Historic opportunity for wrestler in tournament

During the Labor Day weekend, California Baptist University was represented at the 2015 World Wrestling Greco-Roman Tournament by CBU wrestler and student Micah Lopez.

As a high school student, Lopez competed in the tournament at a junior level, winning gold in the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam All-Island Wrestling Tournament as a junior and again his senior year.

While representing Guam, Lopez captured the continental title at the Oceana Games held on  Majuro in the Marshall Islands.

Hailing from Barrigada, Guam, Lopez, sophomore kineseology major and 165-pound wrestler, started Greco-Roman wrestling during his sophomore year of high school.

The style of Greco-Roman wrestling is much more precise than collegiate freestyle wrestling. Several freestyle typical characteristics are not allowed, including hooking, trips or holds below the waist.

Lopez credits a lot of his success to the coaches at CBU.

“Their coaching is insane,” Lopez said of Lennie Zalesky, head wrestling coach, and Arsen Aleksanyan and Andrew Nicola, assistant wrestling coaches. “They can read your body so well and tell you what you need to work on.”

Over the summer, Lopez has been hard at work training with Guam’s wrestling squad. Lopez said a regular day of training consisted of a 3-mile run and weight training, focusing on techniques. Some days, training would move to the water, where Lopez and the rest of the squad would spend time in the pool wearing a face mask and snorkel, running through drills designed to develop a stronger lung capacity and heighten durability.

Such an intense training regimen calls for a dedicated wrestler.
Zalesky said he believes Lopez is just the contender.

“Micah is one of the hardest workers on the team and very athletic, as well,” Zalesky said. “He has been a benefit to the team on and off the mat.”

Competing at this level is no easy task. Lopez said the biggest challenge is dealing with the strength of his competitors.

“You’re going up against grown men who are close to 30, and this is their last shot,” he said. “They have nothing to lose and they are going to do whatever it takes to beat you.”

Zalesky said he has no doubts about how hard Lopez will work.

“I do not doubt that he will compete to the best of his ability at the World Wrestling Tournament,” Zalesky said.

The opportunity at hand brings a higher intensity this year because the tournament falls on an Olympic year. Because of this, Olympic berths are up for grabs, keeping the expected intensity of the tournament at an all-time high.

“To make the world team in itself, if you’re 28 to 30 years old, is remarkable,” Zalesky said. “To be a college student and make the world team is a really big deal; it’s a huge deal. The World Tournament is the same tournament as the Olympic Tournament on a non-Olympic year.”

Although the challenge is indeed a tough one, Lopez said he feels honored to be able to compete in the tournament.

“I am wrestling at a higher level,” he said. “It’s nerve-racking, but I’m honored.”

After the tournament, Lopez will return to CBU as a redshirt sophomore to
continue his wrestling career at the collegiate level.

About Hannah Tamimi

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