Abbie Rivero makes a mark for Stillwater girls, but her story is an example for all

Feb. 25—Until Saturday, all the Stillwater High School wrestling champions were boys.

That changed with junior Abbie Rivero, who became the first girl to win a state title in school history.

"The feelings are everywhere," Rivero said. "It feels good to win and it feels good to be the first one, but at the same time, I worked my butt off for this."

Rivero began wrestling as a fifth-grader in Colorado — the third state she lived in before her 11th birthday (she was born in Hawaii and moved to Florida, too).

But it wasn't until her freshman year at Stillwater that she became hooked on the idea of competing in the state tournament, placing in it and one day winning it all.

That dream became reality when she pinned Broken Arrow's Kristen DeLaRosa in 3:37. The pin detonated the Stillwater fans who understood the magnitude of it, but Rivero's reaction wasn't too dissimilar from the nonchalant one she had after winning in the semifinals.

It wasn't until she hugged coach Elizabeth Tidwell that the tears flowed freely.

"That moment right there is something that every coach wants to get, and I couldn't hold back tears either cause I'm so proud of her," Tidwell said. "It's the biggest high you'll ever get."

No Stillwater High School athlete has ever been a better embodiment of its mascot.

"She's our Pioneer. She's making the way for everybody," Tidwell said. "It's her determination and hard work that paved the way there."

Stillwater girls wrestling is not yet its own entity, but boys coach Ethan Kyle said Rivero's win further proved that it needs to be.

"The writing is on the wall that we need to jump all the way in and launch the program full-on and staff it up," Kyle said. "I hope it sparks that last little bit that we need."

But before Rivero broke gender barriers, she first had to break through her own.

She worked throughout the summer to improve off of a loss by fall in the semifinals of her sophomore season. She then broke her right elbow twice and was out until mid-November.

Rivero admitted she had a bad attitude about it. She was angry, hopeless and told her mom and coaches she was quitting wrestling altogether.

But, she came to her senses and realized the setback would make the achievement greater.

"She's the exception," Tidwell said. "She fought the negative thinking. That's what we're about. That's what she's about."

Had she given up, Rivero's name would have remained one that was relatively unknown — a 'What could have been' story for those that know her. It wouldn't be the one little girls in Stillwater remember when they throw on their singlets and headgear.

Because in moments like that, great athletes show it isn't their body that makes them who they are; it's their willpower.

"The name Abbie Rivero is forever in history in Stillwater wrestling and Oklahoma history," Kyle said.