Hard work, determination and early success has Angel Vega completing his first season as a Dragon in a way that is familiar to him.
Vega qualified for the NCAA Championships that were held March 8-9 in Birmingham, Ala. Vega placed fourth in his weight class at 141 pounds. The top four in each weight class qualify for the championships.
Vega finished his first season for the Dragons after wrestling at Sacramento Community College in California. Vega achieved success early in the season when he wrestled at the South Dakota State University open and pushed Division I wrestlers in each of his matches.
“He turned a lot of heads (at the SDSU open), a lot of people asked where he came from,” said head coach Kris Nelson.
After the SDSU Open, Vega and the Dragons wrestled in the Bison Open where he placed third.
“I knew (after the Bison Open) I could achieve what I wanted to do … I could hang with some of the Division I wrestlers,” Vega said.
Vega built after his early season success and worked hard throughout the season both on and off the mat. Nelson credits Vega’s work ethic and staying healthy to achieving his success this season.
“He was pretty consistent throughout the whole year,” Nelson said.
Vega went into the regional tournament unseeded but ended in fourth after beating both the fourth and fifth seeds in his weight class.
“(The regional tournament) was pretty crazy … we wrestle in one of the toughest regions in the country,” Vega said.
Vega then traveled to Birmingham, Ala., to compete at the NCAA Division II Championships where he finished with a 0-2 record.
In his first match, Vega wrestled Maurice Miller of Notre Dame of Ohio losing by major decision, 12-3.
After losing his first match, Vega fell into the consolation bracket where he wrestled Dave Cawley of the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown losing by decision 8-0.
“I didn’t have the results I wanted but I did gain a lot of experience,” Vega said.
“(Qualifying for the national tournament) will make him better for next season,” Nelson said.
Vega achieved one of his goals he set for his season by qualifying for the national tournament, earning something he hadn’t accomplished before in his wrestling career.
“I had never qualified for the state tournament in California,” Vega said.
Vega is already looking forward to next season as he is planning on wrestling in tournaments in both Las Vegas and Iowa before this summer. Vega said that is important to not take a lot of time off and to stay in shape for his senior season.
“He (Vega) leads by example and its great for younger wrestlers to see,” Nelson said.
Vega credits the coaching staff for pushing him throughout the season and for telling him that he needs to wrestle his match and not his oppenents match.
“(The coaching staff) tell us that we need to wrestle a full seven minutes and that we need to stay on the offensive when we wrestle,” Vega said.
Nelson said that by wrestling a full collegiate season Vega now knows what it will take to achieve all of his goals and to become an All-American.
Off the mat, Vega is working on achieving degrees in both physical education and health and his D.A.P.E. license, which is Developmental Adapted Physical Education.
Leading the way for the Dragons with 25 wins, Vega is building on his success and is looking forward to achieving the goals he has set for himself.
“We’re looking forward to having him back next season and seeing what he can do,” Nelson said.
With a successful first season, Vega will look to build on his experience and hard work to finish his collegiate career strong and as a national champion.
BY BREANN LENZMEIER