Not many folks would take a glance at Amaya Hinojosa and assume she’s a badass wrestler.
But a look at her Trackwrestling.com profile highlights the 13-year-old’s potential and wrestling prowess.
As of April 22, the 110-pounder boasts a record of 64-21, including 42 pins and a plethora of top-three finishes at various tournaments.
It’s a quantum leap from Hinojosa’s humble beginnings with five-win seasons and mundane training to hone her skills.
“She’s put in the work. Right now she trains five days a week and has multiple practices per day,” said her father Chris Hinojosa. “This past winter, we traveled to Florida for some duals and that was Kindergarten through 12th grade. She beat some girls in Florida who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in high school.”
As Hinojosa creates a legacy in wrestling, her athletic career began on a different route. Prior to 2015, she was a ballerina.
“Chris was deployed in the Marines and we had the option to do sports on Fort Carson and we saw ballet and she loved it,” said Hinojosa’s mother, Leticia Rodriguez-Hinojosa. “When [Chris] came back, we moved to Oklahoma, but there wasn’t anything there. We came back [to Colorado] and she did ballet again.”
Despite hours of training as a ballerina, Hinojosa said, “I enjoyed it, but I had no rhythm,” but continued the activity.
Following ballet practices, Hinojosa ventured to her brother’s wrestling training. Rather than have Hinojosa sit around during those trainings, her dad got her involved.
“If you’re going to be here, you may as well try it,” Chris Sr. said. “We’re going on six years, now she doesn’t want to do anything else but wrestle.”
Hinojosa ditched the ballerina gear for a wrestling singlet to join the fray — a decision closer to the norm with her family.
Her brother, Chris Jr., currently wrestles; dad Chris Sr. wrestled for Harrison in the mid-2000s and her mother competed at Sierra during the same stretch.
The district rivals held joint practices and Hinojosa’s parents formed a bond over the sport they both loved, that eventually blossomed into marriage. Neither parent thought twice about a girl competing in wrestling.
Her dad witnessed girls wrestle throughout his career and, before she moved to Colorado, her mom wrestled at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas, where girls routinely competed and had their own team.
“I came from an all-girls team and we had a full 10 or 11 weights,” Rodriguez-Hinojosa said. “When I was in Colorado, I was wrestling on a boys’ team and it was completely different. But it was still an enjoyable experience.”
Meanwhile, her daughter sometimes faces varying issues, ranging from lack of depth at tournaments to parents who oppose their child wrestling a girl.
Around 2015, the family traveled to Missouri for a tournament that fielded around 60 girls between kindergarten through eighth grade.
Each weight class, which varies by tournament, normally has upwards of 16 competitors and tournaments yield hundreds of wrestlers. For Hinojosa’s bracket, they fielded fewer than 10.
“There was never even a set weight class for girls because of how they would group them together to make as many matches as possible,” Chris said.
A trip to Texas boasted plenty of competition, but the family left disappointed after parents declined to let their kids wrestle against Hinojosa.
“Moms would say, ‘I don’t want my son to wrestle (Amaya),’” Chris Sr. said. “’We had two forfeits, so we won and moved on, but that’s not how we want to [win.]”
Chris Sr. said he’s had confrontations with people who speak disrespectfully about his daughter.
“The fathers sometimes would be upset that our daughter beat their son and they’d say some pretty mean things,” he said. “(Amaya’s) in the middle of a match and I’m off to the side and I could hear their comments. I’ve had to confront them sometimes and I’m like, ‘What’d you say about my daughter?’”
Rodriguez-Hinojosa says she never faced such backlash as a high school competitor, and it aggravates her knowing her daughter, albeit secondhand, deals with those situations.
“We know she’s a girl, but she’s here to wrestle,” Hinojosa-Rodriguez said. “She’s another athlete and just wants to compete. It’s frustrating when we hear people forfeit because she’s a girl because we know she’d give them a good match.”
While Hinojosa’s parents do their best to shield her from the noise, she focuses on improving.
Hinojosa’s display at the CUSAW Brush Brawl in Brush on April 17 showcased her excellence. She earned a pair of second-place finishes and first in the 14U Greco-Roman girls 105-111 pound category.
Hinojosa tallied two technical fall victories over her opponents, including a 10-0 technical fall against Timberly Martinez, who defeated Hinojosa to finish first in the 103-111 pound Greco-Roman category.
Training with the likes of Avelino Mota, a Widefield High School stud who’s qualified for the state tournament and earned second in the Class 4A regional 120-pound weight class, helped prepare Hinojosa on her current path.
Mota served as a mentor to Hinojosa through various aspects of her career and she said she still reaps the benefits of their training sessions.
“I like the feeling of knowing my hard work is paying off,” Hinojosa said. “I can see myself winning Fargo, and making a world team or Olympic teams, I can see myself doing that.”
Fargo, the arduous tournament which occurs yearly in North Dakota, features the top competitors from around the country. No bracket lacks talent and those who climb the metaphorical mountain understand the magnitude of their accomplishment.
Hinojosa recognizes that it’s no simple feat to win Fargo, but her past molded her into a stout wrestler and her various experiences created an unflappable confidence she carries in each match.
“I think it’s amazing seeing how far I’ve come knowing I didn’t used to win anything,” Hinojosa said. “Hindsight helps me see how good I’ve become, but I try not to reflect like that too much and focus on the matches in front of me.”