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Lorenzo Captures Inaugural “Mr. Cougar” Pageant Title
Escalon senior Nikolai Lorenzo reacts with delight as his name is announced as the winner of the inaugural Mr. Cougar Pageant, staged at Escalon High School on Thursday, March 9. He is flanked by fellow contestants Ryker Peters, left, and Luke Oliver. Marg Jackson/The Times

It was the first but, based on the reception and the participation, it won’t be the last.

Ten Escalon High School senior boys entered the competition in hopes of earning the title of “Mr. Cougar” and the pageant was staged in the high school’s Performing Arts Center on Thursday evening, March 9.

Hopefuls were, in alphabetical order, Logan Anderson, Hunter Budd, Wesley Keane, Nikolai Lorenzo, Sawyer Mello, Andrew Morales, Luke Oliver, Ryker Peters, Zachary Velazquez and Ayden Wilson.

When the dust had settled, it was Nikolai Lorenzo who was presented with the title, sash, bouquet of flowers, plaque and crown as the first ever Mr. Cougar.

“It feels pretty good, honestly, I didn’t expect this outcome and I was rooting for the other guys,” admitted Lorenzo. “This was really fun; I was actually thinking of not doing this but I signed up for it and then I thought I didn’t really want to do it but then it was, like, it’ll be a lot of fun.”

He lists being in the San Joaquin County Honor Band as among his most memorable events of his senior year.

“Music is one of the things I really love; it makes me so euphoric,” Lorenzo explained.

The senior said he feels that it was his talent – playing the piano – that may have provided his margin of victory and swayed the judges, while he feels he also did well in the impromptu interview question. He was dealt a question on garden gnomes and worked in their importance to the human psyche in his on-the-spot response.

Like many pageants, Lorenzo said there was a bond that developed between those taking part.

“It was pretty cool, backstage we were all messing around, joking around, it was really cool,” he said.

Along with the coveted Mr. Cougar title, Lorenzo also received honors as Mr. GPA.

Other participants taking home awards were: Wesley Keane, Mr. Congeniality; Ayden Wilson, Mr. Photogenic; Logan Anderson, Mr. People’s Choice.

Event coordinator was Makayla Wentzell; she and Madison Smith welcomed the crowd. Smith serves as president of the EHS First Responders Leadership team; proceeds from the pageant went to the First Responders program on campus.

Serving as emcees for the night were EHS senior Analise Silveira and junior Darrius Higby, the duo keeping up a steady flow of witty banter in between introducing the various acts for the contestants.

Judges were Escalon Mayor Dave Bellinger, EHS Counselor Geonna Peterson; EHS staff member Ilda Medina and EHS Principal Jason Furtado.

First up, the contestants modeled beach wear and engaged in a lip sync battle to ‘Party in the USA” and then modeled rodeo wear. There was a talent portion – everything from a Rubik’s cube time challenge from Sawyer Mello to a ballet attempt by Ryker Peters. Zachary Velazquez, meanwhile, served up a tasty dessert treat he made to the judges and Andrew Morales did his best lip sync act to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.

The formal wear portion of the evening also saw each contestant have to answer an impromptu question, many of the answers bringing laughs from the crowd filling the auditorium.

In between the various competitive events, several students came on to perform, with guitar playing and singing presented for the audience.

Then, it was time for judges to debate and tally up the score sheets with the various honorees receiving specially made plaques as a keepsake.

Wentzell said the pageant was well received and she anticipates the school hosting a Mr. Cougar 2024 pageant next year.