‘It took a long time to get the respect I deserved’: Juan Diego student recognized in 4A Wrestling

Local News

Courtesy: Juan Diego Catholic High School

DRAPER, Utah (ABC4 News) — Every year USA Wrestling holds a mid-season all-star meet at Utah Valley University. The student-athletes selected to participate in the meet are the best wrestlers from all classifications throughout the state. 

This year, Juan Diego Catholic High School senior, Isabella, (Belle) Vargas has been selected to be the 4A representative in the 108 lb. class. 

Isabella, (Belle) Vargas

Belle can be described as an example, a competitor, and a leader. Her journey to being selected as Utah’s 4A representative has been one of determination, growth, and fighting for the respect she deserves.

“Having Isabella be selected for this meet is an incredible honor for her. She has worked extremely hard to achieve this goal and is paving the way for other girls,” says Chris Long Athletic Director at Juan Diego Catholic High School. 

Long says as the athletic director it has been exciting to see Belle grow more confident in her own abilities. “She is admired by her teammates, coaches, and the other kids at school for her determination and work ethic,” Long shares. “In addition to her athletic prowess, Belle is an honor roll student and a student body officer.” 

Long says Andrew Sedillo and Jeff Richardson, Belle’s coaches have accepted her from day one as a member of the wrestling team – not a “girl” on the wrestling team. Long says he believes this has greatly contributed to her success this past year. 

Belle says she started getting involved in wrestling when she was in the 5th grade. “I didn’t wrestle at that time, I was more focused on volleyball, but my brothers started wrestling for a team and so I was always around the wrestling community,” Belle tells ABC4 News.

A year later her younger sister started wrestling, and a year after that, when Belle entered 7th grade she decided to try wrestling out with her middle school team and never turned back. 

Belle says her second year of wrestling was “tough” due to a knee injury and needed surgery to repair it. “It took a long time for me to get my knee working well again and to even gain the confidence to continue wrestling but I kept going because I love the sport.”

Courtesy: Juan Diego Catholic High School

Making it as Utah’s representative for the 4A division All-star match “has been insane” Belle shares. “It feels so amazing to be recognized for the work I’ve put into this sport and I am really grateful for the opportunity and all the support I am receiving.” 

With all that’s gone on this past year, Belle says she is so thankful wrestling is a winter sport. Unlike many school sports, the wrestling season was not cut short in 2020. Belle says this year things are different due to the pandemic restrictions. She says there are fewer opportunities for tournaments and the season was shorter this year than the last. Despite the unpredictable year, she says her team has been working hard to make the best out of it. 

“I think this year is full of confusion not only due to the pandemic but as well as because this is the first year that girls wrestling is sanctioned in the state of Utah. Throughout the season, there have definitely been questions up in the air while figuring out how to get enough girls for teams and separate it from the boys’ division all with the added restrictions we have going on,” Belle explains. 

Being in a sport that is viewed as predominantly male has its ups and downs, Belle tells ABC4 News. She says when she moved to Utah people were always shocked when they heard she was a wrestler. 

“Sometimes it was tough because you would have coaches, or parents, or even other male wrestlers who made snide comments about being a girl wrestler. There were people who would be so scared to lose to a girl because that’s not socially acceptable from their eyes,” Belle shares. “It took a long time to get the respect I deserved from people but it also helped me not care too much about what others think. Wrestling in a male-dominated sport has 100% made me stronger.” 

Working with people who are physically stronger has helped Belle learn to focus on other things such as technique and speed. She says one major problem for her when wrestling boys was herself. She says she would tell herself she would lose because she was not strong enough. “For a long time, it caused me to do really bad in my matches because I had just lost so much confidence in my skills. But over time, I have worked on that and now I do so much better with the mental aspect of the sport.” 

When she first started wrestling and was competing against boys, Belle says she and her dad measured her success by little things, like getting a good sprawl on her opponent, earning points against someone in tough matches, and even just going in confident. 

“My dad is my biggest supporter for wrestling and I also like to do well for him in hopes of making him proud,” Belle says. “Through the years as I’ve gotten better, I have learned so much more every year through both my wins and losses.” 

She says after her matches she goes through the videos, determining how she could have done better. She says she is thankful for a great support system that has helped her be successful by pushing her every day. 

Belle’s experience has been rewarding but not easy. Her message to another female, or male wrestler debating out of fear if they should try it she says to “never be scared to go full in and give it your all.” 

“It is a challenging sport but the skills you learn, take you a long way in life. When things get tough, I like to say, ‘Well I’ve gotten through the hardest wrestling practices more than once, I can do anything.’” 

Belle says she loves seeing other women inspired to wrestle after meeting her. “I think being able to help the women’s wrestling community grow is what keeps me going because it makes me feel like I am doing something important.” 


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