Nov. 6, 2003
DAVIS, Calif. -
UC Davis wrestling coach Lennie Zalesky enters his third year at the helm of the Aggies' program and each season he's seen his team take steps toward where he wants it to go.
As the Aggies prepare for their season opener on Friday against Navy at 7 p.m. at Hickey Gym, he's excited for UC Davis' next step in that plan, especially with two of his wrestlers ranked among NCAA Division I's best.
"Our depth is better and we have some guys who are ranked nationally," said Zalesky, whose team finished 7-7 in dual meets last year and seventh at the Pac-10 Championships. "It's a maturing sign of our program when your wrestlers start to get ranked."
Senior Jeremiah Jarvis, a 157-pounder who is a two-time national qualifier and last season won the program's first-ever Pac-10 championship, enters the season ranked 6th by Wrestling USA while 125-pounder Tommy Schurkamp is ranked 31st. The Aggies are 49th in the magazine's team rankings.
UC Davis faces a non-conference schedule that not only features Navy, but also Air Force, preseason No.16 Northern Iowa and Wyoming. Traditionally one of the most competitive conferences in the country, the Pac-10 schedule will have the Aggies battling Boise State and Cal Poly, both which are ranked in the top 20 in some preseason polls.
"I'm excited to see us compete," said Zalesky, who has a career record of 16-15. "We have a really tough dual meet schedule. It's so precarious in wrestling on who wins sometimes. We'll focus more on competing well and staying together than we will on wins and losses."
UC Davis' strength will primarily be through the lower and middle weights but as the upper classes gain experience, their promise should materialize.
"We need to continue to develop technically," said Zalesky. "We have some fighters. It's just a matter of improving technically on the mat."
Schurkamp compiled a 13-12 overall record last season after coming off a 20-11 record during his sophomore campaign. His 23 dual wins rank eighth in school history, while his 31 dual points last season were second-best on the team. Zalesky is excited for Schurkamp's senior campaign.
"Tommy is capable of great things," he said. "We'll just have to see it we can put it all together. His quickness and balance are his strength and he's used them to his advantage throughout his career."
Senior Virgil Moorehead, Jr., who has seen limited action in his previous three seasons, will back up Schurkamp, giving the Aggies' good depth at their lowest weight. Moorehead went 3-2 at last year's All-California Tournament at San Francisco State to help highlight his season.
Redshirt freshman Derek Moore takes over at 133 pounds for graduated standout Urijah Faber, whose 91 career wins are a school record. Faber is an assistant coach with the Aggies this season.
Moore came to the UC Davis' program after a placing fifth at the California state championships as a senior in 2002 at Shasta High School. Moore went 152-27 during his prep career and was a three-time Northern Section champion.
Another redshirt freshman, Omar Gaitan, will see time behind Moore. Gaitan, from Katella High School in Anaheim, was his school's first two-time state qualifier and placed seventh at the state championships at 119 pounds as a junior.
Youth and experience are served at 141 pounds for the Aggies, who will start the year with redshirt freshman Jeff Bristol in the lineup but will also benefit from junior Cris Brines.
Bristol helped lead his Temecula High School squad to a pair of state championships in 1999 and 2002, advancing to the semifinals as a juniors. He was a champion at the Reno Tournament of Champions while picking up All-America status with his top-10 finish at the Senior National Wrestling Championships.
Brines brings plenty of experience to the weight after posting a 14-17 mark last year and a 13-14 mark as a freshman in 2002. Brines had a 3-3 record during tough Pac-10 duals last season while taking sixth at the conference tournament.
The 2002-03 season saw this weight class occupied primarily by Nick Davis, but Davis is healing and won't be available for the Aggies for the early part of the season. Last year, Davis narrowly missed a berth at the NCAA Division I Championships after finishing fourth at the Pac-10 Championships. He advanced to the third-place match before later dropping a match for "true fourth" and a trip to nationals.
However, he enjoyed a strong season for the Aggies, finishing 10-10 overall and 4-4 in duals. Davis began his career at UC Davis and after a one-year stay at Delta College where he went 35-3 and placed second at the state championships, returned to the Aggies.
Senior Kevin Jones, will begin the year at 149 pounds after a 10-13 record last year, including an 8-8 mark in tournament action. Jones also brings good experience to the weight after competing in the lineup during half the Aggies' duals.
Cooper Fouch, who redshirted last year and had five wins as a freshman, will join Davis and Jones at this weight class. Fouch was a state and national qualifier at Mariposa County High School.
Jarvis has already established himself among the program's all-time best after a remarkable junior season in which he finished with a 23-9 overall record. Jarvis, from nearby Chico, became the program's first-time Pac-10 champion after beating Cal State Bakersfield's Brian Cobb, also earning a berth in the conference final for the second straight year.
He advanced to the national championships for the second consecutive year as well, beating Cornell's Gabe Webster in his first match before eventually being eliminated. But that couldn't tarnish a standout season in which he was also named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Reno Tournament of Champions after winning four matches by fall - including a pair over nationally-ranked competitors.
Jarvis enters the season with 55 career wins.
"I don't know where his abilities will top out," said Zalesky. "He's an outstanding wrestler with experience. Jeremiah knows what experience at the national level is all about."
Frank Richmond, a sophomore from Cypress who compiled an 8-7 record last year, is a tough competitor who also posted three wins by technical fall during is redshirt freshman campaign. He competed in six duals for UC Davis, posting a pair of wins by fall.
Richmond will also provide depth at 165 pounds, where another tough competitor in Michael Font will start the year. Font is a two-time placewinner at the Pac-10 Championships, finishing fifth at 174 pounds in 2002 and sixth at 165 last year.
He had a 10-13 overall record last year and posted half of his wins by either fall or technical fall, including posting a 20-3 win over Dan Gianoutsas of Cal State Bakersfield on his way to a second-place finish at the Aggie Open.
"He'll give people fits because of his style of wrestling," Zalesky said. "He's made some really good progress since last year."
Chris Fickes, who will open the year at 174 pounds for UC Davis, will also see time at this class.
Fickes is one of three Aggies who will give Zalesky flexibility at this weight class. The redshirt freshman from Fairfield went 45-8 as a 152-pound senior and won Monticello Empire League and Sac-Joaquin Subsection championships. Fickes had a 36-12 record as a junior.
Shannon Sams transferred to the UC Davis program last year after earning a pair of JC All-America finishes at Moorpark College in Southern California. Sams went 4-11 during limited action his first year with the Aggies, but posted a trio of wins at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
Yet another redshirt freshman, Daniel Price, will also contest for time at 174 pounds. Price, from Durham, won the North Sections Masters tournament three straight years, placing fifth at the state meet as a junior. He was three-time state qualifier.
Youth, which is prevalent at the upper weights for UC Davis, is also at 184 where junior Brandon Bear starts the season for the Aggies. Bear redshirted for UC Davis last year after joining the program from Modesto Junior College where he was a runner-up at the state junior college championships.
He was fifth as a freshman at Modesto, wrestling there after compiling a 54-8 record as a senior at Downey High School and winning a Central California Conference title in 2000.
Eliot Kelly, a redshirt freshman from Rocklin, will also compete for time at 184 pounds, going 44-11 as a senior and 29-17 as a junior at Rocklin High school. Kelly placed fifth at the section tournament after winning league and subsection championships.
Ronnie Silva, a junior from Clovis in the Fresno area, posted a 5-11 record for UC Davis last season with all of the wins coming during duals. He went 13-16 during his freshman season and competed at the Pac-10 Championships but will begin this season healing.
Junior Michael Clarkston is one of two Aggies scheduled to compete for time during at 197 during the early part of the season along with Dan Schön. Clarkston went 7-10 during his first season with the Aggies last year, including a 6-4 record during tournament action. Schön will see his first significant action with UC Davis after going 1-2 as an unattached competitor during last season's Aggie Open.
Evan Hendrix, a redshirt freshman from Prineville, Ore., and junior Flynn Ficker will battle for time at the heavyweight position with both scheduled for action during the early portion of the season.
Hendrix was a two-time state qualifier at Crook County High School, placing fourth as senior and sixth during his junior campaign. He set a school record with 114 takedowns during his senior season and won the IMC District Meet twice.
Ficker brings experience as both a tournament and dual competitor for the Aggies. He wrestled in limited action last year but finished sixth at the 2002 Pac-10 Championships and was 4-9 overall.