There is not much that scares KaMele Sanchez, not even making sports history.
Raised in Honoka’a, a small plantation town on the Big Island of Hawaii, she has always been inspired by nature and being outdoors. She is also the oldest of four tough sisters, who inspire her every day, and a first-generation college student about to graduate from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in ecosystem science and sustainability and a minor in plant health.
“My father is a landscaper, so growing up I was outside all the time, hunting, fishing and just being in the mountains,” says Sanchez. “We are very tied to our land, and that is a big part of why I love natural resources.”
Sanchez took advantage of the reduced tuition offered through the Western Undergraduate Exchange program to come to CSU, but she had another reason to become a Ram.
“I knew that the natural resources program was so great,” she says. “But CSU was also the first school that responded to me about wrestling.”
President of Wrestling Club
That’s right, Sanchez is a female wrestler. She started her wrestling career in high school, like her father before her. Thinking wrestling might be in her blood, she joined the girls’ team her freshman year in high school — and learned that she was right.
“I was captain for two years in high school,” Sanchez says. “Wrestling has always been something I enjoyed, and it is something I am good at. When the coaches at CSU responded to me, I was so excited and happy.”
Sanchez is the first woman to wrestle for CSU. She wrestled with the men her first year and says that it was tough, but the team was supportive of her and her success. She became an officer of the CSU Wrestling Club in 2016, spending the last two years as club president.
Sanchez has earned two All-American titles at CSU, and in the time since she joined the team, two more women have followed her.
“There are three girls now,” she says. “We have tripled in number, and that is progress!”
As Sanchez prepares to graduate in May, she says she is feeling bittersweet about leaving CSU Wrestling behind.
“I love CSU and this team,” she says. “It’s great to see teammates take over, but it’s hard to leave something you helped grow.”
The CSU Wrestling Club was unable to attend nationals this year due to the “bomb cyclone” snowstorm in March that prevented travel in almost all of Colorado. Sanchez was heartbroken, but has come to terms with it.
After graduation, Sanchez is moving to Chicago, where she will continue her passion for natural resources working at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.