Moffat County girls see strong Senior Night competition before wrestling regionals |

Moffat County girls see strong Senior Night competition before wrestling regionals

Moffat County wrestler Makaela Simpson nears a pin against her District 51 opponent during a home dual on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

The only way to get stronger is to face fierce opponents, and Moffat County girls wrestling will be heading into the final weeks of the regular season a little sharper because of it.

The Bulldogs will compete in the Region 4 tournament this weekend hosted by Battle Mountain, the qualifier for the state championships for the team in its first season of existence.

The Bulldogs took on Olathe on the road Thursday, Feb. 2, and MoCo won 36-33. Both teams took numerous forfeits, but Moffat County’s Mikah Vasquez, HayLee Staker, Cydny Witherell, Makaela Simpson and Kenleigh Pubanz all won by pin. Also, Genesis Suarez won by fall in an exhibition match.

Moffat County coach Ashleigh Seely said the Pirates were one of the most even rosters the Bulldogs have seen this season.

“That was a fun dual, and all our girls wrestled up five pounds in order to get everyone a match,” Seely said. “They came out on fire.”

The team went on to host a triangular Saturday morning, Feb. 4, hosting Soroco and Grand Junction’s District 51 combined team.

With only two athletes, Soroco’s Larhae Whaley and Makala Iacovetto won every contested varsity bout while the team fell 72-12 to D-51 and 54-10 to Moffat. Matched up against Phoenix, the Bulldogs lost 60-24 but fought through each match.

Sophomore Mikah Vasquez came out swinging in the 115-pound class, but after dominating her opponent in the first period, she was suddenly caught on her back.

“I’ve wrestled her twice already, and it’s just been reversal after reversal,” Vasquez said. “I felt like today I wasn’t as ready as I should have been, but I think I’ll get her next time.”

D-51 earned six falls compared to three by MoCo athletes — Adrianna Price (105), Staker (125) and Simpson (170). Price had one of the quickest pins with the match lasting only 50 seconds.

“I like to stay on the head; I don’t really shoot much,” she said. “Smaller girls are a lot faster.”

As part of the triangular, the Bulldogs celebrated their only senior athlete, Simpson, with nothing less than a tiara as she joined her family members on the mat before the match.

The Bulldog upperclassman also showed her capability to come from behind in her match against D-51’s Adalee McNeil. McNeil earned an early takedown before Simpson started turning things around in the second period and moved toward the pin.

“I was just waiting for her to throw a headlock or whatever she was gonna do, but she kept changing it,” Simpson said. “It was a real strategy moment.”

Simpson was instrumental in getting the Moffat County girls team underway this winter and has been a big part of the group’s success.

“Makaela is a leader for sure. She has great work ethic, and you can tell by the way she enters practice every day that she’s ready to improve,” Seely said. “She’s a worker, we’re proud of her.”

After placing fifth at state as a junior wrestling for Soroco last year, Simpson is aiming higher this season with a goal of a regional championship and gaining another shot at top-ranked Nevaeh Garcia of Platte Valley, whom Simpson has faced repeatedly.

“I really am counting on first place at regionals to get my seed high at state,” Simpson said. “I’m really ready for Nevaeh now, even though she’ll probably underestimate me.”

While she’s the oldest member of the team, Simpson is not the most experienced. Price joined the Moffat County program after nine years of wrestling in Meeker starting at the pee-wee level. Price, a junior, was ready to join the Soroco team before MoCo began its girls program.

“It’s different being on an all-girls team, but I like it,” she said.

Alternately, Pubanz is quite new to the mat, though she’s confident with how she’s taken on the competition in her rookie season, largely due to the supportive environment.

“It was definitely challenging, but once I got in the wrestling room, it was just a big family. Even the boys are super supportive,” she said. “I’m really proud of all these girls.”

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