Mikayla Vega made history this weekend.
The four-time State Meet qualifier became the first Escalon High School wrestler to make it to the finals of the state meet since 1981. She ended her weekend in Bakersfield with a second place medal, taking home runner-up honors in the 111-pound category in girls wrestling.
“It wrapped up the most successful career ever for an Escalon High School wrestler, boy or girl,” head wrestling coach Derek Scott said.
Vega, a senior, battled her way to the final round, earning her highest finish ever at the state level. She and fellow Lady Cougar Julia Casillas, at 121 pounds, were Escalon’s two wrestling representatives to the State Meet.
Scott and assistant coach Erica Lopez accompanied the girls to the tournament, at Rabobank Arena.
Casillas, a junior, had a tough go for her first time at state, compiling a record of 0-2.
Both wrestlers qualified for state by placing second in their weight classes at the Masters Meet earlier this month.
“I think, especially for the state meet, it’s hard the first time you go because of the nerves,” Scott said, adding that Casillas is capable of returning to the state stage next year.
For Vega, she went 4-1 at the state competition and fell in the finale to the same girl she lost to at Masters, the top ranked female wrestler in the state in the 111-pound weight class, a competitor from Orland.
But her road to the finals was an exciting one, said Scott, especially the quarterfinal match.
“The girl she was wrestling had a bad style for Mikayla (to go against),” Scott explained of the quarterfinal match. “She was behind 2-1 when she took her opponent down and pinned her.”
In the semifinals, there was more drama.
“The girl she was facing had beaten her badly during the summer, she was from the Southern Section,” Scott said.
Prior to the match, the coaches and wrestler developed a game plan.
“I told her that if she got ahead early, the girl would start panicking,” Scott said.
That’s just what Vega did, surprising her opponent and rolling to a 4-1 advantage, then getting the win via pin late in the second round.
The final was a repeat of the Masters finale, with Vega falling to the Orland wrestler, losing by pin.
“We were a little too conservative,” Scott admitted.
Still, getting to step on the podium and bring home a second place medal was a special moment for Vega and her coaches.
“She was our first finalist in 38 years, the first time that I as a coach here at Escalon had been to the finals, it was a really cool experience,” said Scott. “Mikayla was a four-time state qualifier, a two time state placer … she was fun to coach and she had a great career.”