She was invited to participate in three wrestling tournaments over an eight-day stint in Fargo, where she placed seventh in the Cadet Women’s National Tournament (115 pounds) and posted a 2-2 record in the Junior National Tournament (112 pounds). In the Junior Women Dual Tournament, California’s delegation spilt the national championship between two teams.
“It was pretty cool,” Aguayo said. “It was the first time I’ve seen so many fellow female wrestlers. I like being an independent person, so other than the weather, being out of town and out of state felt cool for me. I didn’t feel nervous competing against different people.”
Getting the funding for that trip was an accomplishment in itself. Aguayo got the invitation on July 4, but had only one week to raise the $1,500 needed. Thanks to donations from Brian Swisher (father of teammate Brad Swisher), Heritage head coach Mark Barnes and Delta Wrestling, the money materialized. While in Fargo, Aguayo was coached by 2008 Olympian Marcie Van Dusen, among others.
Apart from being a female in a sport almost exclusively occupied by boys, what makes Aguayo’s achievements so unique is that she didn’t begin wrestling until her sophomore year. Her previous experience was in jujitsu.
“I met her one of the first days (of wresting practice),” said Tony Uchytil, former head coach of the Heritage wrestling team. “I knew she had a jujitsu background. She understood a lot more than most first-year kids.”
During the regular season, Aguayo wrestled mostly against boys – with mixed results. But when postseason began, she began wrestling against other girls – and excelled. She placed third at the North Coast Section Tournament at 108 pounds, qualifying her for California’s state championship meet. There, she fell one win short of placing.
Aguayo admits she underwent an initial period of awkwardness as the only girl on the Heritage wrestling team, but she didn’t let it prevent her from advancing in the sport. “I’m used to working with men from jujitsu,” she said. “I wasn’t nervous about what they’d think, but I guess I was wary of it. At first it was awkward because I’m a quiet person. There was a cold shoulder for the first few weeks, but after that they warmed up and I warmed up. They’re really great guys.”
Since Aguayo started jujitsu when she was 8 and has been at it constantly since age 12, she plans to pursue the sport for the rest of her life. Wrestling, on the other hand, holds the promise of at least a partial scholarship and the chance of qualifying for an Olympic team. Whether that’s achieved or not, she wants to be sure that girls who come after her learn from what she’s already done.
“For some other girls out there, you shouldn’t care what other people are going to think about you,” Aguayo said. “I know they say things. I know they look at you funny. But who cares? When you look back, all that matters is that you’re going to be proud of what you accomplished.”