The wrestling program at California Baptist University is off to an impressive start this season defeating Embry-Riddle University at home Nov. 6, and the team hopes to carry the momentum outdoors as they host NCAA Division I California State University, Bakersfield, Nov. 14, at the Take It Outside dual meet.
With a 38-7 win over Embry-Riddle, the team started the season off on a high note, with pins from Paul Head, junior kinesiology major, and Nolan Kistler, sophomore criminal justice major.
The pair will be included in the lineup against Bakersfield alongside Joseph Fagiano, graduate student; Jacob Waste, junior criminal justice major; and Bradford Gerl, senior electrical and computer engineering major. The trio, along with Lennie Zalesky, head coach of the wrestling team, agree that the match will be one to remember.
“Every one in our lineup is a tough competitor,” Zalesky said. “Even with their toughest guys, our guys are going to roll with them. Matches are probably going to be close, but there are some guys that will have the advantage.”
The meet will be the second outdoor match hosted in program history and is expected to draw in a crowd much larger than last year’s matchup against Stanford University.
“It’s such a novelty to be able to pull something like this off,” Zalesky said. “We established something last year that set a record. It got the wrestling community excited and it’s given us a lot of publicity. Everybody in the state knows about it.”
The program had a record-high 2,620 attendees in its first ever Take It Outside event last November and this year Zalesky said he expects the number to exceed previous attendance.
“The wrestling community nationally is a close group,” Zalesky said. “Word gets out quickly. We’re expecting to see more high schools come out.”
The outdoor match is also a hot topic among CBU students.
“Students in my classes point out posters and they’re pretty excited about it,” Fagiano said. “There’s a lot of hype about it among campus.”
The record-breaking crowd serves as an attraction to the program as well as a big encouragement for those competing. Waste said the atmosphere of the crowd helped him to calm his nerves and wrestle like he knows how.
“As a competitor, there is nothing better than having your school behind you or people in the area cheering for you,” Waste said. “I hope we can build off of it this year.”
Gerl, who was injured during last year’s Take It Outside, said he is excited to show his friends what he does.
“A lot of people said they want to come see me,” Gerl said. “I’m always in the engineering building, so they’re excited to see a different side of me by watching me wrestle.”
Though the competitor will be tough, Zalesky said this is the competition they hope to beat.
“This is the level we need to compete at,” Zalesky said. “These are the guys that we need to beat. There is nobody on our team that needs to be concerned about wrestling DI guys. This team is ready.”