The biggest matches bring out the best in Kayla Aggio who earned another All-America honor at the national women's wrestling championships.
Moving up a weight class proved a good move as the former Rancho Cotate great took second for Oklahoma City University at the Women's College Wrestling Association championships in St. Louis.
Aggio's strong finish to the collegiate season qualifies her for the world team trials and sets up a string of major national competitions.
"It was awesome. I'm just focusing in on what I need to do," Aggio said.
In a season that began with struggles to keep her weight in line and too many frustrating losses, Aggio rebounded with strong training and a renewed appreciation for the sport.
Rediscovering the work ethic that carried Aggio to All-American as an Oklahoma City freshman, the second-year college wrestler was at her best when results counted the most.
For the national championships Aggio competed in the 155-pound class, above 143 pounds where she wrestled much of the season. While giving up some size, Aggio relied on speed combined with improved strength and technique to win three matches, including a pair by pins. The final was close with Aggio losing points late following an aggressive move and settling for runner-up.
"I took a shot. I wanted to win," she said. "Every time I shut my eyes I picture the match."
While the loss stings, Aggio is feeling confident again in matches. Before the national championships Aggio had not competed since November because she needed to complete a class to regain eligibility.
"I was so excited when I got there. It just felt really good to finally get on the mat," she said. "I never doubted I could do it. I was kind of just nervous."
Known for wrestling hard for the duration of every match, Aggio has regained a certain determination that made her a four-time California Interscholastic Federation medalist, two-time All-Empire wrestler of the year, and now two-time college All-American.
"Mentally I'm getting better. There's still a lot of improvement I can have," she said.
Next for Aggio is a national open at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, in Colorado Springs, this weekend. Several major tournaments follow through spring, highlighted by the world team trails.
"Those are awesome tournaments," Aggio said. "I have to keep my mindset strong. I have to go out there and work hard."