SF State’s wrestling team discovered that for them, positivity and success go hand-in-hand.
After a dismal 2017 season in which no Gator was a national qualifier, 2018 was a bounce-back campaign.
“Our goal this season was to get qualifiers, and we accomplished that,” said head coach Jason Welch, who just completed his first season with the team. Brandon Vu (125 lb.) and Nathan Cervantez (133 lb.) were the qualifiers representing SF State at the NCAA Division II Championships. While neither was able to win their weight class, Welch
was proud of their competitiveness — a trait he holds to a high standard.
Welch recalled the Jan. 19 match against ninth-ranked California Baptist as a prime example.
“Everyone did their job,” Welch said. “Guys who were overmatched chose to lose by a few points rather than get pinned.” Welch said that the small point differentials allowed Vu’s win at the end to secure the team victory 21-20.
Vu, a redshirt junior, believes that match was the pivot point of the season. “That’s when we realized we could be a dangerous team,” he said.
It was also one piece of a resurgent puzzle for Vu himself.
“Two seasons ago I went 4-11. I didn’t place in any single tournament,” Vu said. “I was about ready to quit. I wasn’t feeling the sport.”
Vu was excited when he heard that Welch would be hired. “This dude was one of my idols since sophomore year of high school,” Vu said of Welch. It was Welch’s personality and coaching style that truly reinvigorated Vu’s passion for
wrestling, who finished with a 22-12 record this season.
“It’s crazy to see the immediate impact he had,” Vu said. “His positive mindset affects everybody in the room. Everybody feeds off it. I think that’s why we had such a great season.”
Justin Pichedwatana, a redshirt freshman, believes Welch’s experience as a successful collegiate wrestler brought a lot to the team. He also gave a lot of credit to the assistant coaches. “They all have different perspectives,” Pichedwatana said. “One guy can show you one way, another can show you another way, and you pick what works best for you.”
Pichedwatana is one of many who will be returning for Welch next season. Welch thinks any of his guys are capable of breaking out next season because of their youth and raw talent. He just wants them to ascend as a unit.
“We all do our job, but we do it in responsibility to each other,” Welch said.