December 2, 2023

The wrestling team at California Baptist University sent five wrestlers to compete in the NCAA Division II Championship tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, March 11-14. Of the five, one came home with the heavyweight crown.

For the first time in program history, the team produced the national heavyweight champion in Joseph Fagiano, graduate student in business administration. Fagiano and Brady Bersano, senior marketing major, were the only two to compete in the championship matches of their respective weight classes. Bersano lost his match 6-4 and was named the national runner-up in the 157-pound weight class.

Bersano, Nolan Kistler, sophomore criminal justice major, Jacob Waste, junior criminal justice major, Paul Head, junior kinesiology major, and Fagiano, represented CBU at the tournament.

The tournament produced All-Americans in Bersano, Kistler, Waste and Fagiano.

Earlier this season, Andrew Nicola, assistant coach of the team, predicted that by signing Fagiano, the team had signed a national champion. His prediction became a reality when Fagiano defeated his opponent 6-3.

Fagiano said the championship was won through perseverance.

“I told myself to get back up, not feel sorry for myself,” Fagiano said in a press release. “I never quit and knew I would get one back. You have to keep pushing forward.”

The first championship match for CBU came from Bersano and although he could not overcome his opponent, he earned All-American status, was named to the Academic All-American first team and walked away second overall in his weight class. Bersano said he was proud of the way he finished his senior season.

“I am thankful to God for how far I got and for everyone who helped me along the way,” Bersano said. “Winning my quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be something I will never forget.”

The success of the season and growth of the program was showcased through the duration of the tournament as Waste finished in third place and Kistler finished in seventh place.

Lennie Zalesky, head coach of the team, said the tournament was a great finish to the year.

“It was a very good tournament for us; we’re sending five guys and competing with teams that sent nine guys to the national tournament,” Zalesky said in a press release. “I’m very proud of our guys, they had a great year and they deserve this.”

The team placed sixth in the nation, improving from last season’s 30th place finish.

Bersano said the future looks bright for the program.

“CBU wrestling is now a national wrestling powerhouse and I believe it will continue as such for a long time,” Bersano said. “I cannot wait for what’s in store next year for my team, as they will only get better and better.”

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