PORTLAND - Wrestling veterans are jealous of Luke Aguilar.
In his first season, the Enterprise High School freshman qualified for the state wrestling championship meet. The first day, Feb. 27 at Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Aguilar had gone through a typical underclassman's experience. He was one of six freshmen finished after two matches. Another four freshmen - including Aguilar's teammate Brock Hayes - avoided early losses by beating another freshman. For a rookie, the show can be overwhelming.
"It was kinda scary," Aguilar said. "I tried to think it was another tournament."
The Enterprise teammates had already enjoyed success. The previous week at the district championships in Halfway, Aguilar clinched a spot the state meet by pinning Imbler High's Zach Howell in the first minute of their semifinal in the 103-pound weight class. Meanwhile, Hayes (119) pinned Crane's Dan O'Crowley in a semi and outscored Wallowa's Forrest Cox in an extra match. A week later at the state tournament, Hayes dramatically erased a 7-1 deficit in the third period against Culver's Ryan Kasch and pinned him.
Unlike Hayes, who had wrestled since the age of six, Aguilar was new to the sport. Learning was difficult. The team lacked anybody his size. His partner during practice, fellow freshman Dustin Denton (135), was cautious. Still, Aguilar nursed an injured left shoulder. It kept him out of the first half of the season as he rushed his recovery.
"I wanted to try something new," Aguilar said. "I watched wrestling. Compared to other sports, it looked like fun. And this team is so close. Everybody pulls for each other. We want to help each other. That was huge. The team helped me get through this season. They kept cheering me on."
Practices proved challenging. Before Aguilar could perform the flashy moves he liked - such as the Granby, in which a wrestler flips to make an escape - he had to understand the fundamentals. For weeks, he rehearsed takedowns, studied hip positioning and learned ways to maintain his balance. Eventually, he conditioned himself for the tough sport. Battling Kody White of Knappa High at the state tourney, Aguilar sensed his opponent was quickly gasping for air. However, White eventually used his strength and out-muscled him.
Most of the season, opponents out-sized Aguilar. While the majority of wrestlers diet and labor to lose weight, he took the alternate route. Starting in the fall at 98 pounds, Aguilar needed to add some mass in order to make his weight class. "I started overeating," Aguilar recalled. "Then after the Superbowl, I was 105. I was like, 'Uh oh. Now, I've got to start cutting.'"
Yet, weight was little concern for the freshman at the state meet.