Wrestling fans who remember California Baptist University’s “Take It Outside” events, featuring Stanford University and California State University, Bakersfield, are no strangers to prestigious wrestling programs coming to Riverside.
The Lancers will open their first Division I home season Nov. 16 by hosting Ohio State University, who finished as national runners-up in DI last season.
Lennie Zalesky, head coach of wrestling, said one of the reasons the team was invited was to get the wrestling community excited.
“They have six returning All-Americans,” Zalesky said. “For us, we hope to get there someday to that level so let’s see where we are and let’s see how far we have to go.”
Not only will the Lancers prepare for a change in competition but the match will take place in the Events Center, as opposed to the usual Van Dyne Gymnasium.
“The Events Center is going to be a change and the crowd will be large,” said Daxton Gordon, junior biology major and redshirt. “In the end, it is just you versus your opponent out on the mat and sometimes you have to keep it in perspective and keep yourself grounded.”
Gordon, who won a Division II National Championship last season, said the Lancers could make a name for themselves in DI competition if they have a successful dual.
“It’s a good thing to happen to our team and the dual will bring a big crowd,” Gordon said. “The dual could certainly put us on the map in DI if we were to upset some big-name wrestlers.”
CBU would be able to make headlines early in its DI careerwith a few wins, but the Lancers said their preparation remains the same ahead of such a crucial matchup.
“We’ve always trained with a mindset of getting better every day, ready to take on the best in the country,” said Garrett Strang, sophomore engineering major, redshirt and reigning RMAC Freshman of the Year. “We always train with the intent to beat whoever steps out in front of us.”
CBU’s first DI home opener, a dual in the Events Center against a top-tier program, combined simultaneously with a dual between high school powerhouses St. John Bosco and Poway, will put the college wrestling spotlight on Riverside for the night.
“We’re hoping to sell it out,” Zalesky said. “If we compete well or beat any of those guys, we’ll be excited but it’s a tall order.”
The dual will take place at 7 p.m., with a high school dual between St. John Bosco and Poway running alongside. It will be the first time the Lancers wrestle in the new facility. Before that, CBU will open its first DI season on the road Nov. 10 at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.