PUEBLO — In the inaugural CHSAA girls wrestling state tournament, there was ample star power to headline the history.
Ten individual state champions were crowned Thursday at the Southwest Motors Center, but it was a trio of individuals who stole the show while winning titles and putting a shiny finish on undefeated seasons.
Loveland sophomore Morgan Johnson ended at 17-0 to capture the 100-pound championship, while Pomona freshman Persaeus Gomez was 22-0 to win at 105 and Chatfield junior Savannah Cosme was 20-0 at 127. All were dominant and looked entirely unbeatable as the new standouts of the freshly sanctioned sport.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to make history and be one of the first state champions,” Gomez said. “And to make history is really exciting, but to do it in a dominant way, it makes it really sweet. The chance to officially compete is cool for me and all the other girls, because we know the skill and desire we bring to this sport.”
All three wrestlers have already made waves on the national stage, with Johnson and Gomez both prior winners at Tulsa Nationals (among other tournaments) and Cosme, the top-ranked wrestler in her age and weight nationally, upsetting her way to a championship at the Super 32 this past summer.
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So while their respective runs to the titles against much less skilled in-state competition were all but assumed, the trio’s sheer dominance assures that while Colorado sanctioned girls wrestling is in its infancy, the sport is already populated with exciting talent.
This is the same state that produced Team USA members in Adeline Gray, the first American woman to win five world titles in the sport, as well as Maya Nelson. And it’s a state that’s consistently seen girls infiltrate the boys state tournament, as Golden’s Brooke Sauer first did in 2006, and win matches there. Two years ago at Pepsi Center, Skyview’s Jasslyn Gallegos and Valley’s Angel Rios became the first girls to place at the boys state tournament.
So the setting of the stage Thursday night in Pueblo was a long time coming, and the small but fierce crowd of a couple hundred on hand were rewarded with a dominant show by Johnson, Gomez and Cosme.
Johnson, who was first inspired to compete in the sport by watching her older brother wrestle, won an array of national tournaments in her youth days wrestling against boys. Her brother, Kobi, won the Class 4A 106-pound state title for Loveland as a sophomore last year and will be gunning for another title Saturday.
After winning the 100-pound title as a freshman in the unsanctioned tournament last year, Johnson put on another clinic Thursday. She racked up a 10-point lead in her quarterfinal win before getting the pin 68 seconds in, then wasted less time in the semifinals, winning by pin in just 54 seconds. In the championship match against Mountain Vista’s Rosalind Ramos-Cruz, who was previously undefeated at 21-0, the methodical Johnson earned a 9-1 major decision.
“Each match, my goal was to score as many points as possible and be as dominant as I can,” Johnson said. “I want to get better every time I step out there, so I can get to where I want to eventually be, which is wrestling in college.”
Gomez was equally dominant, with pins in her first two matches before earning a 7-1 decision over Chatfield’s Janessa George for the title. Gomez’s talent is underscored by a fierce work ethic, according to the Pomona coach and her dad, Victor Gomez.
“Whoever is setting the bar for her on the mat, they better set it really high, because she’s only going to raise it and she’s got that mentality in everything she does,” Victor Gomez said. “She pays attention to every detail… She’s obsessive-compulsive as a competitor and she always has to get her technique right.
“For example one night on Thanksgiving, years back, she was bored and wanted to go wrestle. So we went, and stayed until one in the morning, wrestling, working. That’s just who she is — she grew up in the gym and at 7 I took her to her first state tournament, and she was wide-eyed. She said, ‘I want to do that someday,’ and today’s that day.”
Cosme helped pace the Chargers to their third straight crown — Chatfield also won the unsanctioned tournaments the two years prior — by pinning her way through the first couple rounds of the 127 bracket before winning the final with a 9-3 decision over Doherty’s Sarah Savidge. And she just may be starting to tap into her sky-high potential with what Chargers coach Sandra George called a “really unique, smooth way of wrestling.”
“The year before I went to Super 32 and I didn’t even place,” Cosme said. “So for this year, to come in and win it, it was kind of a wow moment. It showed me how much I had grown over the summer, and the possibilities for my future and for options to go to college. My future is open now, and if I put my mind to this sport, I can do it.”
The nationally acclaimed trio weren’t the only ones to finish undefeated, as Othale junior Nicole Koch (21-0 at 118), Denver East junior Israel Resendez (10-0 at 111), Olathe junior Kierstin Myers (12-0 at 147) and Calhan freshman Ciara Monger (15-0 at 215) also capped off their perfect seasons with state titles in Pueblo. Koch, who also won the unsanctioned 118 title the past two years, pinned her way through the bracket in a combined 4:51 of time.
“My speed and my strength are big pluses, because I’m so used to wrestling boys,” Koch said. “It was just amazing to be out here, in our own venue, and to make these titles official this year.”
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