For the 53rd year in a row, the SF State wrestling program is sending a wrestler to nationals. Junior Sam Alnassiri and true freshman Fern Giron will be representing SF State at the NCAA Division ll National Championship in Sioux Falls, South Dakota March 11-12.
For head wrestling coach Lars Jensen this is nothing new; it’s become an annual tradition. Jensen has coached at SF State for 33 years and has sent a wrestler to nationals each time. Both wrestlers have high expectations for themselves but even more so from their coach.
“I expect two All-Americans,”Jensen said. “I mean, we go every year. We want to have All-Americans.”
That statement isn’t hyperbole considering Jensen has already coached 62 All-Americans and 10 national champions.
Alnassiri punched his ticket to nationals after he placed third in the 285-pound weight class at the NCAA Division ll Super Region IV Championships. Alnassiri finished the tournament with four wins and one loss, bringing his season record to 24 wins and 10 losses.
He won his first two matches of the regionals convincingly, with a 14-5 major decision victory over Colorado Mesa wrestler Colter Bentley in the first round, and a 11-3 major decision victory over Adam State wrestler Tuli Laulu in the quarterfinals.
Alnassiri had a tough match against Colorado State Pueblo wrestler Jacob Mitchell in the semi-finals, and he lost by fall. The heavyweight came back strong in the consolation semi-final though, and defeated Simon Fraser University wrestler Sean Molle.
“It feels great,” Alnassiri said. “It’s just a great feeling to finally qualify, but that’s still not my main goal.”
His main goal is to become an All-American. One hundred and sixty wrestlers will be competing this weekend in 10 different weight classes. Each weight class has 16 wrestlers, and the top eight become All-Americans. In order to place, Alnassiri or Giron have to win two matches. Two losses will keep them out of the top eight.
Giron placed fourth in the 133-pound weight class at regionals and qualified for nationals in his first season, a year which included 33 takedowns and 161 points scored, the second most on the team.
Giron won three matches and lost two at the tournament, leaving his current record at 18 wins and nine losses.
He edged out his first two opponents during regionals, including a victory by fall over his first-round opponent Noah Au-Yeung. Giron’s third match of the tournament was against the top ranked wrestler in the nation in the 133-pound weight class, Nebraska-Kearney wrestler Daniel DeShazer. The top ranked wrestler was too much for Giron to handle, and lost that match by fall.
Even though it’s Giron’s first season, he’s confident he can make an impact at nationals.
“I have faith in my conditioning and technique,” Giron said. “Coming home with a plaque wouldn’t be a surprise, but it would be a blessing.”
Both players are aware of the streak that they have extended and both are glad to be a part of it.
“It feels good,” Giron said. “Coach Jensen is a legend in the wrestling community, and it’s a privilege to wrestle for him. Being a part of his legacy feels great.”
Alnassiri also said he is excited to be competing in nationals for SF State.
“It’s a great atmosphere here, and just to be around a program that’s had so much people come out of here,” Alnassiri said, “Just to say I’m apart of that group, that I’m apart of that 53, that I contributed – I can’t even explain it.”