Dominant two-year stretch was near perfect
Abby Nette has loved wrestling since she was just six years old.
To this day, the Campbellsville University senior and Destrehan High School alum says she gets nervous before big matches, brought on in unison by her drive to succeed and fear of failure. But over the years, she’s learned to channel those anxious feelings into dominance, and the collegiate wrestling world has taken note as Nette recently earned one of the sport’s prestigious honors, the Patricia Miranda Medal, after going 20-0 in her senior year.
“I knew that I was in the running for it, and one day (her coach) kind of casually said we have something to talk about later,” Nette said. “We started talking about some random things and I hear, ‘Oh, by the way, you won the medal.’ I started smiling right away. I couldn’t wait to call my parents … this was something I had made a goal of mine and it means a lot to have achieved it.”
The Miranda Medal aims to honor one outstanding athlete from women’s college wrestling who embodies the spirit of greats who came before her. The honor, awarded each year by the amateur wrestling journal The Open Mat, is named for Patricia Miranda, who won the first medal match in Olympic women’s wrestling history. It uses four criteria to identify the award recipient: record, dominance, past credentials, and additional accomplishments.
Nette’s mat resume is rich in all four columns. Over the past two seasons, she won 60 matches while losing just one. She’s been a member of the Team USA U-23 world team, is a former U.S. Open tournament champion and has qualified for the Olympic trials.
She’s been the top ranked woman in her division for the vast majority of the past two seasons. That means others see the chance to make a name for themselves were they to best Nette in a match – and for her, that’s plenty of motivation.
“I know that if they even take me down once, that’s a big thing,” Nette said. “If it happens, I get upset with myself. I tell myself that if I want to be world champion, that shouldn’t be happening right now. One of the goals I set for myself was to not get scored on this year.”
Near the end of her junior season, she absorbed her first loss of the year and the only blemish on her record over the past two seasons. It still bugs her.
“I was up 8-0,” Nette recalled. “I was on the verge of winning (a technical fall is a 10-0 score) when I got out of position and she threw me and pinned me. I walked out with my head low and cried for a few hours after that. It was a pretty devastating loss, I won’t lie … I’ll probably never let go of that.”
She began that year in dominating fashion, then said she felt her mat game slip a bit near midseason. She was still successful, though, and paid it little mind. The loss, she said, taught her a lesson: never relax when it comes to preparation. She avenged that loss later on, and hasn’t lost since.
Nette refines her cardio and technique relentlessly. But beyond her strong work ethic, what sets her apart is her strength.
“Physically, I’m pretty strong, usually stronger than my opponent – and that’s even been the case in worldwide competition,” she said. “Early in a match I can see I have better grip than them … it’s doesn’t always mean things will work in my favor, but it’s a pretty good advantage. In college, a lot of times I can use my brute strength and win a match.”
She began wrestling at the age of 6, and Nette credits her father for lighting that spark in her.
“He has a great love for the sport, and that really drew me to it, especially once I got to high school,” she said. “He often believes in me more than I did myself. He’s one of my huge influences and he pushes me to keep getting better.”
Eventually, continuing to get better brought her to the doorstep of world competition with Team USA. She made the U-23 team for the first time in 2018, calling the tournament she won to get there “one of the most exciting experiences” of her life. Her final match was best two out of three falls, which she won in the third and final fall.
“I won it and remember slapping the mat really hard … I was so excited to get to that level and realize I had what it takes,” she said. “It made me hungry to compete at all levels.”
Right now, she’s relegated to waiting to see what happens next – as so many are in different areas – in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. She has one year left of eligibility to compete with the U-23 team, which was to begin trials at the beginning of May and hold the championship tournament around Thanksgiving. That event’s scheduling is up in the air. Nette said beyond that, she looks forward to the Olympic trials in 2021.
But in a way, the delay means she can enjoy and reflect on her latest honor, the Miranda Medal, for a bit longer.
“It’s an honor to win it … to me, it represents making a statement and proving my name in women’s wrestling. I’m so excited to have it and now I hope to go on and accomplish even bigger things,” Nette said.