By ERIC WITTMERSHAUS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A four-time state medalist for Rancho Cotate, Kayla Aggio spent much of her high school wrestling career looking ahead to each year’s California Interscholastic Federation state tournament.
Few Empire girls wrestle, and finding an elite-level opponent can be tough. That’s especially true for a senior whose fearsome reputation can cause opposing coaches to wrestle their girls in different weight classes to avoid Aggio.
At state, Aggio dazzled. Her freshman year, she took third at 132 pounds, a weight class she won as a sophomore.
Wrestling at 138 as a junior, she again took third.
To hear Aggio talk about her fourth and final trip to state, you’d think she flamed out and was bounced in the second round. In fact, Aggio suffered her only loss of the season in the 146-pound championship match, good for a second place finish. Amy Spafford, who beat her by a narrow decision, took first place at nationals a couple of weeks later.
The chance for Aggio to face a quality opponent every day in practice is part of what has her excited to wrestle next year at Oklahoma City University, a powerhouse that’s won four consecutive Women’s College Wrestling Association championships. To say the Stars take their wrestling seriously is like saying Michael Phelps is comfortable in the water.
“I’m really looking forward to that,” Aggio said of the opportunity to wrestle against elite-level teammates on a regular basis. “I’ve never had that before.”
Aggio, who also played soccer and competed in track and field at Rancho, will be going from wrestling three months a year to a nine-month program.
“I’m very excited to see where a whole year is going to take me,” she said.
Aggio is quick to credit others for her success, mentioning Joe and Kevin Guinn, who first coached her at Mountain Shadows Middle School, as well as her father, David Aggio, and her high school coach, Gary Soto.
“Those guys really got the ball rolling,” Soto said of the Guinns. “It’s kind of like making a cake. They put the batter together, and I ended up mixing it up and putting it in the oven.
Now I’m handing the cake over to her current coach over at Oklahoma City, and he’s going to put frosting on it.”
Aggio’s quick to pass along everything she’s learned, and she said a growing girls team at Rancho Cotate made her feel a bit like “the momma of the team.”
“It was nice to try to be a role model to them,” Aggio said. “I try to do my best for them because I never really had a girls team before.”
Sounding a bit like the no-nonsense Soto, Aggio said she admired the way the Rancho girls don’t expect to have it easier than the boys because they’re girls.
“Most girls quit because they can’t handle not getting special treatment, so it’s nice having people who work hard,” she said.
“If you work hard, I’ll help you.”
As for Spafford, Aggio would love to see her again.
“I hate losing,” she said. “But I always like to wrestle people that I’ve lost to before to see how I’ve improved and where I am.”
Aggio finishes high school with a four-year record of 104-12.
2012 PRESS DEMOCRAT ALL-EMPIRE GIRLS WRESTLING TEAM
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR
Kayla Aggio, Rancho Cotate, senior
98 pounds: Maria Castaldo, Middletown, junior
103: Sierra Egger, Middletown, sophomore
108: Brittni McFarland, Maria Carrillo, junior
114: Harmonie Roberts, Ukiah, freshman
118: Tristin Hunt, Ukiah, junior
122: Erika Mihalca, Casa Grande, sophomore
126: Carmen Torres, Petaluma, senior
132: Ruby Segura, Ukiah, senior
138: Molly Trejo, Maria Carrillo, sophomore
146: Kim Agenbroad, Willits, senior
154: Paige Steiding, Casa Grande, senior
165: Kaity Berry, El Molino, senior
189: Amethyst Kopman, Willits, sophomore
235: Rachael Haskell, Ukiah, junior
Maya Maurer, Ukiah
Gina Audiss, Montgomery
Ashley Tresch, Petaluma, senior
COACH OF THE YEAR
Shane Roberts, Ukiah