DENVER -- Denver East’s Maya Nelson began her 5A regional wrestling bracket proving she was not going to be a pushover. In fact, she was going to be the one doing the pushing.
Nelson, a junior, outscored her opponents 29-0 en route the finals of her bracket. Her luck would run out there, but considering she had just become the first female wrestler to qualify for the state championship bracket in 5A, she certainly had momentum on her side.
She used every bit to make history again as she defeated Carl Camposanto from Regis Jesuit to also become the first 5A girl to win a match. Nelson said afterward that her goal is to get to the podium and seems confident that she will be able to achieve that goal -- something that she hadn’t quite been able to do in her first two years.
“I was always close and that really broke my heart,” Nelson said. “To be right there and not be able to advance to state was heartbreaking, so I put in a lot more work over the summer, wrestling year-round and I’m finally here.”
Nelson’s victory was a far cry from the decisive matches she had in her regional bracket. Early in the match she had to be briefly treated for a bloody nose and even found herself down 2-1 after the first period. She didn’t let herself get frustrated and instead was able to even the score a four points apiece heading into the third and final period.
It was there that she went on the attack, earning the victory with a 13-9 decision over Camposanto. The win puts her one step closer to her goal of becoming the first girl in the history of Colorado wrestling to place at the state championships.
“(Getting to the podium) has always been my goal,” she said. “I’m just taking it one match at a time and going out there and doing my best.”
Her best is the result of extra hours of training beyond what she can get through the wrestling program at Denver East. On top of the work she puts in with her team, she spends time training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in the offseason and also works at RiNo Sport Galleri.
Her extra effort has paid off and allowed her to keep up with the guys that wrestle in her division and weight class. The results are showing that she is no just a good story, but a legitimate threat on the mat, as well.
She fell in love with the sport after spending time with her dad Joshua, who was a wrestling coach. After she became interested in the sport she began to study the technique of Adeline Gray, a Denver native that went on to win the gold medal at the 2012 World Championships in Strathcona County, Alberta.
“Ever since I saw her wrestle, I saw how phenomenal she was,” Nelson said. “I want to be just like her.”
If Nelson keeps up her current pace she could very easily end up being better than Gray. But as she said, she just needs to take it one match at a time. Her next opponent is Pine Creek’s Juan Rodriguez. That match will happen during the 4A/5A quarterfinal session which starts at 12:45 p.m. Friday.
For now, Nelson's first victory was at least noticed by another record-setter in Colorado wrestling. Brooke Sauer, the first girl to ever qualify for the state tournament back in 2006 from Golden, was in attendance.