(CBS4) – Last year Angel Rios was fighting for her right to battle with the boys, and on the mat she prevailed. In 2019 the Gilcrest wrestler became the first girl in Colorado history to place at boys state wrestling tournament. This year, Rios is fighting a vastly bigger battle — one that’s taken her off the mat and away from the sport she loves so dearly.
Rios dyed her hair and got an allergic reaction to the hair dye on her neck.
“We didn’t think much of it, thought she’d get it cleared up and be back the next week, but it kept getting worse and worse,” said her coach Ruben Lucero.
“There was a point during her hospitalization that her doctor said if we wait any longer, she might not be here today,” said sister Karyn Yellowhorse.
Over the past few months, Rios has been in and out of the hospital with a severe case of antibiotic serum sickness and Guillain‐Barré syndrome. Symptoms include fever, itching, joint pain, swelling and swollen lymph nodes. Rios’ swelling was so severe it led to a pinched fifth cranial nerve, the nerve that controls facial movements and other motor functions like chewing, talking and walking.
“It was shocking and just hard to understand,” Lucero said. “It was hard for all of us on the team and for her and her parents and her brother, too.”
Rios’ brother Isaiah is a junior at Valley High School in Gilcrest and a year apart in age. The siblings have grown up wrestling together, but this year Isaiah was the only one competing for a state title.
“They’ve always been inseparable. They were always wrestling together. It’s been really hard this year to see him do this by himself. Because he doesn’t have his sister right along side him but he’s still very strong and still pushing forward,” Yellowhorse said.
On Saturday night at the Pepsi Center, Isaiah honored his sister in the best way possible — by winning his second consecutive state title.
“I wanted to win this because before the season started. She was ranked No. 1 and she should have been there with me. She would have had a good match against whoever was on the other side,” Isaiah told CBS4.
Rios’ journey back to full health is a long one and it will be a battle unlike any other. But for her, it’s just another wrestling match that she’s determined to win.
“Even since she’s been diagnosed, there are huge improvements throughout each day. A little bit further. I know she’s fighting to get back out on that mat and get back beside her brother and help him out as well,” Yellowhorse said.
The entire Valley wrestling team came together for Angel, wearing headbands with the words “Rios Strong.” Jaziah Whaley, a senior at Valley, claimed his second straight title, and Valley tied with Eaton for the Class 3A team title.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Angel’s family with medical costs.