Rayana Vigil, a soon-to-be Homer High School graduate and Alaska state champion wrestler, has committed to wrestling at Southern Oregon University in the fall.
Vigil was the state champion for girls wrestling at 189 this year. She also has two state championship titles under her belt from the years she spent wrestling at the high school level in New Mexico before moving to Alaska with her grandparents for her senior year.
Vigil ended her season with a 16-0 record. Although her graduation will not happen in person this year due to all school activities being suspended for the rest of the academic year, she’s looking forward to continuing her wrestling career at the collegiate level with the Raiders.
Before wrestling, Vigil practiced martial arts for nine years while living in New Mexico. That’s part of what led her to wrestling.
“Everything about contact sports … really interested me,” she said.
Vigil said she had some family difficulties in New Mexico, and that wrestling provided her with a kind of getaway.
“I had to step up and decide what was a good choice for me and my future, especially with my last year of high school,” she said.
Switching from wrestling boys in New Mexico to wrestling girls in Alaska was a challenge, as was adjusting to her new home, Vigil said. The Homer High School wrestling team made that a little easier, though. Vigil described the team as welcoming and kind.
“It meant a lot, actually,” she said of wrestling her last year of high school in Homer. “I wrestled with an amazing team. I felt just at home when I met everybody and the coaches.”
Vigil said she was able to feel comfortable with the team and in Homer, and that comfort and familiarity played into her decision to attend Southern Oregon University. She has a great-grandmother who lives in Oregon.
Another major factor in Vigil’s decision was finding the best school to further her academic education, she said. Right now, Vigil plans to pursue a degree in business. She’s not sure exactly what she’ll do with it, but she can’t envision a future without wrestling. When her time to be on the mat is over, she sees herself on the sidelines as a coach or in some other supporting role.
Vigil said Southern Oregon has a good program and that she noticed the team has recruited other strong wrestlers. She’s excited to have teammates who will push her and who she can learn from.
Coaching is another factor Vigil took into consideration. The relationship one has with a coach is important, and Vigil said she and Raiders women’s coach Joel Gibson connected really well while colleges were scouting her. Vigil said it’s important to her to grow in the sport, and she felt Gibson is trying to take the team beyond where it is now.
Vigil describes wrestling as a sport that helped her become a better person.
“I like to work hard,” she said. “I like to push myself.”
For as much as she loves the sport itself, Vigil said wrestling has given a lot back to her in the ways it has helped her grow. Eventually, she’d like to be a leader and role model to younger girls and boys.
“I just like kicking butt,” she said.
As for continuing in college? Vigil is excited to learn, and to get even better.
“I like to learn new things all the time and I feel like … I guess I’m still truing to find that feeling,” she said. “I just want to get better on the mat. … I’ve met great coaches in my life and I feel like they’d be very proud of me where I’m at now, but I want to keep moving it and growing it and growing myself.”
Vigil said she was able to improve herself as a wrestler this past year with Homer High School.
“I was able to really push myself this season, and be even a better wrestler than I was last year,” she said.