Cal Baptist head coach Lennie Zalesky (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
RIVERSIDE - California Baptist University head wrestling coach Lennie Zalesky is retiring after 11 years at CBU and over 40 years dedicated to the sport.
"I want to thank CBU for letting me serve as the head wrestling coach at this very special university the past 11 years," Zalesky said. "I thank our athletic administration and all the work and care they graciously put into the program. Thank you to CBU President Dr. Ronald L. Ellis for starting this program here in Southern California. It means a lot to not only the state of California, but also to the national collegiate wrestling community."
In 11 seasons, Zalesky led CBU to a 71-70-1 overall record, a 17-7 mark in conference and four top-three national finishes. The Lancers also won a program-best 13 duals with Zalesky at the helm in the 2014-15 season. He was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2016 and was also named NCAA Division II Coach of the Year in 2017.
"We thank Lennie for his 11 years of dedication to CBU. He established a strong foundation for the program, and we appreciate the investment he made in the lives of so many student-athletes through the years," Dr. Ellis said.
Zalesky has been inducted into three wrestling Hall of Fames. He was first inducted into the Alaska Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010 and then the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame and California Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.
"We are very thankful for Lennie's leadership here at CBU," Director of Athletics Tyler Mariucci said. "He has helped so many young men succeed both on and off the mat. His contributions to our program and to the sport of wrestling have left an indelible impact."
Zalesky has coached his wrestlers to a total of 35 All-American awards and seven individual national championships, including three at the NCAA level. As an NCAA Division I member, CBU has produced nine All-American finishes and one champion in three seasons at the National Collegiate Open.
"I experienced some of my greatest moments and coached some of the most spectacular wrestlers of my 27 years of college coaching here. Many of them were of the highest quality individuals I have had the chance to work with, not only succeeding in wrestling, academics, and leadership on campus, but also some of the most humble and enjoyable men I have worked with," Zalesky said.
Zalesky came to Riverside after nine years as the head coach at NCAA Division I UC Davis. He was a three-time NCAA All-American and a former assistant coach at powerhouse Iowa and has extensive coaching experience at both the prep and collegiate levels, as well as international experience as an athlete.
Zalesky coached nine seasons at UC Davis before the program was dropped prior to the 2010-11 season. In those nine seasons, he coached numerous PAC-10 placers, four conference champions and had 27 student-athletes qualify for the NCAA Championships. Perhaps his best season came in 2007 when he was named PAC-10 Coach of the Year and coached the Aggies' first-ever NCAA Division I National Champion in any sport in Derek Moore (141 pounds), which helped UC Davis finish 22nd at the NCAA National Championships, its best showing ever.
Prior to beginning his coaching career in 1986, Zalesky was a three-time All-American wrestler at Iowa. During his time there, he helped the Hawkeyes to four straight national championships, and he notched a record of 73-2-1 in his last two seasons. He was twice the national runner-up at 142 pounds and won three Big Ten titles.
His first coaching job came at his alma mater where he served under the legendary Dan Gable from 1986-90. He then spent eight seasons as the head wrestling coach at Palmer High School in Palmer, Alaska.
He also spent two seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Indiana and then was the dean of students and wrestling coach at Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., for two years prior to taking the UC Davis job in the summer of 2001.
After his collegiate wrestling career concluded, Zalesky began competing internationally, winning a handful of tournaments from 1983-86. He won a silver medal in the 1983 Pan American Games, the 1984 World Cup, 1984 Tblisi Tournament in the former Soviet Union and the 1983 Canadian Cup. He also won the Henri Deglane Tournament in Nice, France in 1983 and the Cerro Pelado International Tournament in Cuba in 1986.
Zalesky and his wife, Maria, have two children (Alie and Jake). Both earned degrees at CBU, with Alie and Jake graduating from the school's nursing and public relations programs.
Current assistant coach Derek Moore will serve as the interim head coach. Moore was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the 2007 Division I Championships when he won the 141-pound national title. He was also named the 2020 National Collegiate Open Co-Coach of the Year.
CBU is set to join the Big 12 Conference next season after it received a letter of intent from the conference regarding affiliate membership starting in 2022-23, contingent on a successful completion of its NCAA Division I four-year reclassification process. The Lancers will join the other Big 12 wrestling members in a regular season scheduling alliance and will compete for the league's postseason title and automatic qualification into the NCAA championships.
"I believe great days lay ahead for the CBU wrestling program," Zalesky said. "I am confident those days will come in the near future when CBU will compete well in the Big 12."