Kirsten Davis’ junior wrestling season came to an abrupt halt last winter when she suffered an elbow injury just two days prior to regionals.
The setback was of course difficult, but with her Mead teammates in contention for state titles, she accepted her fate and focused on supporting her fellow Mavericks. Looking back on it, head coach Rachel Salaz remains impressed by how her “natural leader” dealt with the disappointment.
“I feel like I took it harder because I just felt so bad for her,” Salaz said. “But she took it with stride and didn’t complain. She still took the trip with us to state and was very motivational for the other girls and was still part of the team.”
Davis’ selfless support was rewarded when her then-senior teammate Jenna Joseph won the 161-pound state title. The two had previously done martial arts together and when Davis entered high school, it was Joseph who convinced her friend to try wrestling. Watching Joseph secure the program’s first championship — girls wrestling became a CHSAA-sanctioned sport beginning in 2020-21 — became a special moment for Davis and one that is now motivating her.
“She (Joseph) was so encouraging and helped teach me a lot,” said Davis, who will be wrestling at 145 pounds this season. “She always pushed me really hard. I think that she is the reason that I am the wrestler that I am now, so getting to see her do that was just amazing.”
With Joseph now gone and her own elbow ready for competition, Davis enters the new season as Mead’s only senior. But thanks to the relationships she has built with her younger Mavs, she doesn’t consider her seemingly unique stature to be very significant.
Salaz, however, puts a good deal of value on Davis’ presence.
“She’s a quiet leader, so she’s not boisterous like a lot of captains,” Salaz said. “For being newer to the sport, because this is only her third year, she’s definitely just dove right in.”
Davis becomes even more integral as Mead will look somewhat different this winter. In addition to losing Joseph and 185-pound state qualifier Daisy Fontes to graduation, 111-pound state qualifier Frances Hudson is focusing on cross country and 215-pound state qualifier Olivia Adams has joined the Longmont High boys’ team.
Mead does return Erin Young, though, who Davis said has also taken on a leadership role. Plus, sophomore Ashley Booth, last year’s fifth-place state finisher at 127 returns to Mead’s mats. Salaz shared that she has been impressed by the growth of Booth during her young career.
“Her and I and Olivia went to camp over the summer at CMU (Colorado Mesa University) and even seeing her then change was just huge,” Salaz said. “She’s just eager to learn and ready to put in the work. I’m excited because she could be the first four-time state placer as well as she’ll become a state champion — I have no doubt in that.”
Heading into the program’s third year, Salaz hopes she can continue developing well-rounded girls while also instilling some enjoyment into the sport.
“We’ve got a lot of scrappy girls and it’s fun to just watch them go live,” Salaz said. “Even though they love each other, they just go at it. It’s fun to watch that and just watching them learn and shift and grow. We’ve got a young team, but they’re going to be fun to watch.”
Mead gets going on Friday at the Greeley West High School Invite.