VRHS Wrestler Pins her Name to History
For a moment during the match, Bella Mitchell felt her advantage begin to slip.
“I actually got a little scared at one point, because she had turned really far and my hips came off the mat,” the VRHS wrestler recalled. “I was scared that she was going to flip me over.”
The moment was fleeting. Mitchell, a junior at VRHS, matched up against Avery Harter, from Thunder Ridge High School in this, the final tournament of the girls’ season. Not only was a win within Mitchell’s grasp, but also a title from the first-ever girls’ wrestling state championship with backing from the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA).
The two had faced off a week earlier during regionals and the rematch Feb. 9 at the state tournament in Thornton, did not last long. Mitchell went right to work.
“I tried to position myself back to a comfortable position for me,” she explained. Just before the two-minute mark, the match was over. With a pin at 1:54 Bella Mitchell made history, emerging as a girls’ wrestling state champion from School District 49.
“It’s amazing because I love helping this program grow,” Mitchell said. “I love that my team was there to help me grow because I wouldn’t of gotten it without my team.”
The journey began for Mitchell in sixth grade when she started wrestling, which at the time meant she joined the boys’ team. She realized the unique challenges she faced as a competitor in middle school when an opposing team refused to wrestle girls.
“That was hard because I was like I’m doing the same things they are doing and do the same conditioning so I don’t understand why I’m being discriminated against,” Mitchell recalled.
Since 2008 VRHS has had at least one girl on the wrestling team according to head coach Eric Everard. Everard learned a year ago CHSAA planned to pilot a girls’ wrestling program for the 2018-2019 season. VRHS helped establish a firm foundation for the program in its initial year when the school hosted a girls’ tournament last fall.
“That set the ball rolling for setting a higher expectation of not ‘let’s just let girls wrestle, not let them just be part of the team,’ let’s have a girls program,” Everard said.
There is no lack of interest at VRHS. Besides Mitchell there are nine girls on the team. Seven represented the school at regionals and four qualified for state.
“I think we stepped off on the right foot and if we can take this momentum and step off of the next foot the next season we could double our team size by 2021 when it is sanctioned by CHSAA,” Everard said, and added, “Maybe even have more girls on the team the boys.”
Mitchell, while not altogether comfortable in the spotlight, can’t deny the excitement of the conclusion of the pilot season for girls’ wrestling in Colorado.
“I do I think people are finally realizing the girls can wrestle too,” Mitchell said. “All of these girls that are coming out are realizing they can do it as well, and them seeing other girls do it I think is an inspiration to them.”