The Gators will start the 2013 season from a tenth place finish in the NCAA Division II National Championship last year. Three returning wrestlers are expected to lead the team back to success, but head coach Lars Jensen says the key to propelling the team to an even higher ranking lies within the recruiting class.
“We had our best recruiting class in many years, couple of guys that are multiple state place winners. If our freshmen come through, we could have a pretty good season,” said Jensen.
Some standout members, said Jensen, includes Kyle Perrault, Jordan Gurolla and Jonathan Costa. SF State will have to make up for the loss of Division II National Champion and All-American Navid Bagheri, and another All-American Isaiah Jimenez. But the return of Zach Jimenez and Andrew Reggi from redshirt seasons, along with the return of standout Isaiah Hurtado, and the talented freshman give the Gators hope they can make up for the loss of the two All-Americans.
Perrault was the high school national champion at Clovis East High School in Fresno, Calif., and Gurolla, a two-time place winner for his high school team, finishing within the top eight in California for his weight division. Costa, from Escalon High School suffered an injury that knocked him out of the state tournament last year, but Jensen has high expectations for the incoming freshmen.
“We have some young guys that have never wrestled in college, but we expect two or three to be starters,” he said.
The wrestling grind during his three-year career took its toll on Zach Jimenez and he needed a break. He still competed in 15 matches outside of SF State, and is revved up to return to a full schedule for his senior year. Now that he is back he has one mission to accomplish.
“I have the same goal written in my closet, so everyday I go to get clothes and I look at it and it says, ‘184 pound national champ,'” said Jimenez.
The senior, Reggi, also returns after a year away along with top wrestler from last year, Isaiah Hurtado. Hurtado narrowly missed making it to nationals after placing fifth at the regionals last year due to having a skin infection that threw off his training regimen.
“(The infection) wasn’t the sole purpose, but it affected me. It kept me off the mat for about two weeks before regionals, and I didn’t have any live wrestling,” said Hurtado.
SF State has a tough schedule with match-ups against Division I rivals like Stanford on Jan. 25th, CalPoly San Luis Obispo on Nov. 24th and Cal State Bakersfield on Jan. 31.
Only seven four-year schools in California have wrestling programs, so teams like Division II SF State have a chance to compete with higher-level teams — a situation Jensen thinks is best for the team’s progress.
“We have always competed against Division I, but we want to wrestle the best competition we can,” said Jensen.
And this season, the Gators will have a chance to match up against some of the top teams in the nation.
The Gators will travel to Nevada on Dec. 6 for the Las Vegas Invitational where they will face the University of Oklahoma and Cornell. Oklahoma is ranked fourth in the national preseason poll; Cornell is ranked 11th. SF State is ranked sixth in the west region four by Basford rankings. Though the Gators don’t have any All-Americans on the roster, Jensen hopes that the team can fly under the radar and surprise the rest of the nation.
“We have a lot of potential. We’ll just have to sneak up on them,” he said. “We’re like the sleeping giants.”