Nov. 11, 2005
DAVIS, Calif. -
After coming off a program-best fourth-place finish at the 2005 Pac-10 Conference Championships, change could be the name of the game for the UC Davis wrestling team in 2005-06. With two redshirt freshmen earning starting nods and several returning wrestlers competing in different weight classes, UC Davis will look to continue it upward climb in collegiate wrestling when it opens up its season on Saturday at Cal State Bakersfield against Navy.
Despite the changes in the lineup, UC Davis will look to use its experience to battle the upcoming season. Returnees Derek Moore (141), Frank Richmond (165) and last season's late Iowa State transfer, Ken Cook (175), highlight the Aggie lineup for the 2005-06 season. Moore headlines this talented trio after coming within one victory of All-America honors in the 133-pound class at the national championships for the second consecutive year. He continues his quest to become the program's first Div. I All-American, but will attempt to do so this year at 141.
Coach Lennie Zalesky, now in his fifth year at the helm of the Aggie program, has confidence that the new faces and returnees have the credentials to handle a tough schedule including arguably one of the hardest days of competition in UC Davis history with duals on January 8 against Iowa State and Arizona State. The Cyclones and Sun Devils are ranked seventh and 10th in the preseason, respectively, by The Wrestling Mall.
The 2004-05 season was one of the best in UC Davis history with seven wrestlers placing at the Pac-10 Conference Championships at Cal Poly and the Aggies earning a fourth-place finish despite not having a wrestler in a championship bout. Four Aggie wrestlers advanced to compete in the NCAA Division I Championships, including returners Moore and Jeff Bristol (141). The Aggies finished last season with an overall dual record of 6-5-1 and a Pac-10 mark of 4-4-1. It was also a season that was highlighted by a visiting from perennial power Iowa, a match contested before more than 5,000 fans at The Pavilion on the UC Davis campus.
UC Davis, which will also face preseason No. 21 Boise State and No. 22 Cal Poly, opens its home schedule on Dec. 9 against San Francisco State.
Following is a brief outlook at each weight class.
Sophomore Marcos Orozco will be the Aggies' 'go-to' man in the 125-pound weight class this season. A tough wrestler who went 3-2 overall during his freshman season, Orozco was also a three-time qualifier for the state tournament in his prep career at Vacaville High School. Orozco placed fifth at state championships during both his junior and senior seasons and captured a San Joaquin Section title in his junior campaign.
Junior Omar Gaitan will be moving down from the 141-pound weight class in which he competed the last two seasons. Gaitan finished last season with an 8-9 record overall and a 6-8 record in NCAA matches. He also took third at the All-California Invitational at San Francisco State with a tournament record of 5-1. In his freshman season he posted a 7-4 overall record and captured a third-place finish at the Fullerton Open.
Sophomore Kyle Bank will be challenging Gaitan for the133-pound spot. Bank, who went 2-2 during his freshman season, has the potential to surprise a lot of people, according to Coach Zalesky. Bank is a flexible wrestler who brings an unorthodox style to the mat. Bank, a Dana Hills HS graduate earned a Southern Section title and earned Lower Weight MVP honors in both 2002 and 2004. He also placed eighth at state championships during his final two seasons as a prep and had an overall high school career record of 160-40.
Junior Derek Moore, one of the most successful wrestlers in program history, will get the start in a new weight class. Moore led the team with 23-9 overall record last season at 133, going 22-9 against NCAA-countable opposition on his way to a 45-17 career mark. Last season he was 8-3 in duals, 7-2 in Pac-10 duals, 6-2 in major decisions and 5-0 in technical fall bouts. He has qualified for the NCAA Championships the past two seasons and has come within one win of achieving All-American status two years running. Moore currently stands seven wins away from becoming the 10th Aggie to reach 50 career victories.
Junior Jeff Bristol joins Moore at 141 making this potentially the deepest weight class for the Aggies. Bristol has solid credentials including finishing the 2004-05 season with a 7-6 record and placing third at the Pac-10 Championships, earning him an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. His run to the national championships came after he lost his opening bout at the Pac-10 Championships before winning three straight.
Depth at this weight gives Zalesky the opportunity to move either wrestler to a different weight class, should the need arise.
Junior Jesse Padilla will also be making a move in weight classes this season, moving down from 157 pounds. Padilla, an athletic wrestler and hard worker, wrestled to a 5-10 overall record last year. Padilla wrestled unattached at the Fullerton Open, going 3-1 last season. Last season was Padilla's first action with the Aggie since transfering from Monterey Peninsula College where he advanced to the state championships.
Redshirt Freshman Dustin Noack will open the season at 157 pounds for UC Davis. Noack finished sixth at state championships in his final two high school seasons and went 40-8 as a senior and 42-9 as a junior at Clovis West High School.
Senior Frank Richmond, who was fifth at last year's conference meet at 157, will be moving up a weight class from last year after compiling a 17-9 record in his junior season. Richmond's only losses during the 2004-05 season came against Top 20 ranked wrestlers. He led the team last season with six pins, tying his own season best and moving him into fourth on UC Davis' career leader board with 16. Richmond currently holds a career record of 39-33.
Senior Ken Cook, a transfer from Iowa State during midseason last year, is one of the Aggies more qualified returnees. Cook appeared in only one match for UC Davis last season, but posted a 5-12 overall record at Iowa State., one of the top collegiate programs. He was a qualifier for the 2003 World Team Trials, a qualifier for Olympic Trials and was a second-place finisher in Greco-Roman 74-kg draw at 2004 nationals. As a prep at American High School he won state and national titles in his senior season and also won the national junior Greco title in 2000.
Redshirt Freshman Tyler Bernacchi rounds out the new faces in the Aggie lineup. Bernacchi was ranked as the state's top 160-pounder for the majority of his final high school season and finished with a record of 51-4 and a fourth-place finish at the state championships as a prep at Clovis East High School. Bernacchi was also a winner of the prestigious Five Counties Tournament in his senior year.
Junior Eliot Kelly will get the start at 197 for the Aggies this season. Kelly has yet to see consistent varsity action after two seasons with UC Davis. He had a 6-4 record last season with all his competition coming at tournaments and has a 9-8 overall career record. Kelly also finished second at the All-California Invitational during the 2004-05 season. As a prep at nearby Rocklin High School, Kelly captured Sierra Foothill League and Sac-Joaquin subsection titles while taking fifth at the section tournament as a senior.
Junior Broc Maffia will return as the heavyweight starter for the Aggies. Maffia finished last season with a 3-8 record. Maffia's first win against a NCAA-countable foe was a 9-2 victory over Stanford's Shawn Ritzenhaler at the Reno Tournament of Champions. His season was hampered by some injuries though and he is expected to make an impact in the UC Davis lineup this year.