In the inaugural year that girls wrestling was sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA), it is apropos that American Leadership Academy’s Sage Mortimer would be the Utah County Girls Wrestler of the Year.
Mortimer is arguably the best girl wrestler in state history. Her list of accomplishments is long.
This year alone, the ALA senior won her weight class in the girls state tournament and at the Battle of the Amazonians, wrestled and won in the Jordan Burroughs vs. David Taylor undercard, defeated the 3A boys state champion at 106 pounds at the Atlas All-Star Showdown, and then won the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier to earn a chance to compete as the youngest competitor at the 2020 Olympic trials just last week at 50 Kilograms (110 pounds).
Last year, Mortimer won the 3A Divisional A tournament competing against the boys. As a freshman, she placed fourth in the 3A state tournament and later that summer became the first (and still only) female All-American wrestling against the boys at the USA Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota. She has won scores of tournaments at the high school and youth level competing against female and male grapplers alike.
With the quicker turnaround with the Olympics, Mortimer is still unclear on what her future holds other than making the 2024 Olympic team is the No. 1 goal.
Whether it be college wrestling or training full-time for the Olympics at regional training centers and forgoing college wrestling, Mortimer is unsure of the path she will take next.
“I don’t know what I want to do,” Mortimer said. “College is the safest choice, but I don’t want to get stagnant (in my training). The Olympics is my ultimate goal. I have really considered the option where I travel to different regional training centers. I would like to have a variety of workout partners.”
Mortimer went 1-2 at the Olympic Trials in Fort Worth, Texas, but still found the experience very rewarding.
“I had a lot of fun,” Mortimer said. “I went in there with the idea of doing my best and seeing where I measured up against the best college wrestlers. I wrestled confidently and relaxed.”
Also at the Olympic Trials was Utah Valley University All-American Taylor LaMont, who also went 1-2 in the event. LaMont, and his father Craig, have been valuable mentors to Mortimer, who wrestled in Craig LaMont’s Champions Wrestling Club growing up.
“I want to thank Taylor for mentoring me,” Mortimer said. “He’s always been helpful and I’m grateful for that. Him and his Dad (Craig) have always been a big help to me.”
Another important coach in Mortimer’s development has been ALA head boys and girls wrestling coach Tucker Ray.
“My coach Tucker (Ray) has always been there for us and we consider him family,” Mortimer said. “He’s been like an older brother or uncle to me.”
Ray also has high praises for Mortimer.
“Sage is one of the fiercest competitors I have not only coached but ever seen,” Ray said. “Her constant physicality matched with her determination and grit makes her someone many regret to line up against on the mat. She has worked so hard, and the scary thing is that this really is just the beginning. Whatever she wants to do in this sport and in life, she can do it.”
Maple Mountain head girls coach Billy Cox, who often coached Mortimer in competitions, concurs with Ray about Mortimer’s fierce competitive attitude.
“There probably isn’t another athlete in our state, male or female, that is as tough as Sage,” Cox said. “The tougher the match, the more physical the competition, the more she likes it, and she rises to meet that challenge.”
Since Mortimer has wrestled for several years, most of her competition has come against the boys. And sometimes that wasn’t always the most popular thing. But Mortimer said it wasn’t exactly her that bore the brunt of it.
“When I was a kid I didn’t hear about it much (wrestling against the boys), but my mom sure did,” Mortimer said. “But as I have had more success I earned the respect of my competition. People started respecting me rather than hating on me.”
Mortimer had a relatively easy time taking state against female competition this season. None of her matches went the distance. When she won the state title, a variety of feelings came out including both happiness in her achievement but also frustration of not being able to compete against the boys and win that state title against male competitors.
But much of that was alleviated when she had the chance to compete at the Atlas All-Star Showdown against Rowdey Peterson of Juab, the 3A state champion at 106 pounds.
“I am so grateful for Ben (Gasser) who organized the event, and I’m so grateful for Rowdey and his parents who agreed to wrestle me,” Mortimer said. “They had no obligation to do that for me, so it was really cool what they did and I’m grateful. It was a lot of fun.”
With nearly two months since the state tournament, Mortimer has had further time to reflect on her accomplishments and being a girls state champion in the first year girls wrestling has been officially sanctioned by the UHSAA.
“In that moment (of taking state), I was really frustrated (that I couldn’t compete against the boys this year),” Mortimer said. “But I’m moving on, I’m happy with things and have more goals I want to achieve.”
Mortimer enjoys hanging out with her friends driving around or just watching movies. But right now, there isn’t a lot of down time.
“I’m a real chill person away from the mat,” Mortimer said. “But my mindset right now has been school and wrestling, grinding it out and focusing on my goals.”