By SIMONE YU
Squatting down with her hands out, a powerful and vigorous expression unravels from her face. The whistle pierces the air, and in one quick motion, the opponent is down to the floor with a groan. With her unrelenting skill and determination, there is no wrestler in town that can get in senior Melanie Aguilar’s way.
From watching wrestling shows when she was young, confronting and overcoming dreadful difficulties in her wrestling life and managing the struggle of being a star student-athlete, Aguilar recently hit a record in Wilson history, being the first girl to win California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) championships for her wrestling team.
With years of training and a strong mindset for all of high school, Aguilar finally reached the dream she had hoped of achieving since she was young.
“Since the end of freshman year, [It had been] my number one goal to qualify for state championships. After three years of long practices, tears, blood and sweat in the wrestling room and gym, not to mention the countless tournaments, I finally made it past the blood round in masters and placed fifth in one of the hardest divisions of the tournament for state qualifiers. I remember running to my dad—who was also my coach—and sobbing because I had finally achieved one of the biggest goals I have had for a long time,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar’s endless love for the sport began when she was just seven years old.
“My uncles were always watching wrestling shows back then, such as Smack Down and [Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)]. Curiously, I watched right along with them, and as a result, my uncles would play wrestle me because of my [increasing interest] in the sport. They were twelve and fourteen, trying this on a seven year old! To me, it was tough love [wrapped with good intentions], which brought me closer to this brilliant sport,” Aguilar said.
As Aguilar moved into high school, an unexpected change pushed her to join Wilson’s wrestling team, where her passion for the sport grew even more.
“I started wrestling [during] my freshman year and never looked back after that. One of the coaches persuaded me to [join] the Wilson wrestling team after I was suddenly moved back to Hacienda Heights from my originally planned school, Northview [High School]. I decided to go to a couple of practices and stuck with it! At my first CIF game, I [unfortunately] lost all of my matches, but it just served as my motivation to do better the next year,” Aguilar said.
Along with setbacks, Aguilar’s father also serves as a strong motivation for her successes.
“My dad is always working hard and trying his best to help me out, even though he has never wrestled in his life. It that really inspires me to do my best because it shows me that [despite no knowledge about wrestling, my dad still effectively trains me for me matches, so I know he must really care for me.] So I wrestle to my best ability in every match, just for him,” Aguilar said.
According to Aguilar, there are many reasons why she loves the hardy sport.
“If it were my junior year, I would say that winning and placing in tournaments was my favorite part of wrestling, because it was a great feeling to place high and [bathe in the glory.] It was also incredibly fun surprising people in the wrestling world who underestimated me during the match, due to my smaller figure. Despite all this joy packed in my junior year, now looking into my senior year, I would now like to say that my favorite part of this amazing sport is being a part of an actual team. It also feels great to mentor younger wrestlers,” Aguilar said.
Despite her many successes in the sport, Aguilar encountered many obstacles that proved to crack her determination at times.
“Like most people, I struggled with many problems balancing my sport [with my academics and personal life]. I battled mainly with [my] work ethic, commitment and time management. Around my sophomore year, I [overestimated my wrestling capabilities] and paused my relentless practices. As a result, I had a severe asthma attack in the middle of my last CIF match. Not only did my strength drop, but my grades as well, due to the amount of time I needed to practice again,” Aguilar said.
Realizing and learning from her mistake, the resilient Aguilar jumped back into the game in no time.
“After this drastic period of time in my sophomore year, I realized that I needed to commit to my practices all the way and never get lazy. I also forced myself to find time for my academics no matter what. Fortunately, because of my hard work, my junior year was much easier and still gave me enough time to practice for my sport. [At the end of junior year], I was ranked [eleventh out of] one-hundred seventy pounders for women in Southern California,” Aguilar said.
In order to set her standards high and strengthen her skills, Aguilar focuses on her mental strength rather than physical strength during her practices.
“During my practices, I always [remind myself] to keep an open mind. I tell my partners to check me whenever I mess up during drills and ask my coaches what [I could] have done better so I can always find something to improve on and get rid of. A bit of an open mind can go a long way. During a match, I always [overestimate my opponents] so I can find the strength to [bring the strongest part of myself out,]” Aguilar said.
In the future, Aguilar has two different set career plans she loves and hopes to flourish in.
“I’m very interested in studying psychology so I can help people with addictions, their problems, just get them back onto their feet.. I have a few friends that went down a wrong path, and although most of them got out of those paths, it did not end well for few. It hurts to see someone you care about go through that, so I want to help others who need it. However, If I were to continue on the wrestling path, I would really excited about moving on to actual mixed martial arts and start practicing for UFC. It may be extremely difficult but I’m willing to take the challenge,” Aguilar said.
To support her careers, Aguilar hopes to attend a good school.
“My dream school at the moment is probably Ottawa University or Missouri Baptist University. They both have spectacular wrestling programs, and Ottawa University has a brilliant psychology program. However, I [am also willing] to attend Mt. [San Antonio College] (SAC) and join their wrestling program since it’s one of the greatest for community colleges,” Aguilar said.
Being the brilliant, resilient and humble young star she is today, Melanie Aguilar is the champion to cheer for in a future UFC game.