a wrestling standpoint. Dobson’s ability to remain level-headed while navigating the transition into the sport was another plus.
“She was very patient with it all,” Cumming said. “You’re not going to walk out here and be a rock star off the bat. She understood that and bought it, which made it a beautiful thing when it clicked.”
Dobson’s turning point came during an offseason freestyle tournament in New York last April. Freestyle and folkstyle wrestling come with different points systems, which leaves wrestlers bouncing between strategies to tally their points.
“She changed her mindset towards being a takedown specialist,” Cumming said. “Once she started doing that in freestyle, it made her a better folkstyle wrestler. It took the pressure off in terms of worrying what to do while on top or bottom. She could just focus on the takedown and it improved her finishing.”
Dobson applies the same style and tactics to both male and female opponents. The only thing that changes when wrestling one gender or the other is her mentality.
“My mindset with wrestling girls is a lot different,” Dobson said. “Wrestling guys, I just go out there hoping for the best. But when I’m wrestling girls, I just get this weird mentality of ‘I want to rip your face off.’”
Bouncing between genders in competition can be a daunting task, but it’s made easier when Dobson knows she is getting an opponent’s best.
“Guys shouldn’t judge girls on the mat, so girls shouldn’t do it either,” Dobson said. “If they’re better than me, I expect them to wrestle me like they would any other person because I’m doing the same to them.”
Today’s girls’ tournament will hopefully provide short-term confidence towards next Saturday’s NHIAA Division I wrestling championships. In the large-scope view of what lies ahead, Dobson will try to raise her stock over the next two years while adding to what’s already become a high-profile national following.
“She’s already been invited to the World Team Trials in Texas and then going to Fargo (N.D.) for the national team,” Cumming said. “It’s giving her a ton of purpose and focus in every aspect because her grades are going through the roof too. Her being a sophomore with all this is insane. It’s been truly amazing to watch this transformation.”
Queen City Championships
At Manchester Central
Manchester Central 33, Manchester Memorial 15
106: August Connors (M) d. Alexis Dobson, pin 1:52
113: Double forfeit
126: Cameron Sweezy (MACE) d. Aaron Hartman, pin 2:10
132: Nick Tsoupas (C) d. Ben O‘Brien, pin 0:11
138: Sean Tobin (M) d. Ben Mikus, 12-7
145: Jackson Robidoux (C) d. Matt Wilson, pin 3:24
152: Michael Hamel-Patrick (C) d. Tyler Shaw, pin 0:27
160: Nizar Abbari (C) wins by forfeit
195: Camren Varney (C) wins by forfeit
285: Andrew Farrell (C) d. Miguel Santiago, 5-4
Manchester Central 13, Manchester West 0
152: Michael Hamel-Patrick (C) D. Cole Lodi, 12-4
182: Nicolas Karpf (C) d. Chance Lodi, pin 1:52
285: Andrew Farrell (C) d. Kevin Johnson, 4-1