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Trailblazing Champion

Marissa Gallegos paves the way for women's wrestling at Colorado Mesa University

Student-athlete and redshirt junior* Marissa Gallegos has made history by becoming Colorado Mesa University’s first Women’s Wrestling National Champion.

Gallegos’ passion for wrestling started when she was just 10 years old when she and her younger brother would wrestle for fun. Since then, she has been determined to pursue her interest in the sport. However, her path was not without obstacles. During her freshmen year of high school, she underwent shoulder surgery — the first of three surgeries in the span of four years that almost ended her wrestling career. Despite these setbacks, she never gave up on her dream of becoming a national champion.

“My heart knew, I wasn’t done yet,” she said.  “I wasn’t done with wrestling.”

After graduating from high school, Gallegos took a gamble and committed to CMU despite the women's wrestling program being in its first year.

“Marissa has been a tremendous asset to our program since she came in as a freshman for the inaugural year,” said Head Women’s Wrestling Coach Travis Mercado. “She has never given anything less than her best and I’m forever grateful for being able to call myself her coach.”

After four years of wins and losses, in March 2023 Gallegos became the first Women's Wrestling National Champion at CMU. Gallegos acknowledged the significance of her accomplishment and said, “At first it took me a while to realize, wow, I'm the first national champion for CMU. But I know I'm definitely not the last.”

Gallegos’ journey to becoming a national champion is a source of inspiration to the CMU community. She has proven that perseverance and dedication can overcome any obstacle.

“Marissa’s achievement is a testament to her resilience and determination,” said CMU President John Marshall. “She has shown what is possible as a Maverick. Her accomplishment contributes to an ongoing legacy at CMU that will live on beyond her time on campus. We are proud of her and can’t wait to see what she does next.”

Besides being a trailblazer on the mat, Gallegos is a first-generation college student, Reisher Scholar recipient and a recent CMU graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. As for her future, she hopes to make the Olympic Team and further her education in physical therapy.

*The term "redshirt junior" refers to a student-athlete who is in their fourth year academically but has taken a “redshirt" year during their athletic career by sitting out for a year from competition, for medical reasons or at the coach’s discretion. When Marissa Gallegos became a national champion, she did so as a redshirt junior. This means she redshirted her freshman year and then competed for the next three years before becoming a national champion. She still has one year of athletic eligibility remaining if she wants to compete while pursuing a graduate degree in physical therapy.


Written by Madelynn Fellet