Nic Aguilar knows what it’s like to have a state championship within his grasp—literally—only to have it slip away. In last year’s 113-pound title match in the CIF State Championships, Aguilar had Jesse Vasquez of St. John Bosco’s on his back only to run out of time, resulting in an excruciating 6-5 loss.
A three-time Monterey Bay League and Central Coast Section champion and two-time state finalist, Aguilar doesn’t plan on being denied again. The Gilroy High senior has flat-out dominated most of his opponents this season, having suffered just two losses—both to nationally-ranked wrestlers.
Aguilar lost in the finals of the Doc Buchanan Tournament and placed third in last week’s tournament at Temecula Valley High. Other than that, Aguilar has been on a mission to improve his skills and make sure he closes out his high school career with a state championship in Bakersfield in March.
Last year’s state title loss, while tough, made Aguilar examine every aspect of his skill set and mental game.
“That loss showed me what I needed to work on and improve on so I can dominate more,” said Aguilar, who has a scholarship to wrestle at Rutgers University. “I need to work on things like my game plan and getting the offense going more. The focus is wrestling without fear, pushing the pace and getting ready for college matches.”
Aguilar’s focus, determination and work ethic has always been evident, and he prides himself on being mentally tough. Aguilar is not planning on experiencing heartbreak again in the state championships.
“It was a tough match. I turned him at the very end, and it looked like I had a pin, but the ref didn’t call it,” he said. “There was a lot of emotions, the crowd is screaming and I’m thinking I’m about to win. You feel like you have the state title and it slips out of your fingers. It’s kind of humbling, to be honest. All the hard work I put in to take second humbles me.”
Aguilar didn’t take any time off after the state tournament final loss. Rather, he started an off-season strength-training program to add muscle in preparation for college wrestling, where the lowest weight class at the Division I level is 125 pounds.
“I was also focused on getting that state title,” he said.
Aguilar tries to accumulate takedowns in the first period, setting him up for success when he’s on top position, where he’ll often turn his opponents. Aguilar is adept at scoring points in a variety of ways. One of Aguilar’s biggest wins of his career came in last year’s CIF State Championships, when he edged top seed Matthew Olguin of Buchanan 1-0 in the semifinals.
It was sweet redemption for Aguilar, who lost to Olguin in the 2016 state championship match.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, Aguilar will be in the thick of things to compete for another state championship. At the top level, Aguilar knows it’s not about the physical aspect of the sport; it’s about the mental game.
“I push myself as hard as I can past breaking points,” he said. “It’s going to come down to how hard I’ve worked throughout the year. Toward the end of the season, when it’s CCS and state time, the sport can play on your emotions. Mentally and physically you’re tired, and it comes down to how mentally tough you are. Those are the times when you get tested, and those are the times you have to push through. I’ve had to get comfortable doing the uncomfortable.”
Growing up, Aguilar played baseball, football, soccer and tae kwon do. He only got into wrestling upon the suggestion of his dad, Damien.
“I started off as a wrestling training partner for one of my dad’s friends,” Aguilar said. “I came in, felt the sport out and started catching on pretty quick.”
Aguilar credits his parents for being great influences in his life.
“My dad has stuck by my side through everything, and he was always there to push me and find certain ways so I could improve,” he said. “And my mom (Bonny) is at every match with a camcorder screaming as loud as she can.”