Eight wrestlers qualify for nationals for second consecutive year
It’s been 34 years since OSU sent as many as 16 wrestlers to nationals in a 2-year period
Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
As Mike Parker would say, it's a great day to be a Beaver.
The woman's basketball team had its best season in years, the gymnastics team is looking as dominant as ever, and the men's basketball team is coming off a thrilling victory over Washington State in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament yesterday.
Amazingly, amidst all of this success, one team is arguably shining brighter than any of the others — the No. 16 wrestling team.
The Beavers learned Wednesday afternoon that they would be sending a staggering total of eight wrestlers to the NCAA Championship tournament in St. Louis, Mo., which starts March 15. The news is coming after a dominating performance at the Pac-12 tournament Feb. 26 in which OSU took home first place as a team and had four individuals crowned as champions.
"I thought we wrestled well. It's not just if you win it's how you win and I thought we wrestled really well as a team and as individuals," said head coach Jim Zalesky. "I think that was the best we've wrestled so far this year. The four [individual championships] are the most we've had since I've been here so that's exciting."
It's the second year in a row Oregon State has sent eight wrestlers to the national tournament. The sixteen qualifiers are the most in a two-year span for OSU in over 30 years, dating back to the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons.
Redshirt freshman Pat Rollins (125 pound weight class), junior Ty Vinson (184) and redshirt freshman Taylor Meeks (197) are all heading to nationals for the first time.
Senior Garrett Drucker (133), junior Mike Mangrum (141), sophomore Scott Sakaguchi (149), sophomore R.J. Pena (157), and senior Clayton Jack (heavyweight) are all competing at the NCAA tournament for at least the second time.
Mangrum has been seeded fourth in his weight class for the national tournament, while Jack is seeded third among heavyweights.
Despite the large amount of time in between the Pac-12 and NCAA tournament, OSU has remained focused on what's to come. The team has had fewer combined practices and more individual workouts to get more time with coaches in preparation for the season finale.
In addition to the slightly altered training regimen, the Beavers seem to have adopted the basketball team's "One Day At A Time" motto going forward.
"We're just trying to get mentally prepared right now," Pena said. "Taking the couple of things we do wrong here and there and try and fix them. We're getting ready for the national tournament and trying to take it one match at a time, one day at a time."
"For the most part I just have to live in the here and now and focus on what we're doing," added Jack. "Then come nationals, I'll be ready and aggressive. I just want to take things one match at a time until I've won a championship."
The wrestling team is also drawing inspiration from increased support around campus. Many OSU athletes, students and faculty reached out to congratulate the team on their championship via twitter, and the team was greeted with raucous applause when it was introduced at halftime of the men's basketball game against Utah last Thursday.
"It's awesome," Pena said. "It's nice to be appreciated by our school. We work really hard every day and it's nice to have fans support us. The standing ovation from the crowd at the basketball game after winning the Pac-12 title was amazing. It felt great having that support."
The Beavers will enjoy their continued support during their final week of practice before departing for nationals next Monday. If they can improve on last year's 21st place finish, their popularity around campus will almost certainly climb even higher.
But regardless of the overall finish, and for the time being, it's a great day to be a Beaver.