SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - “At first we were the girls who were only wrestling boys. So we started wrestling girls and we realized, hey, we can beat girls,” said Reed senior wrestler Mariah Ortiz.
What started as interest from a couple of freshman wannabe wrestlers four years ago snowballed into something big at Reed High School.
“Some of the girls are our hardest working kids we have,” said head coach Mike Klapp.
The Raiders boast one of the strongest girls wrestling teams in the region and three talented seniors are a big reason why the sport is growing in Northern Nevada. But Nora Ochoa, Mariah Ortiz, and Morgan Norris all made their marks on Reed’s program in different ways.
“I played football for a while and (Coach) Klapp came out to the field and said ‘you’re not really growing much, why don’t you try it out on the mat?’”, Ochoa remembered.
Klapp recalled “Nora’s one of those kids that everyone is more afraid of when you talk about going to other matches. She’s an intimidating force out there.”
While Nora’s toughness has served her well on the mat, Mariah Ortiz had to overcome immense physical and mental hurdles in her journey to the top.
“I looked in the mirror at my back and I just see this giant bump. Whoa what’s that? When he told me it was a tumor he said ‘do you want it out?’ and I was like ‘well I hope so’”, Ortiz remembered.
After doctors removed a growth from her spine, Mariah was given two options: become a couch potato, or re-learn all her motor functions. All the way down to walking.
“When he told me it’d be three to four months I remember turning over and looking at my mom and saying ‘that’s my season!’ that was hard," she said.
Mariah missed her entire junior campaign while recovering from the surgery. The time away from the mat only pushed her to be better.
“It’s a nice message to the boys. If you can’t handle it, she’s handling it just fine,” said Klapp.
Then there’s Reed’s most decorated athlete.
“This has done a lot for me,” said senior wrestler Morgan Norris.
After ending her first season with a 7-6 record Morgan Norris became one of the area’s most coveted wrestling prospects – gaining interest from college programs all across the country.
“This past May she was the ten seed going into a national tournament and she won the thing giving her a spot on the USA world team,” said head coach Mike Klapp.
Suddenly the girl from Sparks was sent to competitions in Croatia and Japan.
“This has just impacted me so much I couldn’t really think of doing anything else,” she said.