SF State wrestling team finishes 10th at Super Regionals in Nebraska
A season filled with emotion ended with optimism toward the future as the team showed improvements from its prior season.
February 26, 2023
The SF State wrestling team concluded its season on Saturday at the NCAA Division II Super Regionals in Chadron, Nebraska.
The Gators placed 10th out of 11 teams in the bracket and missed out on having an individual wrestler reach nationals for just the second time since the 1964-1965 season. Senior Joshua Fuentes Norikiyo, who competed with a broken nose, placed fourth individually, just missing out on a top three spot for a trip to nationals. Fifth-year Tony Margiotta finished in sixth place.
Fuentes Norikiyo was pleased by the effort his teammates gave and felt like they got much needed experience from the tournament, but was disappointed not to make the national tournament in what was the final competition of his career.
“Personally, it was tough,” Fuentes Norikiyo said. “Because top three go to nationals, taking fourth is a heartbreaker. But I’m fulfilled with the season and all my years here at San Francisco State. I couldn’t have asked for a better wrestling experience.”
Margiotta said that he is proud of what the young team accomplished this year and that they will be in a good position to build next season.
“It’s not exactly what I wanted, I really hoped to go to nationals this year, so I was kind of disappointed finishing sixth,” Margiotta said “I felt like I wrestled all right –– could have done some things better. Definitely hurts a little bit but at the end of the day, life will go on.”
The Gators finished the season with a 7-12 record, showing much improvement after a rough 1-9 record during the 2021-2022 season. Not only was the record a significant improvement, but the competition was also fierce, as five of the seven losses came against teams ranked in the top 20 nationally.
Head Wrestling Coach Jason Welch said the team has grown a lot since last season, with a few upperclassmen being leaders for the rest of the underclassmen.
“We dramatically increased our dueling record this year,” Welch said. “Last year was tough for us. And this year, we’re back to a very competitive, healthy dueling record, and that usually is a predictor. The team culture and how the team is as a whole. In the past, we’ve had a lot of issues to assess. And I think right now we’re growing a lot on the team success.”
It was an emotional season for the Gators, as Hamzah Alsaudi, a member of the wrestling team, went missing on Jan. 19 off the coast of Pacifica and has not been found.
The team fought on to honor him despite the difficulties of playing without a teammate and friend whose status is still unknown.
“Some people, when things go wrong, might shrink from life,” Welch said.“We wanted to keep him in our hearts by getting after it, doing the things that he would have wanted to do and would have done with us. So it was really important for us to get out there and compete.”
Fuentes Norikiyo said that the team had to regather themselves and focus on their craft in honor of Alsaudi.
“If it were me, I would want my teammates to work harder, keep pursuing their goals,” Fuentes Norikiyo said. “We’re here at the end of the season, we’ve done all this work already. Hamzah was a hard worker, so I’d want to continue that. I wouldn’t want to choose to be sad every day, I want to choose to do something every day in honor of him.”
The team will now prepare for next season and take advantage of spring, where Welch believes the team made major strides toward becoming the team they were this season.
The game plan will remain the same, as Welch said the team is headed in the right direction and it will now come down to the younger guys improving over the next few years.
“We went through a lot with losing Hamzah in the past month or so,” Welch said. “It’s really shown the resiliency, loving and closeness of this team that we’re still here, we’re still competing and struggling through this together and working through things. I’m super proud of the guys and the way we represented ourselves and the school and each other.”