Durango High School junior wrestler Samantha Vasquez came tantalizingly close to claiming a state championship.
Instead, she suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the 147-pound championship match to an undefeated Hailey Jo Ahsmuhs of Colorado Springs’ Sierra at the Colorado Girls High School State Championship on Saturday at Thornton High School. Vasquez reached the finals only to be pinned 35 seconds into the second period after she took a 4-2 lead in the first.
For Vasquez, who finished the season with a 15-3 record, finishing so close will motivate her more for next season, when girls wrestling transitions from its final season as a pilot sport to a fully-sanctioned Colorado High School Activities Association sport.
It was Vasquez’s best finish at the tournament, after she had a fifth-place finish at 136 pounds as a freshman, and did not place last year after she moved up a weight class to 147. On Saturday, Vasquez was proud of her effort, and said that it was a great day of wrestling.
“I knew it was going to be a tough day, so I took it match by match,” Vasquez said. “I didn’t think about my next one until it came up. I felt really good heading into the championship. I faced (Ahsmuhs) last week at the regional championship and knew she’d be tough. I knew what to expect, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be for me today. I was working on front headlocks but in that match, I was a little slow to defend the front headlock that she tried. I still thought it was an awesome experience, and I can’t wait until we’re at the Pepsi Center next year.”
Vasquez recorded three pins to reach the championship match. She pinned Sohpia Lucero of SkyView in her first-round match 31 seconds into the second period. She recorded an even faster win in her quarterfinal match against Alissa DuBois Bennett in just 40 seconds. Her semifinal match against Madison Hickert of Montrose entered state with a 12-2 record. Bayfield boys head wrestling coach Todd McMenimen, who traveled with the girls, figured it’d be a tough match, but said Vasquez was up for it.
“Sam was really impressive in the semifinals,” McMenimen said. “This morning, we were watching (Hickert) and thought it’d be super tough. Sam fought (Hickert’s) headlock off three different times and gained points off of it by getting out of it. She then had the energy to get the pin in the third period, and it was such a great win.”
In the finals, Vasquez took a 4-0 lead after the first period. In the second, Ahsmuhs picked a neutral position to start, and once she got Vasquez in a headlock, she did not relinquish the chance and earned the pin.
“I think overall, it was a great atmosphere, and the quality of wrestling has come such a long way,” McMenimen said. “I think the loss will really motivate her and our girls from Bayfield to continue to be hungry and make an impact in our area.”
Bayfield had two state qualifiers, but only one competed. Shayden French at 111 pounds had to drop out after qualifying because of a previously scheduled family vacation. That left Lindsey LaMay at 118 pounds. She lost to Cordey Mallo of Mountain range in 18 seconds in her first-round match. She had two byes in the playback bracket and lost in the quarterfinals to Eaglecrest’s Savannah Smith, when she was pinned in 44 seconds.
“Honestly, I was just so proud that I had made it to state in my first year of wrestling,” LaMay said. “I didn’t think I’d make it this far at the start of the season, so it was a huge accomplishment for me. I was nervous coming in because I didn’t know what to expect. I saw so many girls supporting each other, giving each other hugs and it was awesome to see. Moving forward, I think there’s a lot of girls in Bayfield that are super excited, and there’s a ton more that want to give it a try. I’m pretty excited with the whole season and everything that happened during it.”
Now that the state finals will be held at the Pepsi Center next season, Vasquez is already looking forward to shining on a bigger and brighter stage.
“I’m already excited for next year,” Vasquez said. “Knowing that we won’t have to wrestle a week before the boys, knowing that it will be at the Pepsi Center with them, it will make the experience that much better. I’m happy to see that more girls in La Plata County are getting into wrestling, because for the last two years, I was the only one who made it to state. Now that it’s becoming a full sport, I think the sport will grow so much here.”