Cody Pfau is mean and tough on the mat. She was taught to be that way.
"I've told her so many times, 'If you ain't crying, you ain't trying,'" said Grand Valley High School wrestling coach Rick Gallegos. "I'd see some of the guys trying to take it easy on her in practice and, if they did, I'd stop the whole practice and say to them, 'You think that's gonna happen on Saturday?'
"So I got used to seeing a lot of tears of frustration from her to where it wasn't a big deal," the coach continued. "Eventually it stopped, and I asked her why there weren't any water works. She told me she was getting more used to it and getting better. That was great to hear."
Better is the operative word for Pfau, a two-time qualifier for the Class 3A State Wrestling Championships as a girl wrestling on a boys wrestling team. Her 29-8 record in the 106-pound weight class has become a testament to the toughness she built up.
That toughness, however, has grown even more, when she steps on the mat to wrestle competitively with other girls. She took gold in her 33-wrestler weight class at the ASICS Footwear Vaughn Junior and Cadet National Championships in Fargo, N.D., July 13 to 16. That followed up a big performance on an international stage, where she took silver at the girls Pan Am Championships just a few days earlier in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She was part of a national team that took second place overall.
And of course, having that extra training, especially outside of the high school arena, has made a difference. It's especially true at the high school level, where she regularly runs into skeptical opponents.
"I work harder than them," Pfau, 17, said in reference to the boys who have shrugged her off in the past. "Because of that, I don't see any reason why they should beat me."
Pfau has been wrestling since she was an 8-year-old, admitting that at that age, "nobody cares if you're a girl or not." She's stuck with it through club and middle school wrestling, which also saw a multitude of success.
She qualified for the 3A state championships for the first time as a freshman at Meeker High School and, after barely missing the cut in her sophomore year at Grand Valley, went to state a second time this past winter.
That experience wrestling with her teammates at Grand Valley has helped her achieve more than just a national championship and a silver medal on an international level. She also won the Canadian Cup, a 10-wrestler girls bracket at the 48-kilogram weight class in Guelth, Ontario, in the last part of June. And all three accomplishments also earned her a first-team spot on the ASICS All-American team, an award given annually by the Associated Press.
There's obviously some fundraising involved with so much travel - she's hosting a big spaghetti feed at Grand Valley High School at 5:30 p.m. tonight to help pay for some of those airline miles she's racked up. But she also has loftier goals than just the club-wrestling stage.
Although her dad, Doug, is taking a teaching job in the Denver area for the upcoming school year, she's staying behind for an opportunity to be the valedictorian at Grand Valley. And beyond college, Pfau said she's looking at out-of-state schools that offer women's wrestling. Some believe she has a legitimate shot at competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, considering the competition she's faced.
Until then, though, she's just another wrestler. And a tough one.
"Everybody just treats me just like anyone else," Pfau said. "That's fine with me."