Even though the Bulldogs’ wrestling team lost 33-10 to No. 14-ranked Illinois last Friday in the long-awaited first home dual since 2006, they had some performances that gave the crowd plenty of reason to cheer.
“It’s a start,” head coach Troy Steiner said. “I talked to the team before, and I said, ‘The biggest thing here is that I want to see hustle, effort and fight.’ And I thought, for the most part, I saw that.”
The ‘Dogs started off slow, losing the first three matches to go down 13-0. Freshman Khristian Olivas, wrestling at 149 pounds, was the first Bulldog to get on the board. Olivas won in a major decision, earning Fresno State four points.
Olivas’ win was the Bulldogs’ first at home for the reinstated program. The 6,840 people attending – the third-largest crowd in program history – were mostly quiet to start, but started buzzing with the Olivas victory.
Freshman Greg Gaxiola followed Olivas with a win by decision, giving the ‘Dogs three more points and riling up the crowd even more.
“I thought [Gaxiola] did a nice job of creating a lot of action and then giving himself opportunities to put points on the board,” Steiner said.
The ‘Dogs couldn’t keep up the momentum though, running into four straight losses – starting with a loss to Lemoore native Isaiah Martinez. The crowd cheered Martinez after the win, even though he was the opponent.
Fresno State finished on a high note, with heavyweight freshman AJ Nevills defeating Duece Rachal at 285 pounds.
Nevills and Rachal were tied 5-5 in the third round when Nevills made his move. With 10 seconds left, Nevills scored a takedown, putting him up 7-5. He won by decision.
Steiner said he was happy with the atmosphere and grateful for the hard work that everyone has put into the program.
“I have worked on one aspect of it, but so many others should get the credit for the atmosphere that was there tonight,” Steiner said. “The amount of people that were there doesn’t come from me. That comes from marketing and the facilities staffs. The way they had it all set up was awesome.”
The Bulldogs face Air Force in the Battle on the Midway in San Diego, California, on Tuesday.