San Francisco State sends two sophomores and a redshirt-senior to this season’s NCAA Division II wrestling national championships, which begin today at the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis.
This is the 52nd consecutive year that a Gator has qualified for nationals, and the second consecutive season that three Gators have reached this stage.
“It’s pretty huge for the program,” said Lars Jensen, who is in his 32nd year as the program’s head coach. “We’ve always had at least one guy at nationals. Other programs get more money. We do more with less, and we wrestle with a chip on our shoulder. We’re undermanned and underfunded, but we’re still successful.”
Jensen was allotted just 1.3 scholarships to parcel out to 21 wrestlers this season, comprising 10 different weight classes. Next season, he will have two scholarships to offer.
“I would say we wrestle with a chip,” said SF State sophomore Jordan Gurrola, who is ranked sixth in the nation in the 133-pound weight class. “We just want to prove we are the best.”
Gurrola qualified for nationals by winning his first three matches at regionals two weeks ago. His lone loss at regionals came to Nebraska-Kearney’s Daniel DeShazer, who is the top-ranked competitor in the 133-pound weight class.
“I’m not the type who’s really fast or slick, or really good on my feet,” said Gurrola. “My entire career, I’ve been more defensive. I like working the mat.”
Johnny Costa, a redshirt-sophomore who placed fourth at regionals, qualified in the 184-pound weight class.
“He wasn’t highly recruited, and he’s done this with no scholarship money,” Jensen noted.
Redshirt-senior Andrew Reggi finished third at regionals and qualified for the 197-pound weight class, marking his second consecutive appearance at nationals. He won one of three matches at the event last year, and according to Jensen, was 10 seconds away from earning All-American honors.
SF State perennially compiles a rigorous schedule, a philosophy Jensen continued in 2014-15, when the Gators faced Cal State Bakersfield, Stanford and Cal Poly — all Division I programs.
“We feel if we do well against DI competition, we can do well (at nationals),” Jensen said. “We beat Cal Poly for the first time in 60 years, wrestled Cal State Bakersfield well, and won a couple matches against Stanford. Now, here we are.”
Gurrola begins competition today against Blake Bosch of Minnesota State Moorhead. The Gator’s next match will be against either Ashland’s Michael Labry or Long Island University Post’s Joseph Calderone. Costa starts with Ouachita Baptist’s Dallas Smith, while Reggi debuts with Jake Cramer of Tiffin University.
Following the semifinals today, finals will take place on Saturday. Wrestlers must win two matches to be named All-American.
“There’s not too many secrets at this stage, so hopefully our strengths will win out,” Jensen said. “If we get two to three guys as All-Americans, and finish as a top-20 team in the nation, that would be a good cap to the season.”