Fresno State released new timelines for the restoration of wrestling and the addition of women’s water polo, with coaching searches officially launched Tuesday for teams that will start competing in the 2017-18 school year.
“Honestly, since Day One I got here, I probably had more tweets and texts on bringing wrestling back than anything else,” said athletic director Jim Bartko, who was hired in November 2014. “Water polo, same thing. It’s been a huge passion in the Valley.”
President Joseph I. Castro launched the drive to bring back wrestling when he asked the Athletics Department in fall 2013 to explore the idea. Financing and other issues, including the need to add a women’s sport to meet Title IX requirements, have forced the university to move cautiously.
“We have taken the time to adequately prepare for the new programs and to do the fundraising necessary for them to succeed,” Castro said. “It’s a bold move to add two new sports, but they will provide great opportunities for student-athletes at Fresno State and tremendous enjoyment by Bulldog fans throughout the Valley and beyond.”
The timeline, according to the university:
▪ March 2016: Head coaching positions posted
▪ April-June: Announce hirings of head coaches
▪ July: Hiring of assistant coaches
▪ Summer 2016: Recruitment of student-athletes begins
▪ November 2016: Early signing period; recruits can sign letters of intent to join Bulldog programs
▪ August 2017: New recruits arrive on campus
▪ Winter 2017-18: Wrestling program begins competition
▪ Spring 2018: Women’s water polo begins competition
Associate athletic director John Kriebs, a former college wrestling coach, will chair the wrestling search committee. Former Bulldogs wrestlers Nick Zinkin and John O’Brien also will be on the committee, as will be faculty representative Dawn Lewis.
Assistant athletic director Christina Roybal will chair the water polo search committee.
Fresno State raised roughly $1 million to bring back the sports, with university funds accounting for roughly a third of the financial startup, Bartko said.
The Zinkin family, which heads a prominent real estate development company in Fresno, also made a sizable contribution toward wrestling’s revival.
DeWayne Zinkin Sr., a real estate developer and attorney, had been a wrestling booster. Sons Dewayne Jr., Harold and Nick all were standout wrestlers for the Bulldogs.
“We needed to do it the right way,” Bartko added. “Make sure our current sports were taken care of. Make sure we had the funding in place to do it.
“The Zinkin family, honestly, if it wasn’t for their passion and their financial wherewithal to get this back, I don’t think we’d be here today. They never gave up.”
By the start of the program’s third year, Fresno State wrestling will operate with an annual budget of $950,000 and water polo at $646,000. Bartko added all money has been raised for the first three years of wrestling and 2 1/2 years of funding secured for water polo, so far.
Conference affiliations remain to be announced, likely either joining the Big 12 or Pac-12 for wrestling. Other Mountain West schools with wrestling programs compete in the Pac-12 (Boise State) and Big 12 (Air Force, Wyoming).
The wrestling program, which once competed in the North Gym, will hold matches at Save Mart Center when it returns, with the venue equipped with better seating, concessions and restroom accommodations. The coaches’ offices, a locker room and a mat room will be in the North Gym.
Women’s water polo program will compete at the Aquatics Center, which also will house the coaches’ offices. The locker room will be at the North Gym Annex, adjacent to the Aquatics Center.
The sports will be the first additions to Fresno State’s athletics lineup since lacrosse began competition in the 2008-09 school year, when women’s swimming and diving also was restored after being dropped in 2004.
Wrestling was dropped in 2006 because of budgetary and Title IX pressures.
“Wrestling has such a rich tradition here in the Valley and water polo makes perfect sense in the footprint of our athletics structure and with our premier aquatics venue,” Bartko said. “We look forward to incorporating these two sports into our university community while remaining focused on our continued commitment to gender equity and Title IX.”
Men’s golf – Alex Lee and Greg Gildea each fired a 2-under-par 70 on Tuesday during the final round of the Southwestern Jones Invitational as Fresno State finished tied for eighth overall at North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village.
The Bulldogs finished 23 over during the three-day tournament at 291-298-298–887. USC, ranked sixth in the country, shot 280-272-286–838 to win the tournament.
Lee, a freshman, tied for 17th overall at 1 over, shooting 70-77-70–217.
Gildea saved his best for the last round to tie for 35th at 74-79-70–223. Teammate Trevor Clayton, who was coming off a 3-under showing Monday, struggled in the final round in also finishing 35th, at 74-69-80–223.
Lacrosse – Fresno State freshman Sarah Bloise was named the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Women’s Lacrosse Rookie of the Week.
Bloise averaged 3.5 points (6 goals, 1 assist), 6.5 shots, 6.5 draw controls and 1.5 ground balls, including a five-goal performance last Sunday against Campbell, in which she also recorded an assist and eight draw controls.