THORNTON • Girls’ wrestling took a historic leap forward on Saturday, as female wrestlers from across Colorado competed for a title in the sport’s first state tournament as a pilot program.
And one Pikes Peak region athlete will go down as the area’s first girls’ wrestling champion — Vista Ridge junior Bella Mitchell.
Last year as a club program, girls’ wrestling hosted a state championship invitational — but now in its first year backed by CHSAA girls’ wrestling held regional tournaments requiring girls to qualify for the state championships for the first time.
In 2019 more than 70 female wrestlers from 47 different schools competed in the state tournament.
“I think with women’s wrestling and girls wrestling this is a step to take it to the next level for girls wrestling in Colorado,” said Vista Ridge coach Eric Everard. “I think we’re just going to see the caliber of wrestling in the state continue to grow.”
Mitchell placed second in last year’s invitational, and entered her junior season hoping to take her career one-step forward.
“My coaches really helped me and definitely prepared me for this because they knew this was my goal,” Mitchell said.
At 161 pounds, Mitchell breezed through the bracket with a pin in just 23 seconds, and a 5-2 decision to make it to the championship final —where she met a familiar opponent.
Mitchell met Thunder Ridge’s Avery Harter for the second time in as many weeks in a rematch of the Region 2 final.
“I always walk into a match hoping to win — I never walk in knowing I’m going to win because there’s always a turn of events,” Mitchell said. “In the middle of the match I was scared for a second but I just had to keep moving.”
Mitchell was in top about a minute into the first period but Harter got in position to flip Mitchell to her back, who immediately switched to her front. Mitchell swung around for a reverse and eventually got enough leverage to get Harter to her back and complete the pin in 1:54.
“That was a very scary moment and that’s when I realized she wants this as bad as I do,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell finished her junior season 23-2.
“I 100 percent knew she was going to be able to do it,” Everard said. “We came prepared, she worked hard to do this and she’s been beating everybody all year long.”
Four other area wrestlers place at state
Peyton’s Sarah-Krause Mahan (136 pounds) settled for silver, falling in a 7-2 decision in the final against Mullen’s Alina Antilles. Sarah Savidge (127 pounds) of Doherty and Lewis-Palmer’s Shenin Steele (105 pounds) met similar fates, losing in their respective finals.
Doherty's Aminah Hunter also placed fourth at 118.
Steele was undefeated heading into the state championship after taking third as a freshman last year. She ran into a wall in the finals, though, facing Jolaie Cummings of North Ridge for the third time since January.
“I knew she was going to be gunning for me,” Steele said, who ultimately lost 6-0.
Cummings capitalized on Steele’s sore shoulder and stretched it to its max to control most of the match.
But as just a sophomore, Steele, who was the No. 1 seed Saturday, has plenty of opportunity to collect state gold.
“She works harder than anyone in the room,” said Lewis-Palmer coach Josh Swinger. “She is easily one of our best wrestlers and she brings that attitude and competition into our room every day and we’re happy to have her.”
Steele had one of the largest cheering sections as not only did she have fans in orange and black, but the Falcon wrestling team, which she competed for as a freshman, made the 1.5-hour drive to see her in the finals.
”She’s a special young lady and we’re going to cheer her on wherever she’s wrestling,” Falcon coach Robert Lovato said.
The entire Peyton boys’ wrestling team also made the trip to Thornton to cheer on Krause-Mahan.