In the past four seasons, California Baptist University’s wrestling team has struggled to find its mark because of injuries, but this changed in the 2019-2020 season.
The team has a mentality called “Next Man Up,” which means many young freshmen fill in the spots for the other injured players and persevere to get a win in both varsity dual meets and tournaments.
“It would be nice to finish strong, but we scampered with a tough team. We are just up there and we have a very young team. We got a lot of guys redshirting or out with injuries right now,” said Lennie Zalesky, head wrestling coach. “Three of our varsity guys are out with injuries, so we’re just trying to fight. All of these guys are doing well— they’re still winning matches and filling in their second and third teams and they’re winning matches in the varsity lineup.”
Since the team lost five wrestlers to injury before the season began and then lost three more to injury, CBU’s wrestling team transitioned to a younger roster. Upperclassmen on the team want the freshmen to be able to build camaraderie with the rest of the team to build more confidence on the mat.
“For the freshmen, I’d say basically that the biggest thing is to believe in yourself. Coming in here as a freshman, I was pretty afraid, mostly because I didn’t really know anybody, so being able to have a band of brothers step in and help me keep up my growth and wrestling just as a young man,” said Jacob Cooper, senior business administration major.
“Basically, I wanted the freshmen to rely on not only the other freshmen, but lean on the older guys to direct them into a position that they know they can grow from and even with setbacks they know that they can grow further in their faith and self-confidence.”
CBU’s wrestling team works to maintain a positive team dynamic by intentionally bonding through other activities outside of the gym.
“We are definitely more like a family because we have the team aspect here. We hang out and eat dinner, and every time we’re in here we’re always grinding for each other, working hard and pushing each other, and there is always room for improvement,” said Garrett Strang, construction management major.
The team is currently working to win a big meet against California State Polytechnic University on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.
No matter what challenges this team faces, the Lancers all plan to always trust one another and themselves to reach their goals, while also getting a win on the mat.