Now in his ninth year at UC Davis, Zalesky has injected new levels of success to the wrestling program. Already he has led dozens of Aggies to Pac-10 Conference places, including four conference champions. Additionally, Zalesky has sent 27 student-athletes to the NCAA Championships. In comparison, UC Davis had sent only eight wrestlers to the Division I national meet in its first eight years of Div. I wrestling membership (1993-2001).
In 2007, the Aggies enjoyed their highest-ever showing at the D-I tournament, finishing in a tie for 22nd place. Helping that cause was senior 141-pounder Derek Moore, who captured the program's first D-I individual title with his 17-2 technical fall over Northwestern's Ryan Lang. For his part, Zalesky was selected as Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year, another first for the program.
Zalesky, a three-time All-American wrestler and former assistant coach at powerhouse Iowa, has extensive coaching experience at both the collegiate and high school levels, and holds exceptional credentials as a former collegiate wrestler.
During his collegiate career, Zalesky helped the Hawkeyes to four consecutive NCAA team titles and sported a record of 73-2-1 in his last two seasons. Individually, he twice finished as national runner-up in the 142-pound division at the NCAA D-I Championships. Additionally, he won three Big Ten titles and was named team MVP in 1982.
Zalesky has also competed internationally, having won gold medals at the Serro Pulato Tournament in Cuba in 1986 and the Henry DeGalgne Tournament in Nice France in 1983 at the 68-kilogram weight class. Additionally, he captured silver medals at the 1983 Pan American Games, the 1984 World Cup, the 1984 Tblisi Tournament (Russia) and the 1983 Canadian Cup.
As a coach, Zalesky came to UC Davis from Culver, Indiana, where he was head wrestling coach and counselor at Culver Military Academy. Before then, he served as top assistant for the Indiana Hoosier wrestling program. He focused mainly on recruiting and technical development during his tenure in Bloomington, while completing his master's degree in Slavic linguistics and literature in 2000.
Zalesky enjoyed a successful eight-year stint at Palmer High School in Palmer, Alaska. There he guided his team to a state title, mentored 17 individual state champions and earned 1996 Alaska Coach of the Year.
His first collegiate coaching experience came at his alma mater, for which he served as assistant coach under the legendary Dan Gable from 1986 to 1990. During that span, he added additional bachelor's degrees in education and Russian to go with the degree in finance he had earned in 1983.
In addition to his tutelage of outstanding student-athletes, Zalesky has also attracted top-level talent to his coaching staff at UC Davis. Thus far, his all-time roster of assistant coaches has included Quincey Clark, a two-time national Greco-Roman champion and All-American at San Diego State; and Mat Orndorff, an All-American and three-time Pac-10 Conference finalist at Oregon State.
More recently, Zalesky has enlisted the expertise of Mark Muñoz, the 2001 NCAA champion at Oklahoma State; Jeremiah Jarvis, UC Davis' first Pac-10 champion, Urijah Faber, the Aggie record-holder for victories and later a mixed martial arts standout; and Matt Sanchez, an All-American and Pac-10 finalist at Cal State Bakersfield.
Zalesky's current coaching team includes Alex Tirapelle, two-time All-American and two-time Big Ten champion; and Kevin Stanley, a four-time NCAA qualifier and 2001 All-American.
Zalesky's brother, Jim, was the former coach for Iowa, which captured nine NCAA championships in 12 years, and was featured on the ESPN series The Season. In 2003, the Zalesky brothers squared off as opposing coaches for the first time as the Aggie team traveled to Iowa City for a dual match. Then in 2005, the Hawkeyes visited UC Davis for a dual on January 9. The match was contested in front of a record crowd of more than 5,000 fans at the Pavilion.
His wife Maria, formerly the special events coordinator for the Aggie athletics department, now serves as the director of parent programs for UC Davis alumni relations.