Booming cheers and applause filled a small Castro Valley pub after SF State wrestling alumni and friends finished the 21st annual Paul B. Jensen Golf Tournament to raise money for the wrestling team.
The participants, which included wrestling head coach and event organizer Lars Jensen, newly hired Athletic Director Charles Guthrie and President Leslie E. Wong, took a casual and light-hearted approach to a tournament, where winning came second to supporting the wrestling team and its long-standing tradition.
“I like to think of this event as both a ‘friendraiser’ and a fundraiser,” Jensen said. “Some of these guys come out every year and it’s a great chance for all of us to hang out, tell old stories and support the team.”
Events like the golf tournament are a great chance for old friends and teammates to get together for a good cause, according to Jensen, who added that alumni play an important role in the wrestling program.
Rob Gibbs was captain of the wrestling team from 1976 to 1977, and studied both business and political science. Gibbs never missed a single fundraiser, until the last two years when he battled and survived cancer.
“We’re a strong alumnus,” an impassioned Gibbs said before the awards ceremony in a speech that brought tears to the eyes of his friends and wrestling family. “We go back five decades, so alumni and tradition is a big part of the program.”
In his speech, Gibbs credited his survival to the wrestling program for giving him the motivation he needed to get out of bed every morning and fight his sickness head-on.
“I’ve had the chance to meet with all of the alumni from each team, and they are all growing more and more passionate every year,” President Wong said. “I do have to say however that the wrestling alumni are the loudest and strongest of them all.”
Former All-American and SF State alumnus Esteban Burchard described the camaraderie and brotherhood between the alums as palpable, which was most evident when the group teased each other for receiving awards for highest score and applauded for winning closest to the hole.
“I’ve actually won the award for highest score before,” said Mario De Caro, who wrestled at SF State during the 1980s and says he gets worse at golf every year he plays. “That’s definitely the one you don’t want to win.”
De Caro went on to win the award again.
“I haven’t played golf in about 35 years so I took a lesson on Saturday to make sure I didn’t injure anybody,” said Paul Jensen, brother of coach Lars Jensen. “That was the goal for me, to make sure nobody got hurt.”
The SF State wrestling program is one of three schools in California to have a national championship title in NCAA history. The team begins its 2014-15 season in November. An official date for its first match is yet to be determined.