Meet Arkansas Valley's female wrestlers in the first year of the CHSAA-sanctioned sport

Ken Hamrick
LA Junta Tribune
La Junta High School wrestlers Kalie DeHerrera (left) and Justina O'Canes.

This year, the Colorado High School Activities Association sanctioned girls wrestling as one of its many sports and activities.

Two girls from La Junta High School are looking to do well in regular season and postseason competition.

"I like it," freshman Justina O'Canes said. "It's going good."

"It's different from wrestling from both boys and girls," Kalie DeHerrera said.

"La Junta should be proud of how the girls have competed this year," LJ coach Brandon Coates said. "They are both striving to improve every day and although not every day has been enjoyable, they have never made any excuses and they never complain."

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Both girls are freshmen. O'Canes will wrestle at 118 pounds, while DeHerrera will go at 105 pounds.

"Both Kalie and Justina are relatively new to wrestling, but that is true for many of the girls wrestling this year," Coates said. "They have been putting in a lot of time and hard work to overcome any inexperience they may face."

The goal for both O'Canes and DeHerrera is to get to the state tournament, which will take place March 11 at the Southwest Motors Events Center in Pueblo. The regional tournament will be March 5-6 at Mesa Ridge High School.

"I hope to get to state," O'Canes said.

"I have to get past regionals first," DeHerrera said. "Then I hope to get to state."

"I believe that both of them are capable of great things," Coates said. "With their work ethic and natural feel for wrestling, they could both walk out of regionals as state qualifiers. I expect that by the time they graduate, their names will be all over the wrestling room wall and record book."

DeHerrera and O'Canes are not the only two girl wrestlers in the valley. Las Animas has two girls in Jessie Baturin and Mary Zannini, who both compete for La Junta.

Crowley County also has two girl wrestlers in sisters Raina and Elli Watkins. McClave's Emily Soto-Delgado is wrestling for Lamar.

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Tribune-Democrat reporter Ken Hamrick can be reached by email atKHamrick1@gannett.com