CEDAR CITY — Canyon View High School freshman Tilisa Matakaiongo made history on Thursday when she became the second wrestler in school history – and the first female – to win an individual state championship.
Competing at the 1A/2A/3A girls state tournament in Richfield, Matakaiongo defeated all three of her opponents in the 190-pound bracket to finish the season undefeated at 19-0. She was also named the outstanding wrestler of the state tournament.
Making the feat even more remarkable was that it was the second state title in less than two weeks for the 15-year-old Matakaiongo, who is also a member of the Canyon View Talons drill team that won the 3A state championship on Feb. 4.
No sooner had the Talons finished posing with their first-place trophy at Utah Valley University in Orem, than Matakaiongo caught a ride with a school administrator back to Richfield in time to compete in the wrestling divisionals the next morning.
“It was really funny because my hair was still braided, and the makeup we use has glitter and not all of it comes off right away, so there was glitter all over my face and my hair,” she said with a laugh. “So I was wrestling with sparkles.”
Matakaiongo, who is simply known as “T” to her friends, teammates and coaches, ended up winning her bracket at divisionals and earning the top seed at the state tournament, which wrapped up in Richfield on Thursday.
In her state finals match, Matakaiongo pinned Jocelyn Helper of American Leadership Academy 1 minute and 45 seconds into the first round. It was her 19th consecutive win by pin this season, with all but one of the falls coming during the first round. One of her state matches lasted just 17 seconds.
Being able to play such dissimilar and demanding sports in the same season is almost unheard of, particularly when drill or wrestling is one of them, let alone both.
But Matakaingo is not a newcomer to either sport, having danced since she was a toddler and having wrestled since first grade. Her childhood dance studio teacher was Nicole Mikkelson and her wrestling coach was Dallas Lowry, who happen to be the current head coaches of Canyon View’s drill team and wrestling programs, respectively.
Matakaiongo said she’s grateful to both coaches for making the necessary accommodations so that she could participate in both sports.
“They didn’t want me to have to pick one or the other. They did have to work a lot with each other and excuse me from practice and so forth,” she said. “They have been so understanding with me and I’m so lucky to have them as my coaches.”
Thursday night, right after the state wrestling matches had concluded, Lowry spoke to Cedar City News by telephone to report the news of Matakaiongo’s win, in addition to mentioning the 11 other Falcon wrestlers who’d placed among the top six at state in their respective brackets.
Lowry’s son Brady Lowry, who took state in both 2017 and 2019, is the only other Canyon View wrestler to have won an individual state title.
Coach Lowry spoke of Matakaiongo’s attitude and determination.
“I love watching her because she is the meanest girl on the mat and the nicest girl off the mat,” he said.
“She’s been wrestling since she was about 6,” Lowry added. “She’s really good. She beats up the boys on my team. She’s an outstanding young woman with a 4.0 GPA, and she’s very respectful and kind to everybody.”
“She’s a good one. She’s a winner.”
Agreed Mikkelson: “I’ve taught her in dance for many years, and she is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met.”
“Every one of her teachers would say that,” she said. “After every class, she always asks the teacher what she can work on at home to be better.”
“She really can do it all,” Mikkelson added.
Matakaiongo said that being a dancer has helped her be a better wrestler, and vice versa.
“Yeah, actually, because in dance you have to keep your endurance up for three minutes, which isn’t too long, but you’ve got to keep your energy high the entire time,” she said. “And then with wrestling, sometimes you get stuck in weird positions, so it’s nice to be flexible and feel how my body can get out of that.”
And if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, Matakaiongo also played football for the Canyon View Falcons last fall, as an offensive lineman on the freshman team.
She says she plans to participate in football again this coming fall, but until then will take a break from high school sports to focus on club wrestling, both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
Matakaiongo expressed her appreciation for her teammates on all three teams for their friendship and support.
“It’s just like having second families,” she said. “They’re so great.”
“It’s just been a great couple of seasons,” she added. “I’m just so grateful for all my coaches and teammates for being able to work with me and, like, what I’ve had to miss … to do both. It’s just really fun.”
Tilisa’s mother Kol Matakaiongo also said she appreciates the support that the various coaches have provided in allowing her daughter to work around practice times and other scheduling conflicts.
“They all, across the board, understand that she really is a great kid,” Kol Matakaiongo said. “They know that she’s going to be working hard. She’s not home sitting on her butt playing games. She’s with the other team, working hard.”
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