May 23, 2024

Christian Betancourt, junior exercise science major, works to get a manuever on his Stanford opponent during the “Take It Outside” tournament, Nov. 1. The match-up was originally ruled as Stanford’s win, but it was overturned after a review of the match footage. Courtesy of CBU Athletics

Christian Betancourt, junior exercise science major and lightweight wrestler, strives to keep a championship mentality that has brought him victory as a California Baptist University athlete.

Betancourt opened with a decision victory for the Lancers against the Division I Stanford University wrestling team at Take it Outside, an on-campus wrestling event Nov. 1.

Betancourt said he and his team work hard to achieve victory against tough opponents such as Stanford.

“We’re working really hard in the (practice) room, and our coaches are really pushing us and doing a really great job at instilling a championship mentality in us,” Betancourt said.

Before achieving a successful college wrestling career, Betancourt worked hard during his high school wrestling career.

“My father wrestled back in high school and he really didn’t push me too hard in it, but I felt like I’d go ahead and try to follow in his footsteps,” Betancourt said. “And also, I was too small for football, so I thought I’d give a sport that fit my stature a try.”

While attending Mt. San Antonio College, Betancourt took first place at the California Junior College State Championship as a sophomore.

Betancourt is also recognized as a two-time All-American award winner and hopes to win a national championship before graduating.

“He’s phenomenal. He finds ways, as you saw last week, and he was a junior college national champ,” said Lennie Zalesky, head coach for the wrestling team. “He brings a love of wrestling to the team. (He’s) willing to learn, and it’s great having guys like that.”

Zalesky said the team is striving every day to be a top-5 ranked team.

“We always try to get better so we just keep pushing because we’ve got a lot of good athletes, good fighters. Guys that say they will fight for a good seven minutes and are willing to learn,” Zalesky said.

Betancouart said the coaches encourage the wrestling team to not only succeed in competition, but also academically and spiritually. An open practice room and library hours allow the team to balance athletics and academics. He also said he appreciates the way in which the coaches emphasize a fear of God in everything they do, both academically and athletically.

“The coaches really try to instill God in us, using his strength and putting everything we do toward his glory,” Betancourt said.

Personally, Betancourt said he hopes wrestling will remain a large part of his life.

“Eventually I hope to coach, if not collegiate level maybe even high school,” Betancourt said. “But I definitely believe my future relies on wrestling.”

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