Makaela Simpson makes history as first Moffat County female wrestler to place at state
For the Craig Press
DENVER — It may have been a first-time occurrence, but hopefully it won’t be the last.
With a dominant final match Saturday afternoon at Denver’s Ball Arena, Moffat County High School junior Makaela Simpson became the first girl to represent Craig in a CHSAA state championship event, finishing fifth in the 185-pound class.
Though MoCo has had its share of female grapplers in the past, there was not a specific final tournament for them beyond the boys event.
After several seasons in its infancy, girls wrestling made its debut at the large-scale venue this year, with Simpson in the mix among a growing number of girls in the sport.
Though she trained in the MCHS wrestling room most days of the week, she also traveled to Oak Creek to join with Soroco’s already established girls team alongside fellow MoCo student-athletes Hannah Frink, Mica Vasquez and Victoria Deporto.
Simpson was the lone Craig girl to qualify for state, placing forth at the previous weekend’s Region 1 event. Memories of regionals came flooding back in her last bout, as she was paired with Katie Macfarland of Mountain Vista, who had beaten her twice in Grand Junction.
At that point, Simpson was already 3-2 in the state tourney — all wins by fall — and feeling weary after a consolation semifinal that went deep into overtime earlier in the day, taking the 5-4 loss due to an illegal hold.
But, the prior matches with Macfarland only proved an asset, as she had plenty of intel and could adapt to her familiar foe’s style. Though it was anyone’s game at first, Simpson got Macfarland on her back midway through the second period and didn’t let up until the referee’s hand hit the mat to confirm the pin.
“She tightened up really close and had her head in deep,” Simpson said. “I wanted to get it over with fast and knew I didn’t have much energy left, so I just worked with what she gave me.”
Although she won, she was teary-eyed as her hand was raised and she took in the reality that she was one of the top 5 girls in her weight class in Colorado.
For her final match — ending with the season with a 26-10 record — Simpson was on the floor with coaches Jay Whaley and Ryan Frink.
Whaley said the collaboration between Moffat County and Soroco girls has been beneficial for both schools, and Simpson has been a highly coachable athlete in her first year in the sport.
“She’s got a big old heart, but mostly she’s just student of the game. She listens and she learns,” said Whaley, whose daughter Larhae went all the way to the championship round for the Rams later in the day Saturday.
Coach Frink added that even though Simpson wasn’t feeling at her physical peak in her last two matches — eager to ice some aches and pains after it was all completed — she refused to quit.
“She could have just given up, but she came back and pushed through a little bit of an injury to be the first girls state placer in Moffat County history,” Frink said.
Besides wrestling, Simpson was a big part of the Bulldog volleyball roster in the fall and was initially considering spending the winter on the swim team. Getting into a new sport has paid off, as she is already planning for her senior season to continue strengthening the team bond she started building.
“I gained a lot of friendships from it,” Simpson said. “We all act like family and go to each other for everything.”
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