Aggio simply 'Star' struck

ROHNERT PARK – It’s different now for Kayla Aggio, very different, remarkably different, the difference between play and work, fun and obsession and it was never more apparent than December 27th, when this team walked into the Menlo College gym. Rancho’s Aggio was there, watching, gawking, her future teammates, future Olympians.

“I was star struck,” Aggio said.

When the Oklahoma City University women’s wrestling team walked into the gym to compete in a three-team match, the ultimate compliment was given.

“Everyone went silent,” said the 18-year old senior.

It was like looking at the New York Yankees at the height of their success or the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan was running them. This was the OCU women wrestlers for criminey sakes and they were carrying that same aura all undisputed super teams carry. They knew they were special without ever having to say it. They knew they were being watched, studied, like a fine diamond, for all its perfections.

Before its season would end, OCU would be on a 55-dual meet winning streak. They would win their fourth consecutive national championship. The Stars, a most apt nickname, have 15 All-Americans and six individual champions. The Stars have matches in which their No. 1s don’t even have to play.

“If you come to OCU and you don’t want to compete eventually in the Olympics,” said Aggio’s father, David, “then you shouldn’t come.”

OCU will send 12 wrestlers to the upcoming Olympic Trials.

“Other girls in the gym,” said Aggio, “would be talking, joking around. Not OCU. They were quiet, businesslike.”

This is the world Aggio soon will be entering. OCU offered and Aggio accepted a scholarship Dec. 7 to the most prestigious women’s collegiate program in the nation. And when he was asked to talk about Aggio, OCU coach Archie Randall didn’t mince words or minimize expectations.

“Kayla has unbelievable potential,” Randall said. “My goal is to dominate the 2016 USA Olympic Trials with the most wrestlers competing. Kayla will be a senior then so that should fit perfectly with my goals.”

That might seem like a lot to put on the shoulders of someone still in high school but Aggio doesn’t duck her head in embarrassment. She wants what Archie wants. She wants to work as hard as Archie pushes and if she messes up, Aggio wants Archie in her face.

“People take that personally,” Aggio said. “Not me. I want to get better. I’m not your average girl.”

The average girl who undergoes operations to remove two sections of bone spurs on each foot, takes it easy. “Average” doesn’t go to the gym two weeks after surgery, both feet in a protective boot, and climb into a rowing machine for a workout. Not when the docs told her to stay off her feet.

“Oh,” Aggio said to herself after a time, “I think I broke my stitches. My feet are bleeding.”

Yes, that’s the kind of wrestler Randall is getting. Not just someone who went 100-11 in her high school career, not just someone who was state champion in her weight class as a sophomore, and not just someone who finished third in the nation last year in the 146-pound weight class.

“You’re going to have to hose her off from time to time to cool her down,” I said to Randall over the phone.

“Good, she’s going to be a good fit here,” Randall said without pause.

Randall is going to sign only seven girls for next year. Aggio was the third name announced.

“I am very picky,” Randall said.

He can afford to be. Owning the gold standard in women’s collegiate wrestling, Randall recruits the nation like a USC football recruiter. On last year’s national championship teams, 14 states were represented on the roster, from Maine to Hawaii. Randall wants his troops to obsess over two things, academics and wrestling.

“When I was a sophomore I did a search on the universities that offered both wrestling and kinesiology,” Aggio said. “OCU was the only school I found. Didn’t know anything about it then. Then I found out. Wow.”

Because OCU is a NAIA and not an NCAA school, it can offer cash bonuses. If Aggio makes it as a starter — and Randall said she has a good chance as a freshman at 136 — she gets a bonus. If she is a national champion, another bonus. An All-American? Another bonus. That doesn’t include the scholarship.

Randall has only eight full athletic scholarships to give but, he said, Aggio will receive a “package deal” that combines athletic, academic and federal aid, to the point most of her education will be paid for.

“It will run between $100,000 to $120,000,” Randall said of her packaged scholarship. “But like all students she will have to pay for fees and books, about $2,000 a year.”

Does any of this — or the hard-charging Randall for that matter — intimidate Aggio? Nah. She wants to tap every ounce of her talent and drive. She wants to say, years from now, she didn’t leave anything inside her locker, so the speak. In fact, Aggio said, she would be uncomfortable if a coach soft-peddled any criticism.

See, wants to get to her max as fast as possible. And that is the intriguing part — What is her max?

“As long as I work hard,” Kayla Aggio said, “I believe I can do anything."

Yep, says Archie Randall, that’s my girl.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or