Prep Newsmaker: Aztec's Wells has historic day
Sophomore wrestler is making waves in a male-dominated sport
AZTEC — Aztec High School's Bella Wells made all kinds of history on Friday.
After going 4-0 at the Bloomfield Invitational and winning the Lightweight Outstanding Wrestler Award, Wells became the first female wrestler in Aztec history to win both her weight class at a varsity tournament and the award. And with that, she also became the first female wrestler in New Mexico to ever accomplish each of those feats.
"It's great. I think it's starting something new," Wells said of the distinctions. "I think pretty soon there's gonna be more females here in the area and the state, and I hope there's some more female champs out here."
The 106-pound Wells dazzled on Friday, going 4-0 to help the Tigers go undefeated and win the meet. Her first match-up of the day was against another female competitor, Miyamura eighth grader Yele Aycock. Wells said that match was her toughest that day, but not necessarily because of her opponent.
"I had a whole Blake's burrito right before and I just weighed in," Wells said. "I was gassed, it killed me."
Only a sophomore, Wells' extroverted personality explains why she's never intimidated to tangle with male wrestlers. Wells described herself as a "tomboy" growing up and has been wrestling since she was in elementary school.
She said she always looked up to her cousin, Austin Littlefield, who is now her teammate at Aztec.
"We've been like two peas in a pod our whole life, so I was like, 'If he's gonna do it, I'm gonna do it,'" Wells said of getting into wrestling. "It's just kind of become a family phenomenon."
Littlefield, who was second in the state last year in class 5A's 145-pound weight class, said Wells isn't like most girls her age.
"Bella's really outgoing, and she has the personality that, not a lot of girls see things the way she does," Littlefield said. "She's in a sport and a lifestyle that is really upheld only by males. And she belongs in it."
Wells, the only female wrestler on her team, said she hasn't felt like a minority in prep wrestling. She said the Aztec wrestling team has made her feel like a part of the family and she has blended in well with competitors from other area schools.
"The wrestling community here is really strong," Wells said. "If anything, I've felt embraced and welcomed."
Littlefield won the Middleweight Outstanding Wrestler Award at the Bloomfield Invite. The junior said it was surreal for both his cousin and him to each win a tournament and an award at the same meet.
"What an awesome feeling," Littlefield said. "It's just something that, neither of us expected it to go that way. It was really cool just because it seems like with me and her it just (has) always been different ages and doing different things at the time. It's really cool that we got to share being outstanding wrestlers."
To overcome the natural strength advantages that male wrestlers have, Wells knows she has to be as technically proficient as possible, and she credits her coaches for helping develop her technical skills. She also said it takes smarts and experience to succeed, two attributes she believes she's acquired over the years.
"I think I'm a little bit more fast-paced, and I think I plan out my moves better than most people," Wells said. "I've been wrestling for years, and with my teammates and other people I've met, they've given me many moves and many tools. So I just have a wide range of tools in my toolbox."
Wells wrestled on the Aztec junior varsity team for half of the season last year, and when she made the move to varsity for the other half, she fared well with a 3-2 record. She said the increased competition was "eye-opening" and spurred her to work harder heading into this season.
Now she's 5-0 to start the year, but she's not satisfied. Aztec wrestling coach Monte Maxwell said Wells' work ethic is as strong as anyone he coaches.
"When we're drilling in practice, she just drills, drills, drills," Maxwell said. "She does what she needs to do, as any wrestler should be doing. If all wrestlers worked like her and drilled like her? That team would be unstoppable."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
A closer look: Bella Wells
1. Favorite athlete?
2. Favorite team?
"I like the (Minnesota) Vikings."
3. Favorite food?
"New York style cheesecake."
4. Favorite movie?
"Probably 'Dazed and Confused.'"
5. Favorite subject in school?
6. Least favorite subject?
7. Biggest fear?
8. Do you play any other sports?
"I run track."
9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?
"I'd probably go and get a pretty cool tattoo."
10. Do you have any pre-game rituals?
"Every time when I get on the line, I like to pull up my sock, and then the tongue of my shoe, and then put on my ankle bracelet. It's just something I like and I've always done."