Fresno State sports marketing students will kick off their “Pins For Wins” tailgate before the Bulldogs’ Nov. 8 homecoming game against San Jose State as part of fundraising efforts to bring back wrestling that was axed in 2006.
The tailgate, which will be held inside the ESPN 490 tent, is the first entirely student-run campus effort to raise money to reinstate wrestling at the university since Fresno State President Joseph Castro announced plans to bring back the popular sport last year.
As part of a sports licensing course, 23 students came together to plan, develop and market the event.
“The class as a whole had to come up with a project for the entire semester,” said Katie DeVault, a senior sports marketing major. “We all want to go out and support our school, and we are hoping that it will be a lot of fun.”
Between 50 to 100 participants are expected to attend the VIP tailgating event with food and drinks catered by Max’s Bistro and a raffle at the end of the evening.
Students in the sports licensing class echoed calls from the Central Valley community to reinstate a sport that has deep roots at the high school level.
“The Valley is a hotbed for wrestling,” said Jonathan Maertens, a senior sports marketing major. “Clovis High right down the street has had four back-to-back state championships, not to mention Clovis East, Bullard, and wrestlers from the entire Valley.”
Rather than wait for the administration to formally reinstate wrestling, Maertens said, students are kickstarting the initiative on campus to fundraise for the program that was discontinued in 2006.
“We have wrestlers who would like to come to Fresno State, and they should have the opportunity to do so,” he said. “We are losing that talent in the Valley, and we’d like to keep it here.”
Students have reached out to other notable wrestling figures throughout the Valley, including former Bulldog and four-time all-American wrestler Gerry Abas. Abas, who finished his career at Fresno State with over 134 career wins from 1992 to ‘95 and No. 1 on the school’s all-time win list, will be guest speaking at the event.
Senior sports marketing major Sameer Murshed was a former wrestler at Clovis East High School before attending Fresno State and said that he wished he had the opportunity to pursue wrestling on campus when he first enrolled.
“The wrestling tradition in the Valley is at a higher level, if not superior, to the rest of California,” Murshed said. “We should honor that. Why not utilize the talent in the Valley and bring it back to Fresno State, bring back the prestigious program that it was?”
Fresno State sports marketing professor Brian Glover, who directs the sports licensing class, said that students this year are avid and eager to finally see the fruition of their work.
“Students are rallied around it because it is their idea. It wasn’t something forced on them. It was a topic and event they picked all their own,” Glover said. “Because they have ownership of the project, they get to make the successes and make mistakes and learn from those and see it to its completion.”
Maertens said that community support has been full-fledged, but some still remain skeptical about the reinstatement of the program.
“People are skeptical because they’ve been a part of the program in the past that got cut, and now we are just waiting on the timeline by the administration,” Maertens said.
Students can find more information about upcoming fundraising events from the Bulldog Wrestling Matters organization’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Bulldog Foundation Wrestling Fund.