Wrestling: Rancho Cotate graduate rediscovering her form in college

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rancho Cotate graduate Kayla Aggio, in blue, competed in the season-opening Oklahoma City Duals in October at Abe Lemons Arena in Oklahoma City. (Rich Tortorelli / Oklahoma City University Athletics)

Rancho Cotate graduate Kayla Aggio, in blue, competed in the season-opening Oklahoma City Duals in October at Abe Lemons Arena in Oklahoma City. (Rich Tortorelli / Oklahoma City University Athletics)

Kayla Aggio’s freshman season at Oklahoma City University couldn’t have gone much better. The former Rancho Cotate wrestler placed third at 2013 nationals in the 136-pound class and earned All-American honors.

Early in her sophomore season, however, a similar end-of-season run seemed like a long shot. Aggio struggled with her weight and lost matches that sapped her of confidence so critical to success in such a demanding sport.

“I got very humbled,” she said. “I didn’t really regain focus until recently. It helped me realize if I kept wrestling hard I could do well.”

Aggio rediscovered her work ethic, devoted herself to training and turned her season around. The two-time All-Empire wrestler returns to the mat at the Women’s College Wrestling Association championships this weekend as a national-championship contender.

Aggio is entered in the 155-pound class, where she is ranked seventh nationally. While wrestling above her typical weight, Aggio relies on speed, improved strength and technique to win matches.

“It’s an advantage to her. We’re giving her the best opportunity to place the highest she can,” Oklahoma City coach Archie Randall said. “If she can get to the finals, there’s no telling what could happen.

“She could win the whole thing. She’s ready.”

The journey back to the national championships was a growing experience for the sophomore from Rohnert Park.

Following her stellar freshman season, Aggio stayed in Oklahoma City last summer to train. Aggio also competed in the 2013 World Team Trials.

“It was awesome. I worked hard at practice. They just beat me up every day,” she said.

Wrestling for powerhouse Oklahoma City, a program with four national titles, demands great commitment both physically and mentally.

Aggio’s offseason regimen, which included summer school, ultimately was too much for the young wrestler, according to both Aggio and her coach.

“I put so much pressure on myself that it hurt me,” Aggio said. “I guess I got a little burned out. I kind of lost that intensity. I just got really too comfortable.”

Aggio gained weight and had to make up class credits after falling behind in school.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster,” Randall said. “She’s a really good kid. She’s a good wrestler.”

Aggio eventually rediscovered the discipline needed to improve and compete at a high level.

More running combined with the team’s emphasis on weight training helped Aggio reduce her weight so she could wrestle at 143 pounds. A better diet also was important.

“The first couple of weeks were really hard,” Aggio said. “I just had to pick myself up. I needed to be more positive.”

The leaner Aggio regained the determination to improve each practice. “Everybody pushes each other. It’s just a battle every day in the room,’ Aggio said.

Despite the improved conditioning and renewed effort, Aggio’s match results remained uneven early in the season.

A turning point came late in the season, when Aggio defeated teammate and three-time All-American Stephanie Geltmacher in a practice match. “I regained that focus,” she said.

Going into the national championships, Aggio is faster, tougher and again competing with confidence. “I feel like I have a lot more muscle. I feel a lot stronger,” she said.

Combine her fitness with another year of honing skills and Aggio is a formidable foe.

“She’s really physically strong,” Randall said. “She’s a real hard worker at practice. Her technique has improved a bunch. She’s developed more offense on her feet.”

A top-eight finish at the national championships and a second consecutive All-American honor would set up Aggio to compete for a spot on Team USA at the junior worlds and Pan American Games.

“I always have to have those goals,” she said. “I realize that. I learned a lot this year.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

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