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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Chomp: Lawrence Saenz, SFSU wrestler, grapples into top 10 of NWCA rankings


Welcome to the Xpress podcast, a podcast that brings city and statewide perspectives to SF State news. In the latest episode of the Chomp podcast, staff reporter Victor Harris Jr and sports editor Arman Archouniani chat with San Francisco State University men’s wrestler Lawrence Saenz. 


Victor: Welcome back to the Chomp podcast. My name is Victor Harris Jr. I’m a writer on staff.

Arman: And I’m Arman Archouniani, the sports editor on staff.

Preview of the Show

Arman: On the final episode of the Chomp pod this semester, we will be talking to Lawrence Saenz, a graduate student on the wrestling team who is now ranked 10th in the NWCA rankings. We will jump straight into the interview.


Arman: Welcome back to the final episode of the Chomp pod this semester. Today we are here with Lawrence Saenz, graduate student on the wrestling team. How are you today?

Lawrence: Doing pretty good, how about you guys?

Arman: So far so good. Yeah, talk to us, you just got ranked 10th in the NWCA rankings? How do you feel?

Lawrence: I feel pretty good. I honestly try not to think too much about the rankings, especially with wrestling. It’s such a personal sport and like you can get it’s very mental. You get really wrapped up in the rankings and numbers but honestly, even in Division Two, coming from a division one school, it’s it’s different. It doesn’t really matter in D-2, the only thing that matters at the end of the year is you you take top three at regionals, top three go to Nationals, and then obviously top eight All-American nationals. Where in Division One, it is a little bit different, you have some weight, for like coaches poll for the amount of people you bring to the NCAA tournament or conference. There’s a little more weight in the rankings but I definitely just try not to think about it too much and just wrestle through the year and enjoy my last year of eligibility.

Victor: Then I noticed you got Gator of the week last week? How was that honor like? What does that feel like?

Lawrence: It’s cool. I think any type of like recognition for like, just for the school in general, is good especially for the sport, right? I think we’re growing a small wrestling team and I think the more gators of the weeks we can get the better and yeah, like going back to the ranking thing. It’s I think it’s I’ve been thinking like, the way the mindset I put, it doesn’t really matter I can be number one, I could be number, I cannot be ranked. It’s more so for the school. It’s for the fans. It’s for everyone to kind of like, appreciate and it’s good, but you know, just don’t get too wrapped up in it.

Arman: Yeah, I’m gonna give you a little bit of a throwback before you even got to San Francisco State. You were second as a senior in the California State Championships. Talk to us how you’ve kind of improved in wrestling, how that maybe started for you growing up.

Lawrence: Growing up I honestly didn’t do I wasn’t like your average like California wrestler. A lot of these kids, they’d done it since they were like six years old and I did it for about a year when I was seven. I wasn’t very good and my mom pulled me out of it because I’d be constantly crying. I wasn’t into the rough sport. I wasn’t a rough, tough kid. I was a little bit of a mama’s boy. As I got older, I started to do different sports like karate and stuff and we started doing grappling and then eventually back in like fifth, I started it back up in like fifth grade, I’d say my competitive drive kind of drove me and I just tried to get better and I eventually ended up going to Vaca High and I think that’s where I kind of grew the most in my wrestling career in my youth days and yeah, now I’ve been kind of all over I went to Fresno State kind of coming out of high school. I had great coaches there, their program got dropped, unfortunately and then I transferred over to Cal Poly had great coaches there and now I’m here at San Francisco State and I got great coaches here. So I’ve gotten a lot of different perspectives throughout my career and it’s been real fun, really interesting.

Victor: You kind of talked about your road getting here. You know, you had time at Fresno State till shut down Cal Poly and then I remember you were talking about being in the transfer portal. I think you were mentioning something about like wanting to be at a place that will help you grow as a person. What was it about SF state that made you want to be here?

Lawrence: I think a lot of my priorities definitely have like shifted as I’ve gotten older, obviously, with wrestling, like I’d love to wrestle internationally, but like there’s not a career like, there’s no NFL there’s no NBA league to go into pro wrestling so I definitely just wanted to focus on myself professionally, doing my MBA here at San Francisco State and then I’m also a little bit closer to home. I have a lot of, I’m from Sacramento so I have a lot of family here so definitely just a shift in priorities and then just a new place to mature really. It was different kind of like switching schools for the third time but I think it’s good for good for me it’s just a different scenery it’s different people it’s just a new place to mature and grow more.

Arman: Yeah, what was kind of the difference between maybe Fresno State, Cal Poly and SF State were there different types of routines or was it more so just the environment was different? What was or were their similarities?

Lawrence: So with wrestling, a lot of people don’t like Fresno and I mean, I see why but no bash on Fresno, but it’s Fresno, but I will say one thing that I loved there was just the culture around wrestling. It’s different. You go down there and it’s like the midwest of like for wrestling like I would have simple interactions like where I’d be at the gas station I’d have a kid like recognize me because I was on like the wrestling team and I was like it’s simple stuff like that that really kind of like makes your day and you’re like wow, like this place is like they love wrestling like you go to the we would go to the high school duels Clovis versus Buchanan. All of their high school tournaments, whatever it is Selma versus Buchanan and all their duels, they get hype and they’re great competition. Big, big duels and I think it’s a really special thing. Even the Fresno State duels, those are awesome like you’d have local local schools that would drive in with elementary kids from like, not even like, I would say, Clovis, Fresno area, it’d be like the outskirts like probably an hour away. They drive to come watch the duel, and you just see these screaming little kids with signs and like, yeah, it’s just a whole different vibe. I would think of it as like, I guess Texas and football. I guess to go to Cal Poly, Cal Poly is different. Definitely not known for wrestling but in terms of like the trajectory when I was there, we started to go up and we became started to become like a wrestling school. Probably one of our better sports and I thought that was a really cool experience. Definitely just smaller school. I think, great place to go to college, beautiful campus, beautiful area. It’s just different, you know, small college town. It’s like someplace I always say I would I would retire there because it’s just so like small town now I’m here, the city right? There’s so many things to do. I live in Daly City now. There’s so much to do and so much to see like it’s it’s so different. I know, we’re not really a wrestling school either but I think the amount of people we have here, at least in recognition we can probably get I think we could have some cool duels this year.

Victor: And then just to make sure my research is right. Your dad is actually an alumni from here?

Lawrence: Yeah, so he wrestled at Sac City Community College and then he went to Armijo High School, actually, he went to so then he went to Sac City, took a few years off after high school and then went Sac City, and then he transferred to here and graduated ’90s I don’t know. I think it was actually around when I was born like ’98 maybe ’99. Yeah and he graduated Business Administration, yeah.

Victor: And then I also noticed that it was kind of his dream for you to go here. You got a future Gator baby onesie?

Lawrence: I did. I did have a future my mom. Yeah, she busted that out. I had a little onesie and it said future Gator and I never thought I’d really go here, honestly.

Victor: So what was that moment like? Just once you finally committed here like, what was that moment like for you and your family? Your dad, especially for his dream for you to go here.

Lawrence: Um, I thought it was cool. It was just something cool to look back on. Maybe I didn’t go here for my undergrad but I mean, it’s still I’m here. You know, I’m wrestling. We were both wrestlers on the team. I think it adds a little bit to like a little bit of legacy but I think it’s cool.

Arman: Yeah, just talking on the aspect of just being in an individual sport and all the discipline it takes just being a wrestler, how was that kind of your mentality going into duels? What’s What’s the daily schedule, like for you?

Lawrence: It’s pretty much the same honestly, even like going from D-1 to D-2 right we wake up, we either have wrestling or lift in the morning, and then afternoon, I have all my classes, cause I’m in grad school now are all at night, so I go but thankfully, we only meet once a week right now, or during these early classes so I’ll typically have like weights or wrestling in the morning, and then either in the afternoon weights or wrestling or training, the weights are gonna be like three to four times a week and then we’ll all have individual with coach or another athlete on the days that I don’t have lift, like, typically like a Tuesday, Thursday and so it’ll be like two practices a day, following up to Saturday, Sunday off and then that’s just kind of like the regular training schedule. Compared to being like, an individual sport versus like a group sport I take priority over like, right, especially in wrestling, like I take priority over my own success and my own training, you have to. I mean, you could really just show up and get through the motions of practice, but like, you’re not gonna really get that much better. It’s a bunch of little things such as, right your diet, that’s a big one, especially in wrestling with cutting weight. You have to keep your weight under control constantly throughout the season, in terms of your mental pushing, and what do you need to work on technically, right? Those individual days that you have, that are outside of practice, right? I know they’re not going to be as intense but I’m working on my technique and working on what do I need to get better? What positions do I need to get better at. During practice, right not going through the motions, right? Learning to really push yourself when you’re tired, when we’re doing live situations, learning to like dig deep a little bit. Sometimes you don’t even have coach yelling at you, right? You gotta like figure it out. You can’t be daunting on yourself, feeling sorry for yourself that you’re tired. It’s just digging deep and kind of finding that wall and pushing it back.

Arman: Yeah, you also mentioned your diet earlier. How was that? What’s the discipline with the diet? Is there a certain amount of things you like to eat, some things you don’t like to eat or something that you’re craving and you just can’t have?

Lawrence: Yeah, so interestingly enough, I actually I moved a weight from what I’ve been wrestling. My first year at Fresno, I wrestled 141s. I wasn’t making the lineup so I ended up dropping the weight and I challenged off for the weight and I won that was like the most weight I cut all throughout college, it was awful. I was making 33s every weekend, and I went to Cal Poly, I went up to 41s wrestled there for two and a half years at 41s and then now I’m here, I’m at 149s. So in terms of diet and stuff, it’s it depends on the individual, right? A lot of people do have different diets, typically, you know, it’s just higher protein. For me, I do a lot of carbs, you need those carbs to refuel with really hard, grueling practices and thankfully, because now I’m up at 49s, I can eat, I can eat most of the stuff that like I don’t have to cut much stuff out. I still eat pretty healthy every now and then I’ll have like, you know, a little sweet cookie or something. You got to keep your soul a little intact, have a little sweet every now and then but individuality of the diet is definitely, it’s hard. It makes or breaks some wrestlers, right? You’ve, there’s been like guys that I’ve seen, they’re great all throughout high school, right, and then they get this freedom in college and that’s a whole another thing. They get all this freedom in college, and they don’t know they don’t know how to cook their own food. They don’t how to diet. They don’t how to be disciplined on themselves. This pressure breaks them and you’ll see like, they’ll get bigger, they lose, they’re just not focused. It’s a lot but I think once you figure out, figure it out, it’s been kind of like, for me, it’s been like a blessing in disguise because like, it’s kind of like the way I want to live my life. I don’t want to be I don’t know, on a super strict diet, but I’m not going to be also like, I’m right in the middle like I have a healthy enough diet where I know like, I can be healthy, I guess.

Victor: And then you kind of touched on just the mental aspect of it, especially being in like an individual sport, making sure you’re making weight. How do you deal with that pressure mentally like what do you do for yourself to keep you focused and making sure you’re not, you know, breaking?

Lawrence: Yeah, there’s a lot of layers to that. I mean, I’ve worked on this all throughout my college career in terms of like mental training, I had a mental coach at Cal Poly, his name’s Dr. Coyt, shoutout him. We worked a lot on a lot of different things from like, just building habits, the right habits, right? Would it like, what things do I want to implement and do every day that are gonna lead me towards my goals? Right, recognizing bad habits, I’d say the main thing, it goes down to habits, and it’s how you approach the sport, really, we use a lot of like breakdowns like we broke things down like goal, even goal wise, like, everyone wants to be a national champ All-American at this level. It’s why you’re in this sport, it’s why you’ve competed for this long, you’re not doing this just for nothing. Those are your ultimate goals but that can be a really daunting task. When you write it down, breaking those goals down into what do I do? What am I doing every day that I can take care of and control and learning of things like I can’t control. A little bit of also breaking down like right match strategy. In terms of match strategy, it’s like little for me, it’s been little reminders, right? I’m not thinking I’m gonna go do exactly this move and this move. When you’re out there thinking too much, you, you freeze, when you get in the motion, you kind of just go off of instincts, you just kind of feel the move, and you go. So I think for me, it’s been like breaking down what little movements for me, I have like written down in my journal, move your feet, move your feet, grab a tie, pull, pull to a shot. It’s just kind of like little things, get to a tie, get to a certain tie, and just focus on like scoring points, really. I think that’s a big thing that I’ve watched through interviews too is like the highest level guys, they’re not worried about winning or losing, they’re worried about scoring points and just that’s it. This is a big thing I’ve been trying to implement. It’s just like, if you take eight, nine attempts in a match, and you mess up, maybe two of them, you give up a couple takedowns and you win five of them or yeah, you’ll have a higher percentage of just winning the match, the more risks you take compared to like, instead of standing in front of the guy not really opening up, not doing much. It’s a different mental game. It’s hard to do when you’re tired. It’s yeah.

Arman: Yeah, do you think the mental toughness of an individual is what really gets them from being good in high school to being like really good in college? Is that the separator?

Lawrence: Yeah, I think that’s a big, that’s the biggest gap, I would say. Mostly confidence, really, it’s the mental confidence of being able to execute your moves, I think is number one but number two, is just the physicality in college, it’s so much more physical, you’re wrestling grown men, right? Everyone, everyone’s strong, everyone knows how to scramble, everyone knows the basics and like, most of the time, they’re there to kick your ass and that’s like the bottom line and I think sometimes if you’re not ready, right, like, you know, you’re gonna get surprised. You got to be mentally prepared and ready to fight and it’s gonna be a fight every time and you gotta find a way to kind of mentally break the guy. You’ll, if you watch some college matches, you’ll see, like it’ll be scrappy in the beginning, but as soon as it gets to the third period, some guys just, they waver and some of the high-level matches the best guys, they might have really close matches with some like pretty decent guys, but they really open up in the third period and find a way to kind of bust open the match.

Arman: At Fresno State, you’re at the NCAA championships. Do you have any fond memories about the NCAA championships? How was that whole experience for you?

Lawrence: No, so that year got canceled, 2020.

Arman: Oh, that’s the 2020 year.

Lawrence: Yeah, no, that was, so my fond memories were Big 12s, we I was cutting a ginormous amount of weight and I qualified and then we took the week to train and I was cutting a lot of weight at this time and I remember we went to like a Benihanas for my friend’s birthday. I didn’t, I swear I didn’t eat anything. I had like maybe like a bite of steak and like some rice and I had like, probably like eight glasses of water and I was, I was 21 pounds over, the week before the national tournament and then.

Victor: That was a hell week for you bro, what.

Lawrence: Yeah, so yeah and then so like I went to the, I remember, it’s four years now. I went to the sauna, I’m like losing all this weight and I got my weight down to like 13 and I was like, alright, that’s manageable I guess. That weekend or that Monday I think, Steiner was talking about it was gonna be canceled and I was like, damn, it’d be unfortunate, but also I’m a lot over. I was really excited for the tournament, especially because it was gonna to be in the Minnesota Vikings stadium so it was gonna to be, it was gonna to be a really cool experience for my career I think. That, the division one tournament is, I would say the pinnacle of like wrestling like that is your like, finals, your playoffs of like NBA whatever, that’s, that’s what we have. It is like the most emotional and the most like, fan-driven one. You watch any of the NCAA Finals, whatever any of the tournament, you can just hear in these videos how active the crowds are in the match. Like one of my teammates, Hokit they were before they actually cut it, he was talking about how the tournaments not going to be worth it because they were originally just gonna do the tournament, but like no fans or maybe just five for your like loved ones, which they ended up doing in 2021 and he was like, man, I wouldn’t even want the tournament because the fans, the fans is what makes it, it may it makes the tournament exciting. It makes it, it’s an experience and I’m sad that I didn’t get to experience it, but move on.

Arman: Thank you so much Lawrence for taking time out of your today to talk to us, it was a great talk.

Lawrence: Yeah, no, thank you guys.

Victor: Appreciate it.


Victor: That will conclude the final episode of the Chomp pod. We’ll be back and make sure to follow us on X at the Chomp pod and Golden Gate Xpress at GGX News.

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About the Contributors
Victor Harris Jr
Victor Harris Jr, Podcast Editor
Victor Harris Jr (he/him) is a reporter for Golden Gate Xpress. Raised in Fairfield, California, he is a transfer student from Solano Community College, majoring in Journalism with a minor in Management. During his free time, you can find him watching sports, bowling, gaming, or working on his sports podcast, More Trophies.
Arman Archouniani
Arman Archouniani, Sports Editor
Arman Archouniani (he/him) is the sports editor for Golden Gate Xpress. He is majoring in journalism and minoring in media literacy. He was born and raised in Daly City and enjoys living in the area. As a kid, his dream was to become a professional athlete. Arman loves his local sports teams such as the Golden State Warriors, the San Francisco 49ers, and the San Francisco Giants. He was previously the sports editor for The Skyline View at Skyline College. His dream now is to become a sports analyst for a major sports media company.

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