Three Gator wrestlers headed to nationals
Three Gator grapplers are headed to nationals, continuing a remarkable streak of success for the SF State wrestling team.
By placing in the top four of their respective weight classes at the regional competition earlier this month, sophomore Jordan Gurrola, senior Andrew Reggi and sophomore Johnny Costa qualified for the 2014-15 NCAA Division II National Wrestling Championships, which will take place March 13-14 in St. Louis.
Their achievements mark the 52nd straight year that SF State wrestlers have qualified for the national tournament. Over that span, 215 wrestlers have become National Qualifiers, 13 have become National Champions in their weight class -- most recently Naveed Bagheri in 2013 -- and 89 have been named All-Americans.
"It's tradition and a lot of hard work," said head coach Lars Jensen of the team's ongoing success. Jensen, an SF State alum, has coached the team for 32 years, including to the national title in 1997. "We're really excited about the opportunity to once again compete at the highest level."
In each weight class, 16 wrestlers -- the top four from each of the NCAA's four Division II regions -- qualify for nationals. Wrestlers compete individually but also accumulate points for their school, used to crown a national champion team. At the West regionals in Colorado, Gurrola placed second in the 133 weight class, Reggi placed third in the 197 class and Costa placed fourth in the 184 class.
Reggi, who is returning to nationals after qualifying for last year's tournament, said that past experience is helping him prepare for this year's event.
"Last year, the level of competition that was there kind of took me aback, so this year I'm going to be a lot more mentally prepared for every match," he said. "I wanted to make it back, so I'm excited to go again, and it should be a lot of fun."
Costa, a first-time national qualifier, is equally excited. When he learned he had punched his ticket to nationals, "I ran over to my coaches right away and gave them all hugs. I was ecstatic."
The wrestlers credit Jensen for the team's long run of success, and also said the team's strong camaraderie creates an environment of support.
"It's fun. There's no one on the team who doesn’t like any of the other guys here," Gurrola said. "We all love the sport and we're all just trying to help each other out."