JDCHS wrestler best in stateApr 07, 2021 11:14AM ● By Catherine Garrett
Juan Diego’s Isabella “Belle” Vargas came out on top at the 4A state wrestling tournament in the 108-pound division. (Photo courtesy Belle Vargas)
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
Just a couple of weeks prior to the 4A state wrestling championships, Juan Diego Catholic High School senior Isabella “Belle” Vargas sprained her ankle at a school dance and suffered another sprain on her other ankle during a practice. Yet, “there was no doubt that she was going to tape it up and get out there,” according to JDCHS wrestling head coach Andrew Sedillo, so she took advantage of the time prior to the state meet to rehabilitate to get back on the mat.
On Feb. 20 at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield, she solidified her No. 1 ranking in the 108-pound division by defeating Mountain Crest’s Gabriel Norton in the championship match.
“My team was so supportive in helping me feel confident and encouraged in realizing it was ‘my time,’” she said. “It feels pretty good and when my hand was raised, it really hit me that I was the champion. It felt amazing.”
Sedillo said it was rewarding to see Vargas win the title as he’s also had a front-row seat to her journey to get there. “Her first two or three years, she was practicing against the boys and then competing against boys,” he said. “It was difficult, but that work that she did helped her tremendously in winning.”
Vargas also beat Mountain Crest’s Brinley Cowley, Crimson Cliffs’ Katelyn Wall and Ogden’s Kennedy Cadiz at the state tournament.
Samantha Harker, competing at 140 pounds, also represented Juan Diego girls wrestling at state, losing both matches to Logan’s Sydney Crowley and Mountain Crest’s Sophie Longson.
On the boys side, senior Brock Gutierrez defeated Desert Hills’ Tanner Esplin before losing to Uintah’s Christia Hartie in the 145-pound division at the 4A state tournament. Senior Sione Vea, competing in the 220-pound category, lost to Mountain Crest’s Andrew Belles and Cedar City’s Ben Ellis. Senior Konnor Kegel (138 pounds) and junior Kolton Maser (152 pounds) were also part of the JDCHS wrestling team this season.
Vargas, the daughter of Vince Vargas of Herriman, comes from a “fighting family.” Her grandfather was a professional cut man in boxing while her uncle fought professionally and her dad grew up fighting and then was a teacher for combat in the military.
In seventh grade, Vargas decided to join her younger brothers in the sport and began wrestling on a club in her school in Texas. Within a year, she transitioned from a “pretty fun and not super serious” take on the mat to joining her brothers’ club team and traveling all over to compete in tournaments.
“It’s a really tough sport and anything you do is based off of your own hard work and experience,” she said. “The pull of that really attracted me and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Between injuries and a move to Utah, Vargas has battled her way in the sport throughout high school and watched her older sister Yvette win girls state at 100 pounds in 2020 while she placed second to Sage Mortimer in the 105-pound division.
“That fueled me to work hard and see if I could win,” she said. “Yvette and I would practice together, push each other and work hard to beat each other.”
This year, Vargas was named the outstanding wrestler in the lower weights at The Best of the West wrestling tournament Jan. 12, among other highlights this season, as she set her sights on the state title.
She credits her dad for being her “biggest supporter,” in a sport that has tested her physically and mentally. “Going to practice is so hard and I would say to myself every day, ‘If I can make it through one, I’ll be OK,’” she said. “It is 100% you on the mat and it really made me conscious of myself. I’ve also seen that when you lose, you learn and you take that loss and learn from it. Those are life lessons.”
Such lessons that Vargas would love to pass on as a coach to continue to grow girls wrestling.