Gator wrestlers headed to national championships

Gator wrestlers are once again headed to the national championships, and all eyes are on junior Isaiah Jimenez, who claimed the regional title last week and is ranked third nationally among all Division II wrestlers in his weight class.

 Tyler Deniston)

Isaiah Jimenez is ranked third among Division II wrestlers in the 165-pound weight class (Credit: Tyler Deniston)

Joining Jimenez at the NCAA Division II National Championships will be junior Julian Perez and sophomore Dylan Phillipy. All three headed to Pueblo, Colo. on Wednesday for the meet, which will take place March 9 and 10.

Wrestling coach Lars Jensen, who has been at the helm of SF State’s wrestling program for 29 years, said he is optimistic about their prospects this weekend.

“One of our goals at the start of this year was to qualify as many wrestlers as we could, and we’ve got three who placed in the national championships,” Jensen said. “I hope we can come back with three All Americans.”

Jimenez, Perez, and Phillipy have been working hard to prepare for the meet. They trained this week with the rest of the Gator team, whose season ended in early February, and will rest before taking on competitors from around the country this weekend.

Jimenez, who competes in the 165-pound weight class, placed first in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Wrestling Championships on Feb. 26 at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. After the win, his ranking was bumped up to third in the nation in his weight class.

“It was definitely a confidence booster,” said Jimenez, who added he’s been trying to keep the momentum up in his preparations for the nationals.

“I’ve been focusing on the little stuff,” he said. “I’m focusing on keeping a clear mind and not thinking about how big this tournament is.”

“If he wrestles at all like he did in the regionals, then he’ll do very well,” Jensen said.

This year marks the 49th year in a row Gator wrestlers have placed in the national championships. The wrestling program at SF State has produced 85 All Americans and 12 National Champions since it started in 1939.

Though the Gators wrestling team had a record of five wins and nine losses in the regular season this year, Jensen said a number of new and returning players make for a promising team in 2012-13.

“Next year will be the team,” he said.

View information about the 2012 Division II Wrestling National Championships

-- Philip Riley