Students at Fresno State have been making moves in wrestling — and it has nothing to do with last week’s announcement by athletic director Jim Bartko to reinstate the program.
No, it’s not NCAA Division I, but the Fresno State Wrestling Club won the California state championship in its first year competing in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association.
Hosting the event at the South Gym, Fresno State produced six state champion wrestlers as the club took the state title with 158.5 points on Feb. 14. UCLA’s club team was second with 101.5 and USC had 88 for third place.
Brandon Rodrigues of Clovis (125 pounds), Davit Gevorgyan of Fresno (157), Madera’s Mason Temple (165), Cameron MacLeod of Stockton (184), Jesus Izazaga of Hilmar (197) and Jesus Mares-Lopez of Sanger (285) each clinched individual titles for Fresno State.
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Last Saturday, the team competed at the West Coast Conference finals in Phoenix, and had four wrestlers qualify for the NCWA National Championships on March 12-14 in Allen, Texas.
Izazaga, Mares-Lopez and Jose Maldonado (235) all placed second at the conference championships to qualify for nationals. Temple finished fourth but still qualified as one of five wild cards selected by the conference commissioner.
The club’s only woman wrestler — 20-year-old Rosanna Aguilar, a two-time Central Section girls wrestling champion (121 pounds) at Edison High — automatically qualified for nationals and didn’t compete at the state or conference championships.
The wrestling club is part of the university’s club sports program that includes men’s volleyball, men’s soccer, bowling and men’s and women’s rugby.
It was created by students for students, with the purpose of continuing to pursue their passion for the sport on campus.
“Our intentions were to promote wrestling at Fresno State,” club president Adam Wong said.
The club was founded last year by Wong and fellow students Jovany Gonzalez and Daniel Avalos. The three did some recruiting and the club is up to 17 wrestlers, most of whom have previous experience on the mat at the high school or junior college level.
Temple, a 19-year-old sophomore who took the state title over UCLA’s Gabe Urreola, had thought his wrestling days were over after graduating from Liberty-Madera Ranchos in 2013.
“When I heard about it, a spark was rekindled and that caused me to come back,” Temple said. “The more we started wrestling and going to tournaments, the competitive spirit in me grew more and more.”
It’s not easy being a club sport, though.
The club receives all of its funds through club dues ($150 per year, $85 per semester or $25 per month) and the university’s student body fund. But most of that money has been spent on hosting the state championships and renting out a practice room at Hoover High School three nights a week.
The club practices off campus due to liability and insurance-related issues at Fresno State.
Fresno State allowed the club to host the NCWA state championships on campus, but even then Wong tapped contacts at McLane High and West Hills College to borrow equipment for the tournament.
The club also doesn’t have a coach, but is considered student-coached or, as Wong put it: “YouTube-coached.”
Nonetheless, that doesn’t stop the members from wanting to wrestle.
Said Wong: “We’re here so students like us can continue doing what their passionate about.”