Once upon a time, my cousin Gary Quintana won the MVP award at a national high school wrestling tournament. He sat in the bleachers with Fresno State wrestling coach Dennis DeLiddo, who already had signed the Selma High kid, when all the big-name coaches from the big-name schools wanted to meet Cousin Gary.
“Get away from him, you vultures,” DeLiddo raspy-voiced at them. “He’s mine.”
A local national champion keeping it local. What a novel idea to reconsider when Fresno State gets a second stab at wrestling.
Fresno State is expected to reinstate its wrestling program this month, nine years after the powers that were took a piano string to its larynx. This should end nine years of local high school wrestling coaches moaning and groaning about the total lack of wrestling at Fresno State.
Argument settled. Let’s move on to the next argument, except this one’s not with Fresno State.
This shout-at is to all those high school wrestling coaches within our circulation’s reach who went all-in on the local “Save Wrestling” campaign.
You wanted Fresno State wrestling back so bad? Now you’ve got it. You want to make sure it doesn’t go away again the next time Fresno State has more accounts payable than received? Then start fending off the out-of-state coaching vultures. Unpack your best wrestlers’ suitcases and start sending them to Fresno State.
And not to Illinois. Nor to Oklahoma State. Or some other far-away wrestling power that will do just fine without our local finest.
Help make Fresno State a top-25 program, because those programs are hard to cut even when the athletic department is taking on more debt than it can bail.
Anything else is hypocrisy at its snarkiest. Fresno deserves a college wrestling program, they say … but it doesn’t deserve my All-Americans?
You don’t think your Little Johnny can win a medal without going to a top-flight program in the plains of Iowa? Tell that to the three Zinkin brothers, who never won a state title in high school but became college All-Americans at home.
The Abas brothers stayed in-state and somehow managed to combine for six NCAA finals appearances as Bulldogs. If local coaches don’t think Fresno State isn’t good enough, maybe the reason will be because they aren’t pipelining their best recruits to the North Gym to change that notion.
“The best of the best were always pretty hard to get,” said DeLiddo, rising up in passion despite his current state of six broken ribs and a punctured lung — old wrestlers don’t die, he’ll tell you, they just get clumsy. “You don’t need to leave to be an All-American. We’re opening up those opportunities right here at home.”
This isn’t just a wrestling issue. It happens in football, where the best leave to Pac-10 schools every chance they get. It happens in basketball, where Fresno State is the resort that comes after their last resort.
What two sports traditionally keep the 559 kids? Softball and baseball, the only national championship programs on the block.
Sure, if your Little Johnny gets a full ride to Stanford, or Cornell, by all means punch the ticket for the sheer value of the education. As for the rest of us … well, one of us could have gone to Northwestern for the best journalism school in America, but instead stayed at Fresno State. Didn’t stop one of us from covering the NFL by way of San Francisco, or moonlighting for the New York Times when in the mood.
Fresno State wrestling is back. How about we talk our best wrestlers into staying? It’s that, or forfeit the right to complain that Fresno State was ever gone in the first place.