Makaela Simpson finishes wrestling career as runner-up at state as Moffat County girls team celebrates inaugural season |

Makaela Simpson finishes wrestling career as runner-up at state as Moffat County girls team celebrates inaugural season

Moffat County senior Makaela Simpson stands on the podium in second place of the 170-pound weight class at the CHSAA State Championships in Ball Arena on Friday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

When Moffat County’s Makaela Simpson competed in the state wrestling tournament as a junior, she was already planning to return as a senior.

Simpson finished her senior season Saturday, Feb. 18, with second place in the 170-pound weight class at the girls CHSAA State Championships at Ball Arena in Denver. In the final round, Simpson faced off against Platte Valley’s Nevaeh Garcia. It was the fourth time the two have competed against each other.

“I definitely think there’s a true rivalry with us during the season,” Simpson said.

After falling to Garcia earlier this year, Simpson was ready for the challenge at state.

“I knew it was going to be the toughest match I’d have all year,” Simpson said. “I knew I’d have to be on my A game to wrestle her.”

But Garcia was also prepared for the bout and won with a 13-5 major decision. Though Simpson didn’t finish her high school career as a state champ, she took pride in her regional championship — one of several big tournament victories — as well as going 35-4 this year and winning in the early rounds of state with three consecutive pins.

“I felt pretty good that no one had scored any points against me until my finals match, so I was pretty happy with my performance,” she said.

Moffat County senior Makaela Simpson wrestled to the championship match at the 170 pound weight class, falling just short and taking second place in the state at Ball Arena on Saturday night, Feb. 18, 2023.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

MCHS coach Ashleigh Seely said Simpson showed excellent character in wins and losses alike, and has proven herself a strong athlete and individual throughout the winter.

“Great strides this season, incredible performance and achievements,” Seely said. “She’s going to go far in life beyond wrestling, and my hope is that her athletics have prepared her for her journey.”

Athletes and coaches with the Moffat County girls wrestling team gather before leaving the school for the state tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. Athletes included Kenleigh Pubanz, Adrianna Price, Kayla Deaton, Cydny Witherell, and Makaela Simpson.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

Simpson made history as the first Moffat County female wrestler to place at state by taking fifth as a junior, and she became the first to get to the finals.

Simpson also was one of five to qualify for state in the first season for the Moffat County girls wrestling team, compiled of girls from several schools in Northwest Colorado. The team tied for 18th among 74 schools.

Moffat County freshman Kayla Deaton prepares for a bout at the 130-pound weight class at the CHSAA State Championships in Ball Arena on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Apart from Simpson, Hayden freshman Kayla Deaton made it the furthest. Deaton scored a pin in the opening round of the 130-pound division before being pinned by Pomona’s Timberly Martinez in the quarterfinals. Martinez went on to cap off an undefeated season with an eventual state title. Deaton scored another pin in the consolation rounds before falling again just before the consolation semifinals.

At 105 pounds, Meeker junior Adrianna Price lost to regional rival Larhae Whaley of Soroco to start the state tourney and then lost again with a 22-5 technical fall.

Hayden freshman Cydny Witherell met the top-ranked wrestler immediately in the 135-pound bracket, state champ Taylor Miess of Chatfield. Witherell lost by pin and was pinned again in the next round.

MoCo junior Kenleigh Pubanz picked up some steam in the first round with a pin of Woodland Park’s Cheyenne Becker. However, Pubanz was then paired the No. 1 seed in the 235 division, Alejandra Alfaro of Denver East, who won by pin in 39 seconds. Pubanz fought through one more match but was pinned in the third period by Jefferson’s Athalie Mickelson.

“To show up at a tournament this big with two freshman, two juniors and our senior is a great honor. These girls have been consistent all season and it has paid off,” Seely said. “We are definitely the more conditioned team, the girls have shown that this weekend. Although it’s surreal for them at the moment, they will look back on these times with great pride. Their performance is not what is important; it’s the character they’ve shown continuously throughout. The representation of Moffat County is strong and our community should be proud as we go down in history as the very first girls team to compete and take on state championships.”

After wrestling last year for Soroco, Simpson was instrumental in getting Moffat County to establish the girls team.

“Fighting to start a new team in Craig took a lot of effort, and it wouldn’t have been possible without all my teammates,” she said. “Being a part of the team was amazing and I am so grateful for the experience. I am excited to see how far this team will continue to grow in the future.”

Moffat County girls wrestling coaches encourage freshman Kayla Deaton during her match on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, during the CHSAA State Championships at Ball Arena.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Moffat County girls wrestling at CHSAA State Championships

Weight — Athlete, state record; season record
105 pounds — Adrianna Price, 0-2; 23-12
130 pounds — Kayla Deaton, 2-2; 28-16
135 pounds — Cydny Witherell, 0-2; 16-21
170 pounds — Makaela Simpson, 3-1 (2nd place); 35-4
235 pounds — Kenleigh Pubanz, 1-2; 23-13

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