Two opponents circle the mat, looking for an opportunity to take the other down. Gauging their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses is only part of this battle. One wrong move can find him tossed to the ground, flat on his back, his opponent prepared to go in for the win.
The California Baptist University wrestling team begun its transition from NCAA Division II to Division I with an eye on the championships but there is much work to do to reach it.
While there was only one other DII school with a wrestling program west of the Colorado Rockies, Lennie Zalesky, head coach of wrestling, said there are at least seven DI schools with a wrestling prgoram giving CBU more competition. Zalesky also said he hopes this move will be a motivation for his young team.
“We are almost 80 percent freshman, registered freshman or sophomores,” Zalesky said, “but we are also a talented team, as well.”
Zalesky said he is confident in several of his team members who came to CBU with impressive credentials, such as Daxton Gordon, senior biology major, who finished last season with a 25-2 overall record.
“There isn’t that much of a difference between the two divisions except that DI has a lot more big-name schools,” Gordon said.
Gordon said despite the new competition level, the approach remains the same.
“I try to take it match by match,” Gordon said. “With previous years, we had the nationals to look forward to but this year is a little different, so I just want to go to each match, put my best foot forward and just compete.”
Derek Moore, assistant wrestling coach, said this season will be a long transitional process to get to DI status.
“It’s our first season in DI and we just want our men to go out there, compete hard and recognize that it’s not about the win; it’s just going out there to perform,” Moore said. “There is a lot about wrestling that, if you take care of the little things, the end result will take care of itself.”
Because of regulations during the transition to DI, the team must sit out on postseason competition. However, this gives each team member more time to train, strengthen his movements and enter into a new era for CBU wrestling.
CBU opened its home schedule with a loss against wrestling powerhouse and defending Big Ten Conference Champion Ohio State University Nov. 16 ,but with a record-breaking attendance as 3,252 fans cheering the teams on in the Events Center.
After going up against OSU, CBU went on to Bakersfield for its first tournament of the season in, the Nov. 18 Roadrunner Open where five Lancers finished in the top—five.
CBU will head to Fresno next for a match against Fresno State on Jan. 3.