Walking onto the center mat for the last time in Allen, Texas, Samantha Frank’s goal was to wrestle to the best of her ability.
“I think I did,” she says, noting she pinned her challenger in 31 seconds.
With the pin, Frank earned her fourth National Collegiate Wrestling Association crown and concluded her career at the University of Maine with a perfect 44–0 record.
Even more exceptional, for a record-setting fourth time, officials and coaches at the meet voted Frank the Most Outstanding Wrestler of all the female champions.
Since returning to Maine, the nursing student has snowboarded, immersed herself in classes — she’ll march at Commencement in May — and eaten.
And eaten some more. Since her final match, Frank has regained 14 of the 30 pounds she cut during months of training to be at her preferred competition weight of 101 pounds.
After she stepped off the scale for the final time in Texas, Frank feasted on a chicken, egg and cheese sandwich, and protein bars. Later, she had sushi, more chicken and a spaghetti dinner.
The fierce competitor jokes that she’d be a solid competitive eater — especially of red hot dogs. If she’s as good at Major League Eating as she is at wrestling, watch out, Miki Suo, and Michelle Lesco and Juliet Lee.
Frank has been a standout wrestler for more than half of her 21 years. Before her storied UMaine career, at Windham High School in Maine, where she predominantly competed with boys, she won more than 90 matches. Frank got her start in middle school; she tried it after her dad didn’t let her play football.
“You cannot do more than what she did in four years wrestling at UMaine. You cannot do any better.” Aaron James
When she earned her first national title her first year at UMaine, Frank’s goal became to four-peat. She vowed to remember the elation she felt and to use that to fuel her grueling workouts.
UMaine co-wrestling coach Aaron James describes Frank as strong and catlike because she lands on her feet.
Wrestling, James says, is like sprinting uphill for 7 minutes while on fire. And Frank has the grit to push through pain and exhaustion.
She dominates, in part, because she plays chess while her opponents play checkers. Different game, different technique, different league.
“You cannot do more than what she did in four years wrestling at UMaine,” James says. “You cannot do any better.”
While Frank’s ability to plan two or three moves ahead sets her apart, not many of her matches lasted long enough for her to plot a whole succession of moves. Her shortest match was 8 seconds versus a high school competitor.
Frank’s toughest UMaine match — the lone one that went the distance — she won by two points. “I’ll freak myself out,” she says of her tendency to be nervous before matches. “I look at their shoes. And I’m like, ‘They’re good, they have nice shoes.’”
Frank says it will be cool to sit around campfires and tell wrestling stories to her children and grandchildren. Family is important. She enjoys cookouts and golfing with her father Ed and cooking and spending “girl time” with her mom Jennifer. Her brother Andrew is her best friend and they like to boat and spend time at the lake with other friends.
In addition to honing her physical and mental strength, Frank says wrestling has taught her to be grateful, patient and manage time wisely.
“[Wrestling] is a good practice run for life,” she says. “[Nursing] is really hard. The biggest thing for me is I have strong faith and a big heart. I care so much about people. I’ll deliver the best care and hope to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Frank was 2 years old when she chose her career path. She informed her parents after visiting her grandfather in the hospital that she wanted to be a nurse so she could care for people like him.
James believes Frank will be a compassionate nurse. “If she can eat meals three times a day, she’s going to be a phenomenal nurse,” he jokes, noting she’ll no longer be hangry due to dieting to make her competition weight. “She’s a caring person.”