Zalesky Looks To Guide Aggies Into Bright Future

Junior Urijah Faber (133 lbs.) ranks among the nation's best in three preseason polls.
Junior Urijah Faber (133 lbs.) ranks among the nation's best in three preseason polls.

Nov. 8, 2002

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Second-year UC Davis wrestling coach Lennie Zalesky enjoyed good success during his inaugural season with the Aggies; helping them to a program-best sixth place at the Pacific-10 Conference Championship and sending three wrestlers to the NCAA Championships.

But Zalesky, a former All-American in the early 1980s under legendary coach Dan Gable at Iowa, hopes that kind of performance is just the beginning of a bright future for UC Davis.

He knows what it's going to take to get there.

"You've got to work to be better individually," he said. "If individuals get better, then the team should get better too.

"The key is getting better," added Zalesky, whose Aggies finished 9-8 overall, 4-3 in duals and tied for 41st at nationals last season. "I think our concept is simple. You have to get better than your opposition every day."

Zalesky is enthusiastic for the 2002-03 season as UC Davis returns a pair of wrestlers with NCAA Tournament experience in 133-pounder Urijah Faber and 157-pounder Jeremiah Jarvis.

All told, the Aggies return seven wrestlers who started regularly during the 2001-02 season. Talented newcomers round out the lineup as UC Davis attempts to continue its climb up the Pac-10 ladder.

"We're definitely better than last year," Zalesky said. "But it all depends on how we'll do in our duals."

Zalesky, a three-time All-American for the Hawkeyes and twice a national runner-up, will again have the services of a solid and knowledgable coaching staff.

Assistant coach Quincey Clark, a former collegiate All-American at Oklahoma and a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, returns for his second year. He'll be joined by second-year assistant coach Mat Orndorff, himself a collegiate All-American at Oregon State in the 285-pound class.

Faber is ranked 9th by W.I.N. magazine, 10th by Wrestling USA and 11th by IntermatWrestle at 133 pounds in preseason rankings after finishing one win shy of All-America honors at the NCAA Championships.



Junior Tommy Schurkamp, 20-11 overall last year, gets the nod to start the year at 125 pounds for UC Davis, but will be challenged by junior Virgil Moorehead, Jr. - both wrestlers who Zalesky believes have the capabilities of earning a spot at nationals.

Schurkamp recorded seven major-decision wins as a sophomore and three more by technical fall, while Moorehead was 5-4 in limited action last year.

Jeff Sato, a sophomore from Pismo Beach, had a 4-2 record as an unattached wrestler last season, but adds quality depth to the weight class.



Faber is close to being the winningest wrestler in UC Davis history, already owning 63 career wins. The senior from Lincoln is a two-time NCAA qualifier and last season finished fourth at the Pac-10 Tournament.

Faber needs 17 wins to surpass former teammate Burt Pierson for most wins and, Zalesky said, is ready for another outstanding year.

"He's got good strength, is aggressive and is tenacious," said Zalesky. "He's getting to be a better technical wrestler, too."

David Espinosa, a redshirt freshman who was a three-time Citrus Belt League champion at Redlands East Valley High School in Southern California, will backup Faber.



This is a very competitive weight class for the Aggies, who may have as many three wrestlers to regularly fill the position. Junior Cris Brines saw most of the action here last season, posting a 13-14 overall record and representing UC Davis at the conference tournament.

Brines will begin the year as the starter but will be pushed by others, including sophomore Kevin Jones, who was 6-10 last year. Junior Mike Anderson, 2-3 last season, and freshman Jeff Bristol, who reached the state championship semifinals last season while at Durham High School, will redshirt.



Junior Nick Davis wrestled for the Aggies in 2001, going 9-14, before leaving for a year and attending Delta College where he finished 35-3 and placed second at the junior college state championships.

Davis returns this season to help the Aggies and should give UC Davis immediate strength at the class.

"I think he's tough," said Zalesky. "He's a very skilled wrestler."



Jarvis had a standout junior season for UC Davis, scoring a pair of pins on his way to a runner-up finish at the Pac-10 Tournament. Jarvis finished with a 22-14 record, qualifying for the NCAA Championships for the first time.

Zalesky said the experience of going to nationals should benefit him during his junior season.

"I think it'll help him alot," said Zalesky. "He knows he can compete right there with the best. He's also very aggressive."

Frank Richmond, a redshirt freshman, who was a two-time state qualifier at Kennedy High School in Southern California, and Jesse Fouch, a senior who wrestled in limited action last year, will provide depth behind Jarvis.



Junior Mike Font, who has wrestled at both 157 and 174 pounds as an Aggie, will start the season at 165, a weight class that was ruled in recent seasons by Burt Pierson. Pierson, the winningest wrestler in UC Davis history, was a two-time NCAA qualifier and twice a finalist at the Pac-10 meet.

Font will move down a class from 174 pounds, where he wrestled to an 8-10 record last season, and take over duties there. He highlighted his sophomore season by finishing fifth at the Pac-10 Conference Championships at 174s.



Junior college transfer Shannan Sams, twice an All-American at Moorpark College, will open the season at 174 pounds for UC Davis. Sams brings solid experience to the Aggies after capturing 2nd at the state JC championships as a sophomore while at Moorpark.

"He's difficult to wrestle because he's strong," said Zalesky. "In addition to his strength, Shannan has been coming along well technically."

Dan Schön, a redshirt freshman, will also compete at 174 for the Aggies along with sophomore Bryan Bachar.



Ronnie Silva is another UC Davis wrestler moving down a weight class after finishing 13-16 last year at 197.

"He's one of the hardest workers on the team and not much gets him down," said Zalesky. "He's at a lower weight which I think he's more suited for."



Another newcomer is welcomed into the lineup as sophomore Justin Bailey opens his first season for the Aggies as the starter at 197. Bailey comes to UC Davis after transferring from Lassen College.

"He has a lot of experience and is very talented," said Zalesky.

Sophomore Flynn Ficker, who wrestled heavyweight for the Aggies last year, and Michael Clarkston, a transfer from Sacramento City College, will also wrestle at 197.

Ficker placed sixth at the Pac-10 meet, finishing the year 4-9 overall.



Jason Paul returns to the heavyweight class after limited action last year. He was 5-9 overall and 4-5 in duals during his first season with the Aggies after transferring from Palomar College near San Diego where he was a JC All-American in 2001.

"He's better than he was last year and has become much stronger," said Zalesky.



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