Shayla Bautista always envisioned herself as a collegiate athlete. The Righetti senior figured she'd be playing softball at a university.
On Wednesday, Bautista's vision became a reality, as she signed her national letter of intent to become a student-athlete at the next level. However, she won't be playing softball at Waldorf University next school year. She'll be wrestling.
In front of a large crowd of Bautista's former coaches, friends and family members, Bautista signed to wrestle for Waldorf, a private school located in Forest City, Iowa.
"I was initially getting recruited for softball," Bautista said. "Then a past teammate came to me and asked, 'Do you want to wrestle in college?' I thought it was a good backup option, but then Waldorf's coach contacted me and started watching my matches online and he talked to me throughout the season. I finally took a tour out there and I realized that was the place I wanted to go."
During Wednesday's ceremony inside the Righetti cafeteria, Bautista soaked the moment in, a moment she had been working toward for a long time.
"I've been waiting for this moment for my whole high school career," she said. "I've missed so much of high school just for recruiting and everything. For this moment to finally come and pay off I'm actually really excited. It's a little bittersweet but I'm mostly excited."
Bautista played softball as a young child before she picked up wrestling during her sophomore year at Righetti. She had a standout career, winning league titles and eventually qualifying for the CIF State Championships.
Bautista knows she'll have to improve her all-around game to compete at the college level, facing other scholarship wrestlers.
"There's a lot I have to work on. There are a lot of girls out there who started wrestling when they were little," Bautista said. "I barely started my sophomore year. There's way more I can improve on, but I think I can hang."
Righetti's longtime wrestling coach Dutch Van Patten pitched in with Bautista's training, as did Quianna Cater, who is in her first year leading the girls program on her own. But Bautista's father James played a role in preparing Shayla to transition from softball into wrestling.
James Bautista was thankful athletic director Kevin Barbarick organized such an event to honor his daughter's achievement.
"I'm pretty overwhelmed," James said. "I thought we were just going to come here and sign a few papers, but our athletic director went full throttle and wanted to recognize her. I'm very proud of her. She's had a lot of hurdles. She just kept pushing through and she got to where she wanted. She wanted to be a collegiate athlete."
But Shayla Bautista isn't just intent on performing well on the wrestling mat at Waldorf. She will study History as a pre-law major in hopes of becoming a lawyer. Her motivation to practice law comes from her childhood. Bautista says she dealt with bullies and other issues while growing up and hopes to be able to help those who need it.
"I was bullied a lot when I was little," Bautista said. "From teammates to even coaches and parents in the sports I played. That made me have a soft spot for kids and I just hate seeing kids get hurt or negatively influenced."