Fresno State All-American Josh Hokit at the 2019 NCAA Championships (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
The saving of the Stanford wrestling program was such a big win for the state of California and, if we're talking 'optics,' for the sport in general. Cutting wrestling at a prestigious school with a history of otherwise embracing Olympic sports would have been a bad look. Once again, top wrestlers with big brains from Cali, and nationally, have a high-end option. With the hiring of Rob Koll and rumors of a staff that would include Damion Hahn and Vincenzo Joseph, Stanford wrestling is not only keeping on, but set up for future success.
While that is a big sigh of relief for Cali and national wrestling fans alike, I'm not so sure that saving Fresno State isn't more important to the state of California.
In California, wrestling ranks sixth in participation with nearly 23,000 - that's double the next closest state, Texas (who doesn't even have a single DI program (don't get me started on that).
I hate to get political, but that's who the onus is on.
Not having enough programs to service your state/region/community is nothing short of irresponsibility and failure by civic leaders, elected officials (it is a state school) and a clearly clueless athletic department at Fresno State who cut the program, reinstated it, only to cut it again after a couple seasons.
With the most - by far - participants in wrestling than any other state or community, how can you not make it work? How can you not use it to your leverage? How can Buies Creek, North Carolina (Campbell) be home to a 2021 conference title with seven other programs in the state and just 34% of high school participants, and yet, Fresno State can't even manage to keep their team afloat?
Saving Stanford was great, but Fresno State is far less prohibitive academically and hasn't provided the opportunities that FSU (and other state schools in California) could and should.
Just nine of Stanford's 33-man roster went to high school in California. 67% of Fresno's roster were native Californians, while every member of Bakersfield's 26-man roster is.
AND IT'S FRESNO!
Name the country's best high school wrestling grounds - Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Long Island, New Jersey, Lehigh Valley, Minneapolis, Oklahoma, Iowa and....you guessed it, Fresno.
Say it with me, to recap: you have the most wrestlers. You have some of the best wrestlers. It is YOUR job to provide opportunities to your citizens. DO. YOUR. JOB.
Figure it out.
Yesterday a press release was put out outlining a plan to strengthen wrestling within the PAC-12. Perhaps the best line item in it discussed a change in course - that they would look to add affiliate members. It's great for the conference and all of west coast wrestling - opening the doors for existing programs to cut down on costs, bolster the competitiveness of the conference, and make it more viable for schools considering adding the sport. And there's no school that it benefits more immediately than Fresno State.
There's a final point I want to make, too. I'm not big on identity politics. From my view, the more we point out our differences, the more we divide. However, I have to say this…
We oftentimes celebrate this group or that group in sports and business and all walks of life. We've lauded (and rightfully so) the exploits of African American wrestlers. And we laud the women pioneers of our sport.
What we don't often point out is that the fabric of our history is filled with contributions of Hispanic-American wrestlers that have reached the pinnacle of the sport. And the Central Valley is filled with talented, hard-working, intelligent high school wrestlers who want to add to that legacy.
They deserve a shot. I plead to the decision-makers at Fresno State to do what's right for your constituents.
Hit 'em up. @FresnoState_AD , @JosephICastro ,
To your questions...
Biggest transfer move that has happened? - @MindsetCoachBW
All-time? Probably Steve Mocco from Iowa to OK State. As a Soph. he was undefeated NCAA Champ and then took an Olympic before going to Stillwater and winning the Hodge in 2005. Cary Kolat was 2nd as a Freshman and 3rd as a Soph. for Penn State before winning two titles for Lock Haven.
Recently Joey McKenna and Sebastian Rivera were notable. Seth Gross from Iowa to SDSU and Wisconsin was big; however, Gross was largely unproven when he left Iowa. Suriano (Penn St. to Rutgers) basically left PSU looking for a lead-off guy for a few years.
I think the two most impactful, though, can be looked at through the lens of the team race.
Jaydin Eierman (5th, 4th, 3rd for Missouri) was probably the biggest. Eierman's move was a huge part of the Hawkeyes '21 team title and could be the same next year.
Penn State was also on the receiving end of talent when, in 2011, Andrew Long helped them edge Cornell. Long was an NCAA Runner-Up for Iowa St. the year before. PSU beat Cornell by 14.
Does each HS athlete only get 5 official visits total or 5 per year and when can they start going on those visits? - @dmax189
High school wrestlers get five official visits total, not per year. And they can start taking them on August 1st before their junior season. "Official" visits mean that the school pays your flight/hotel/meals etc. Keep in mind that you can (and many kids do) take unofficial visits that they pay out of pocket for.
Additionally, I got another related question last week but didn't answer it yet. "How many visits does an athlete in the portal get?"
The answer is that it resets. You get five more official visits that can start on October 15th of your Freshman year.
What's the most one recruiting class has ever changed the direction of a program? - @oldestgreatest
Tough question. I would say Arizona State's 2015 class. I had them ranked #1, but heck, there's a #1 every year. I picked them because Zahid and Anthony were superstars. They dominated the homepages of wrestling sites and even their peers looked up to them.
If you recall, Zeke Jones had just gotten the job at ASU after leaving USA Wrestling. ASU had threatened/intimated that they were going to cut the program. Zeke landing the #1 and #2 guys on my Big Board after one year signaled that there was both belief in the staff and that ASU was ready to win. They also got Lance Benick, who was arguably the #1 197lb prospect, Tanner Hall, and Josh Maruca and Josh Shields out of PA.
I think there is a difference between 'best ever class' and 'most impactful.' And I'd say the ASU Class of '15 changed their direction more than any single class did for any other program in recent memory.
Likewise, yet to a different degree, I believe that Anthony Ashnault deciding to stay home and go to Rutgers in 2013 was one of the most significant moments in recruiting. To cap it off, he won a national title for the Scarlet Knights. But simply the act alone of believing he could win there was the source of pride and optimism in NJ.
Wrestling in pa is not growing. Lots of small towns are combining. What is one way we can help stop that decline? @MindsetCoachBW
You know how a lot of people bitch and moan when a kid that transfers in PA is ruled ineligible for a year? Yeah. That's why I don't bitch and moan about it.
I said this years ago when Cody Weircioch went from Charleroi to Canon-McMillon, who was a powerhouse at the time. When a small-town kid turns into a star and bolts, it's deflating and frustrating. I don't necessarily blame the kid - he's doing what's best for him. But why would you, as a community, devote your time to developing youth if they're just gonna bounce to a powerhouse?
It's gutting. And it hurts the sport (even in participation numbers, theoretically).
However, I think there are some reasons to be optimistic about the restoration of small-town programs and it has a lot to do with the pandemic.
The first point is that a lot more people are now allowed to work from home. They can make good money, enjoy rural life, and don't have to be in the big city.
The second point is the proliferation of clubs. You can be the lone stud on your high school team and still get good training with good partners because there are more and more quality clubs.
To be clear, I don't know that either are solutions that will prevent mass transfers or conglomerations. But they could. And it certainly can't get any worse. Frankly, I'm for tighter restrictions and even more measures - like private/catholic schools assigned to a separate division or kicked out altogether. If they want different, more advantageous rules, let 'em go to National Preps. Because the result is not unlike Wal-Mart making a mom-and-pop shop shut down.