The SF State wrestling team has endured an up-and-down battle this season with tough losses to ranked teams in the nation. As the team heads to the 2014-2015 NCAA Division II West Super Regionals hosted at Colorado State University-Pueblo this weekend, their minds are set in securing a ticket to Nationals.
Fourteen teams will participate at Regionals this year including six of the top 20 teams in the nation including Colorado Mesa University, Western State Colorado University, University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Central Oklahoma, California Baptist University and Fort Hays State University.
“It’s going to be very tough,” said wrestling head coach Lars Jensen. “We haven’t competed against Nebraska-Kearney, which is always a powerhouse or Central Oklahoma, but we’ll be ready. We’ve had a hell of a week training and it doesn’t really matter about rankings, we just need to win matches.”
The Gators go into Regionals with a 9-5 overall record and are returning from a 22-16 victory over seventh ranked Menlo College.
The Gators have had their fair share of obstacles this season with tough losses to nation-ranked teams including Cal Baptist, Western State Colorado and Colorado Mesa. Despite the rough patches on the their journey to Regionals, the Gators will focus on mental toughness to get them through the two-day event.
“I’ve been working on a lot of mental toughness,” said sophomore grappler Jordan Gurrola. “I’ve been making sure that I’m ready for the end of the season.”
Gurrola leads the Gators with most wins at a 26-9 record and 10 pins. The sophomore grappler’s most recent win comes from an 8-3 decision over Menlo College’s Brian Ha at the 133-weight class. The young Gator also placed third in his class at the 39th Annual California Collegiate Open, and said he hopes to continue to improve as the tougher matches of the season approach.
“I didn’t change too much,” Gurrola said as he reflected on his freshman year. “I just improved on what I did last year. I’m a starter this year, so I’m in more matches and I’m trying to improve on that.”
At Regionals, the top four placers from each weight class will win a ticket to St. Louis, Missouri for the 2014-2015 NCAA Division II National Wrestling Championship to face off against some of the best wrestlers in the nation.
The Gators placed sixth at Nationals last season and hope to place higher collectively this year if given the chance. Gators’ senior wrestler Andrew Reggi placed third at Regionals, and had the opportunity to attend Nationals last year.
Reggi, who is currently ranked third in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and eighth in the nation, said working off the mat has made him more hungry to advance in Regionals and return to Nationals.
“I’ve been doing a lot of stuff just outside of the practice,” Reggi said. “I’ve been working on a lot of mental toughness and pushing myself to exhaustion. Just really trying to mentally prepare for how difficult this is going to be because I really want to make the trip back to Nationals this year.”
The line-up for Regionals will remain the same for the Gators which includes grapplers Gurrola, Reggi, Brandon Vu, Alex Abono, Calvin Nicholls, Johnny Costa, Vincent Aboytes, Daniel Flores, Dylan Furtado and Sam Alnassiri.
Despite the grueling teams the Gators will match up against at Regionals, Jensen said the grapplers remain focused to secure a spot at Nationals.
“We have to take it one match at a time,” Jensen said. “Wrestle with a lot of toughness and aggression and go from there because it’s a lot of mental challenge. We want to qualify as many kids to Nationals as we can, and we should have at least five or six guys to Nationals.”