Joseph Castro used his 100th day of gainful employment as president of Fresno State to say wrestling was coming back.
Eight-hundred sunrises later, we still see no wrestling team, or 120-pound head coach in gray cotton, or a roster full of cauliflower ears.
So we took up Castro’s offer to go takedowns over the idea of Fresno State wrestling in his glassed office the other day, fully expecting to find the seat of his singlet to be on five-alarm fire when we bounced in the room.
Only, there wasn’t a mat rolled out on the floor, or a wooden nose growing on his smiling mug.
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Just a Hanford kid just now learning the world of sports is dazzlingly different than his wheelhouse of academia.
On my 100th day in office, I announced my interest in bringing (wrestling) back. But it turns out to be a lot harder than just saying, ‘Let’s bring it back.’
Fresno State President Joseph Castro
“On my 100th day in office, I announced my interest in bringing (wrestling) back,” said Castro as he went for the double-leg takedown. “But it turns out to be a lot harder than just saying, ‘Let’s bring it back.’ ”
“You think?” I thought while sprawling into a neutral stalemate. Of course it’s easier to wish upon a star than to align the stars necessary to run a college athletics program.
“So we needed to go through a process to make sure that, when it did come back, we were going to be able to do it the right way,” said Castro, grunting through a fireman’s carry as we crashed into the diploma wall.
“But that’s just another word for stalling,” I thought as he called time to re-knot his laces, all while deftly pulling loose the laces on his other foot for his next timeout. “How hard is it to find a head coach, 10 guys without ring worm and a circle mat? We could throw the Buchanan High starters out there as is and take fourth in the Pac-12.”
Ah, but this dual meet has nothing to do with wrestling, does it?
Castro has built up 800 days of riding time waiting for wrestling to find a necessary workout partner. That’s the real holdup, we find between periods.
Fresno State announced in August 2006 it was cutting wrestling.
Wrestling has always had the community support to undo the sickle work of exiled Athletic Director Thomas Boeh. And by community, we mean the Zinkin Estate, and by support, we mean the PIN number to their gold card.
The recruiting base is local. The fan support is rabid. Every college assistant coach and their crazy Uncle Al wants to build their own program from the Valley floor up.
Bring back wrestling? Wrestling can bring itself back, and Castro knows it. Except, as Castro said between leg shots and ankle picks, it’s harder than that.
A second sport has to piggy-back wrestling back from the deep. In this case, it’s women’s water polo – and as far as startups go, water polo of any gender doesn’t sell much in these parts.
“We also knew, because of very important Title IX regulations, that we would need to add another sport along with it,” said Castro, trying to bail out of an under hook. “So we went through a process of selecting what that sport would be, so that’s taken a little time to do that.”
It does take a little time to do these things, especially in this complex world that we live in of regulations and from a financial standpoint.
Fresno State President Joseph Castro
“It does take a little time to do these things, especially in this complex world that we live in of regulations and from a financial standpoint,” said Castro, fighting off a cement mixer. “With water polo, we’re hoping some more folks will step up, but we’re ready to cover what isn’t from the community.”
Women’s water polo has no Bank of Zinkin to pay the utilities. Women’s water polo has no raspy-voiced Dennis DeLiddo organizing protest riots at every Rotary Club meeting.
Castro wasn’t wrong to bring back wrestling. He was just wrong to say he would before he knew what it would take to cover the scholarship check his mouth wrote. You can announce timeless plans in academia, where time is measured by hour hands on ivory towers. In sports, time between announcements and actualization is measured by stopwatches and Twitter refreshes. We want wrestling back, so how does yesterday work for you?
Castro is still learning his different time zones, but hey, at least he’s learning. The only time his predecessor got involved in athletics was to fix a problem, which only created bigger problems.
So, we’ll grant Castro an escape on this one, trusting he’ll announce that coaching search this week or month. We’ll give him bonus points for petitioning the Big 12 Conference for admission when wrestling does come back.
And hey, wrestling fans. If you want wrestling back sooner than later, think about cutting a check made out to WOMEN’S WATER POLO. The sooner their bill of lading gets covered, the sooner Castro can be good on his word.