Ashley Jaramillo walked off the mat at Vista PEAK with two losses, but the biggest (masked) smile Jan. 30.
The Vista PEAK senior wrestler got to spend 12 glorious minutes between the two matches doing what she loved, so the results didn’t really matter.
Jaramillo was out there and given the uncertainty that the coronavirus pandemic created — one that put the first season of sanctioned girls wrestling in doubt — that was enough.
“I was able to wrestle twice today and two months ago we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to have contact,” Jaramillo said. “I’m not picky, so being able to do this at least one more time is keeping my spirits high.”
This isn’t at all how the world of prep girls wrestling saw this season going last February, before COVID-19’s arrival.
Bolstered by full sanctioning from the Colorado High School Activities Association, the sport looked to continue the massive growth it had experienced in two pilot seasons and had its state tournament scheduled for Ball Arena (formerly Pepsi Center) as the boys have for many years.
The pandemic seriously threatened the season before the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved variances to allow it. Plenty of health precautions, a match limit capped at 20 and loss of Ball Arena as a venue definitely — which will be replaced by the Southwest Motors Events Center in Pueblo it was revealed this week (story) — has made it a less than ideal debut season, but that matters to few.
“I’m just glad I’m able to be out here with my teammates and interact with other teams,” senior Te’Oyvon Jackson, who finished 1-1 and capped her day with a pin.
“As a wrestler, I’m happy, but as a senior, I’m sad because it is compressed so much,” she added.
That compression has changed the approach in how veteran Tim Corby coaches the six-member Vista PEAK team, which has experience in Jaramillo and Jackson, another returner in sophomore Leilani Caamal plus newcomers in Delaney Jarmon, Samiah Andrews and freshman Jayden Abreo.
When Jackson got a quick takedown and cradle that could have resulted in a quick pin in her last match of the day, Corby encouraged her to try a few other moves to extend the match, even if it meant risking what looked like a sure win.
Jackson reset and scored a few more points before getting another cradle that she executed better than the first that finished it.
“I don’t know if that’s how everybody looks at it, but I’d much rather that my girls get a six-minute loss than a 15-second pin because that doesn’t bring growth for either athlete,” Corby said. “Although the record looks wonderful and you can brag about pins, this is not the season for that.
“This is a season where every minute of wrestling should be savored.”
That’s exactly the perspective taken by Jaramillo, who finished 24-13 last season and placed sixth at 147 pounds at the state tournament. Her goals are to make state again and improve her place, but she would be satisfied wrestling as many matches as possible and helping her young team be its best.
“It’s definitely a blessing to be able to do this at least one more time,” Jaramillo said. “Especially being a senior, there’s so many things we missed. I didn’t have a first day of school and we didn’t have our Homecoming.
“Senior year is pushing for these things you can do again one more time, so to be able to do this is a blessing, 100%, especially under the circumstances that we have.”
In contrast, the other team that features girls wrestlers from Aurora schools — the Cherry Creek Schools co-op team based out of Eaglecrest — has yet to take the mat.
Coach Sparky Adair’s program has 21 wrestlers that includes representatives from Cherokee Trail, Grandview, Overland and Smoky Hill, but has been stopped by quaratine, the result of some positive COVID-19 tests. The Eaglecrest boys wrestling team also has yet to compete.
“It’s disappointing because I felt like we’re right on track,” Adair said. “Getting back into shape was the hardest part. We felt like we had a good first week of practice and then drilling, then it all got shut down.”
Adair expects the majority of his team to clear the Return to Play protocols set out by Cherry Creek Schools with the chance to return this weekend. The lost matches likely won’t be able to be made up.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports