Ethan Aguigui competing for Guam (Photo courtesy of Ethan Aguigui)
If you are immersed in the world of Wrestling Twitter, you have probably seen the name Ethan Aguigui. But who is this man and how did he get to Blacksburg, Virginia, from the beautiful island of Guam?
Ethan was born and raised in Guam and came from a very tight-knit family. "My family always pushed the importance of education, so going to college was expected." Aguigui looked at the University of Hawaii and several schools on the west coast but ultimately ended up at the University of Michigan. "The west coast schools and Hawaii are a lot more culturally similar to growing up in Guam, but Michigan is a great school and was an opportunity I couldn't pass up." In Ann Arbor, he studied English and Communications and wrestled for the UM Club Wrestling team. "I had never wrestled folkstyle before, so it was pretty eye-opening. Folkstyle is tiring! I grew up just wrestling freestyle, so it was an adjustment for sure." After graduating, he stayed on with the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club and trained while representing Guam on the world stage.
Aguigui had hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio; he was unable to qualify through his Continental, so he made the trip to Mongolia for the Last Chance Qualifier. Though he didn't qualify for Rio, this tournament would be life-changing in another way. Here he met Frank Molinaro and his coach with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, Cody Sanderson. "We met in the sauna in Mongolia when we were both making our final weight cut, but I didn't think much about it after the tournament," said Molinaro. After Rio, Molinaro was an Assistant Coach at Penn State when he ran into Aguigui taking a tour of the wrestling facilities. The two realized where they had met previously and Molinaro invited him to train at the NLWC. "I immediately saw how hard of a worker he was and knew that it could benefit the program to keep him around." He trained in State College for 10 months, and when Molinaro was hired by Tony Robie to join the staff at Virginia Tech in 2017, Molinaro asked him to make the move to Blacksburg as well.
Aguigui started in Blacksburg during the beginning of Tony Robie's head coaching tenure and has been a big part of the growth of the SERTC. "The whole time I was in Blacksburg, Ethan lived with us; he was just another part of the family. He is an amazing person and it has been great to see his growth both on the mat and professionally," said Molinaro. Aguigui plays many roles within the RTC in addition to training and recently has helped manage the online and social media profile of VT Wrestling. "We've seen the importance of social media and how it gets more eyes on the programâ€¦.we are proud that we are consistently near the top in social engagement". Across social platforms, the Hokie's social media is regularly in the top 10 of all programs in engagement on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Ethan Aguigui (Photo courtesy of UWW)
Aguigui continues to train and compete for Guam. He won the Oceania Championships in 2018 at 65kg and again in 2019 at 61kg. He was a favorite to qualify for the Tokyo Games in the Africa and Oceania Olympic Qualifier, but was derailed by an injury. "Watching that from the stands was difficult, to see someone else getting your dream. But I don't stay mad; I repurpose it for motivation." Aguigui contemplated ending his competitive career after the Tokyo Olympics, but hasn't made a firm decision yet. "I thought about leaving my shoes out on the mat, but since it is a shorter time until the next games, I think I'll give it a try." His days at 57kg might be at an end--Aguigui is a 'tweener and competes in non-Olympic years at 61kg. "I'm going to listen to my body and that is going to tell me what I'll do for the next few years."
The NJRTC/SERTC team at the RTC Cup; (Aguigui far right) (Photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
There is no shortage of talent in the SERTC room to help push him to the next level. Aguigui speaks very highly of the work ethic and overall demeanor of the resident-athletes in Blacksburg-James Green, Ty Walz, Jenna Burkert, and Nahshon Garrett, as well as the VT wrestlers who compete for the RTC in freestyle and Greco--including Bryce Andonian, who just won a Bronze at the Junior World Championships. "We are set up for a lot of success in both programs and I'm grateful and excited that I get the chance to be a part of it." Both the SERTC and VT programs have the feel of a very close family, and that is a big part of their current success. "I'm beyond thankful for how Coach Robie, the staff, and the team welcomed me to Blacksburg. They have made me feel like family since the day I got here."