After three team members placed in the top of their brackets at Regionals, the SF State wrestling team proved that they had what it takes to compete at the national level. Andrew Reggi, Zach Jimenez, Isaiah Hurtado, and head coach Lars Jensen headed to Cleveland, Ohio to for the NCAA Division II National Championships to represent SF State’s 51st consecutive qualifying year, but an unexpected travel situation interrupted their high expectations.
The trip began stressfully. Disastrous weather resulted in the Gators’ cancelled flight out of San Francisco to Cleveland. After their grueling 27-hour-straight trip and a layover in Chicago due to the weather conditions, the Gators and Coach Jensen finally made it to downtown Cleveland on the morning of Thursday, March 13; only 24 hours before the competition.
The championships took place at the Public Hall in downtown Cleveland from March 14 and 15. Head coach Lars Jensen as well as the three Gators can all agree that the travel crisis was a major impediment in the overall quality of the three wrestlers’ performance.
“I thought we didn’t have the best performance,” said Coach Jensen. “I think if we had the proper travel and everything else, we would’ve done a lot better. I expected all three guys to place.”
Business Management major Zach Jimenez competed in the 184 bracket in Nationals this year, but fell short of placing within the nation’s top wrestlers.
“For me, I think losing my first match kind of made it a little difficult for me, mentally, going into the second match,” said Jimenez. “I knew I had to wrestle, but the thought of it being a win or go-home situation definitely sticks in the back of your head.”
Jimenez greatly stressed that the travelling problems were a major contributor in his overall composition. The pressure caught up with him resulting in his elimination in the first round. The two-time national-qualifying senior ended his collegiate wrestling career with a 26-14 overall record.
“His goal was to win a national title,” said Isaiah Jimenez, Zach’s brother, teammate and assistant coach. “I just said ‘you’ve got to do this better you’ve got to do that better.’”
Unfortunately Zach did not make it to the podium with the national title that he strived for. But despite the mishaps and his quick elimination, competing in Nationals for the second time, and last, was well-earned for him.
Andrew Reggi also lost his first match to Upper Iowa’s Carl Broghammer who was ranked second in the nation going into the championships. He then was eliminated after a loss in the second round. The junior finished the season with a 28-12 record.
Wrestling in the 133 bracket, Isaiah Hurtado already guaranteed himself a spot as one of the top 8-ranked wrestlers after his two victories on Friday. After his wins it was all about trying to get in the right mindset for the following day.
Ending the season and his wrestling career as 8th in the nation, we say goodbye to Hurtado as well. It was not easy road to achievement, but with the help of Coach Jensen, Hurtado takes the title as 62 All-American and 89 in overall Gator wrestling history.
“The highlight definitely was Isaiah winning his last match,” said Jensen. “To have at least one All-American is very gratifying.”
Coach Jensen is the backbone of the Gator wrestling team, and his skill and support did not go unnoticed. At the end of the finals March 15, Coach Jensen received the Bob Bubb Coaching Excellence Award voted by his colleagues of his coaching association. Only one coach in each division receives the award each year, recognizing outstanding coaching performance. It’s a pretty big deal.
“I knew I was nominated for it, but it was kind of a surprise,” said Jensen. “It’s nice that the coaches recognized our limitations of travelling and the fact that we have only one scholarship.”
There were some unfortunate and unavoidable circumstances that the Gators had to cope with this year at Nationals, but they pulled through nonetheless. With an outcome of three national qualifiers and an All-American, SF State is proud to be represented by such a talented group of wrestlers and we look forward to what next season has to offer.