The purple mats that spread across the floor of SF State’s wrestling room and typically teem with energetic athletes will feel unsettlingly barren in the weeks leading up to the NCAA Division II National Wrestling Championships on Mar. 13 and 14.
Only three of the team’s competitors, senior Andrew Reggi and sophomores Jordan Gurrola and Johnny Costa, performed well enough at last weekend’s West Super Regionals to finish in the top four of the tournament, earning a coveted berth at the National Championships. The group will sweat, scrape and fine-tune their technique without the rest of the Gators wrestling squad for the season’s seven remaining practices.
“Even though not a lot of our guys will be there, I have Jordan and Johnny in my corner and I’ll be in theirs,” said 197-pound Reggi, who secured his second trip to the National Tournament. “I just want to keep working hard and take it one match at a time.”
Though the comfort that comes with the camaraderie of a full-squad practice has undoubtedly diminished, the three remaining Gators look to retain the high level of focus that has already resulted in post-season success.
“Now that it’s the post-season you’re really just trying to go as far as you can, and how you do doesn’t really affect any of your teammates,” said Gurrola, a 133-pounder. “Obviously you want them to win, but we’re not fighting for a team spot as hard as we were at Regionals. That tournament went really well for me, so I’m hoping to take that into Nationals.”
Gurrola posted a team-best 26 victories in his first season as a starter and took second at Regionals after losing a close 3-2 match against the number-one ranked Division II 133-pound wrestler in the nation. Reggi cruised through four matches at the tournament to finish third and Costa exceeded expectations by placing fourth at 184 pounds despite being seeded fifth.
“I can’t even describe the feeling,” said Costa of the match that clinched his first National Tournament appearance. “When I won I just kind of looked over at my coaches and we all knew. I had a good feeling that I was going to make Nationals, and I knew how bad I wanted to. It was a great feeling when it finally happened.”
Head wrestling coach Lars Jensen beamed at the opportunity to talk about the success of his national qualifiers and plans to utilize the last few weeks of practice to help them prepare mentally for the tournament.
“We’re going to support these three through these next weeks and do everything that needs to be done to get them prepared for the intensity of the National Tournament,” Jensen said. “A lot of guys when they get to Nationals are like a deer in the headlights, and I’m relying on Reggi as the senior who’s been there before to make sure that doesn’t happen for the new guys.”
Jensen was also optimistic about the Gators’ future, attributing their fourth-place team finish in the recently beefed-up Western Region to the collective dedication of the program’s individual parts.
“There are a ton of sophomores and a great nucleus coming back next year,” Jensen said. “Our new coaching staff has been outstanding. If things go right we could have one of our best teams ever as soon as next year.”