head wrestling coach Kassie Archambault ’06
March 26, 2020

A player's coach

A standout PA wrestler and the first NEPSAC female head wrestling coach, Kassie Archambault ’06 is ready to take charge.
by Allen Lessels

The wrestler wraps her arms around her opponent’s legs and begins to lift her off the mat.

“There you go, there you go,” calls out head coach Kassie Archambault. “Hips in. Hips in. You don’t have to get her all the way up in the air. When you get her on one leg, she’s off balance.”

A successful move completed, Amour Ellis ’22—a relative newcomer to the sport—smiles and releases her grip on Marisol Nugent ’20, one of Big Blue’s captains.

It’s wet and dreary outside on this late October evening. Inside, in a corner of Memorial Gym, a small group of students in the newly formed Andover Wrestling Club has gathered for an informal work out. The club is giving the eager wrestlers a chance to get a jumpstart on the 2019–2020 season, the first with Archambault as head coach.

An enthusiastic teacher and former standout wrestler at PA, Archambault was named head coach of the coed team last March after serving as an assistant under Rich Gorham ’86 (her own PA wrestling coach) for the past seven years.

Archambault is the first female head wrestling coach in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) and is excited about the opportunity not only to lead Andover’s squad, but also to drum up support for the sport overall among students and the PA community.

Always one to embrace challenges of all sorts, Archambault is a natural for the head coaching job.

After graduating from Dartmouth with a degree in Russian language and literature, Archambault worked in special education in New York City while earning a master’s degree. She got word that Andover was looking for a recent college grad for a teaching fellowship in Russian and when she returned to campus for an interview, Archambault discovered she could also work with the wrestling program.

“I jumped at the chance,” Archambault says. “Here were two of the passions I discovered in high school—and now I was getting the chance to teach and share them at my high school. It was pretty cool.”

The addition of Archambault to Andover’s faculty and coaching staff in 2012 was also a win for the school.

“We all talk about being inclusive and we see the wrestling program as a beacon at Andover and quite frankly across New England,” says Director of Athletics Lisa Joel, who notes that it was actually her predecessor, Leon Modeste, who promoted Archambault.

Joel says Archambault is passionate about her work and uniquely determined, providing the example of a nine-mile run the pair completed last winter.

“It was single-digit wind chills and there was no one else on the road; there were icicles on our facemasks,” Joel says. “Kassie is just so determined.”

If you want to take on the hardest task, you want Kassie on your side. She’s never going to quit. She gets people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t think they wanted to do. The harder the challenge, the more out there it is, that’s where Kassie is.

Lisa Joel, director of Athletics

Nugent, whose father owns a wrestling club in Danvers, Mass., has been wrestling since grade school. Archambault is her first female coach. Nugent says Archambault not only pushes her to improve, but also provides much-needed encouragement. “It’s small stuff like if I need help scheduling my classes. She’s always there for me. I call her my second mom.”

Archambault continues to reinforce the values of the school and the values that Gorham—who is now an assistant coach—promoted through the years: inclusivity, team, and hard work.

But one of the things she would like to change is the number of girls on the team. As a student, Archambault was one of only three females on the team and while there have been as many as seven girls on the squad in recent years, this is a number she hopes to increase.

“I love the coed nature of our team,” Archambault says. “I think we all act a little differently when we’re in all-male or all-female situations. Being together and working hard physically in the room, on the mat, I think that really builds bonds and respect. I think more sports could benefit from being coed.”

In addition to being the wrestling head coach, Archambault is also chair of the Russian department and a bagpiper who has been playing since the age of 13. She now plays with New Hampshire Pipes & Drums and last fall performed with them at the New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain. As a PA student, Archambault was the first female wrestler to earn a starting varsity position. In 2004, she placed 2nd in the Class A tournament. In 2005 she placed 10th at the U.S. Girls Wrestling Association (USGWA) nationals and was champion of her weight class at the USGWA NJ, MA, and New England championship tournament.

“Having a female coach what has been traditionally a male sport is just really great for everyone to see,” says Joel, who also cites the good work of veteran Andover coaches Kate Dolan and Martha Fenton ’83 as assistant coaches with the boys’ varsity lacrosse team.

“It forces one to understand that the value of a coach actually has nothing to do with gender. It’s being an expert and being able to understand a game; it’s being able to teach and coach, and it’s building a team. We want the best coaches we can possibly get on the sidelines for our teams and with Kassie, that’s what we’ve got.”

Simply stated, Archambault represents the best of Andover, says Jim Ventre ’79, interim head of school.

“Kassie’s every act as a teacher and coach is a reflection of Andover’s values. It’s all about shining a light on others and drawing out their best.”

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