New Gator wrestling coach takes a chomp at legacy

Being the new kid at school is never comfortable, but for the new men’s wrestling head coach, replacing a legend of over 30 years is a challenge he has accepted and has been waiting for his whole life.

Jason Welch, the new coach, said he is up to the task after being hired to lead the 2017-18 men’s wrestling team, replacing hall-of-fame coach Lars Jensen.

Despite his nine years spent in Chicago, graduating from Northwestern University and being a member of the wrestling team at Northwestern, Welch said he has always considered himself a “California guy.”

“I want to build something special for these group of guys,” Welch said. “I had a lot of people take time out of their lives while growing up and it was ultimately like a homecoming for me to make my decision to come here and coach. I chose to come here because I really want to build something special here for my community.”

Welch said he is accepting the challenge of bringing SF State the wrestling national title for the first time since 1997 and brings a multitude of medals and accomplishments as a previous athlete. Growing up in Walnut Creek, Calif., Welch played a lot of sports including soccer, football and wrestling, and said he was offered several Division I wrestling head coaching jobs elsewhere, but decided his heart was always in the Bay Area.

Jason Welch, recently appointed head coach for wrestling at SF State, poses in the wrestling training room at SF State, Oct. 23, 2017. (Oscar Rendon/Golden Gate Xpress)

SF State is essentially a “gold mine” when it comes to the potential and expansion of student-athletes on campus, according to Welch.

“When I got hired, I already knew the entire process of winning was going to start with me and the guys on the team to put in the work, put in the time and work super hard in moving forward and getting better every day,” Welch said. “I feel like if we start winning again people are going to get excited and start supporting our players.”

Welch hasn’t personally lost a match since his sophomore year of college and plans to carry over and instill a mentality of glory with the Gators again.

Back in August, Charles Guthrie, SF State director of athletics, hired Welch. Joshua Villaflor, men’s wrestling redshirt sophomore, said Welch’s mentality is different from Jensen’s perspective of the team last season.

“It’s definitely a better atmosphere from last year,” Villaflor said. “He’s a great guy and the training room feels better with him. He does a lot of good things overall.”

Villaflor said the team is ready to compete this year and hopes Welch’s creative style will show on the mat this season.

The team this season is solidified, with more than half the team returning from last year, and Welch said the expectations for this year’s team is exciting to project. He is always there for all workouts with all team members and said Monday, Tuesday and Thursday the team is inside the Gym Building pumping iron at 7 a.m.

During Welch’s free time, he is usually recruiting, doing sponsorships or spending time in the office or on Twitter.

Kurtis Clem, a redshirt freshman from Chico, said now that SF State has someone who has recently wrestled in Division I and is a three-time all-American, he hopes the change will create a positive atmosphere for the team.

“Hiring someone like this and creating change is for the better,” Clem said. “It’s something that’s going to impact the future. Right now we’ve been training hard for the last month getting ready for the season and he helped create that change.”

In the end, Welch said replacing a legend, Jensen, is an awesome feeling to inherit because of the great history the program has. Welch said he feels like he is the right guy for the job.

“Once you have a deeper understanding of the sport, it really does get creative,” Welch said. “There is so much choice involved with how you wrestle and what your style and philosophy are that it will show on the mat. So when you wrestle, it really is an extension of your creative personality and it’s a creative output that is not one dimensional.”

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