Buckley Era Begins as Cal Poly Wrestlers Compete in Roadrunner Open
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly begins its first wrestling season under new head coach Brendan Buckley on Saturday by competing in the inaugural Roadrunner Open hosted by Cal State Bakersfield at the Icardo Center.
The Mustangs will send as many as 22 wrestlers, including 10 redshirts, to the single-day meet which begins at 9 a.m. The championship finals are slated to start at 4 or 5 p.m.
Some 200 to 300 wrestlers from a dozen schools will compete in Cal State Bakersfield's first in-season tournament since the early 1990s. In addition to Cal Poly and Cal State Bakersfield, the list of teams includes Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford from the Pacific-12 Conference along with San Francisco State, Grand Canyon, Menlo College, Cal Baptist and three community colleges -- Bakersfield College, Cerritos College and Palomar College.
Last month, Buckley welcomed nine lettermen, including seven starters, from a squad which posted a 9-2 dual meet record, finished sixth in the Pacific-10 (now Pac-12) Conference Championship and produced four national qualifiers, including Pac-10 champion and national runnerup Boris Novachkov.
Three of the four national qualifiers return and they were joined by five redshirts and 14 newcomers at the first day of practice Oct. 10.
Buckley feels his three seniors -- Novachkov and national qualifiers Ryan DesRoches and Ryan Smith -- will be the key to a successful 2011-12 campaign.
"The three seniors are really going to be the key to a successful season," said Buckley, head coach at Columbia for 11 years before accepting the job at Cal Poly in April. "They know how to push themselves and, in our sport, it's an easier transition because of that.
"We're relying on those guys not just on the mat, but in the practice room to help the younger guys," Buckley added. "There are going to be a lot of them on the mat this year. We will be working hard to develop our young guys over the course of the season. I see us as a strong tournament team, but on the dual meet front we will have some new guys in the lineup."
Novachkov posted a 31-2 record with four pins as a junior en route to a second-place national finish. Both of his losses were to NCAA 141-pound champion Kellen Russell by 3-2 decisions. Novachkov was a perfect 11-0 in duals and captured his second Pac-12 title last February.
DesRoches was 33-8 with a team-leading 14 falls in his junior season. He was 10-1 in duals, finished third in the Pac-12 finals at 165 and will move up to 174 for his senior season.
Smith was 22-11 a year ago with three falls and placed fifth in a very competitive weight class at 197 pounds in the Pac-12 finals, good enough to qualify for the nationals.
Five other wrestlers who competed in more than half of Cal Poly's 11 dual meets return as well, including Britain Longmire at 125 pounds, Brandan Rocha at 133, Steven Vasquez at 165, Kelan Bragg at 184 and Atticus Disney at 285.
Cal Poly's annual Green vs. Gold Meet is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 13, at 1 p.m. in Mott Gym. Cal Poly will host five dual meets and compete in a total of six tournaments prior to the Pac-12 Championship on Feb. 26 at Boise State. The NCAA Championships are scheduled for March 15-17 in St. Louis, Mo.
The Mustangs' five home duals are against Oregon State on Dec. 11, American on Jan. 6, Boise State on Jan. 8, Stanford on Jan. 15 and Arizona State on Jan. 27.
Cal Poly is ranked as high as No. 23 in the preseason national polls. Individually, Novachkov is No. 2 at 141, DesRoches is No. 15 at 165, Vasquez is No. 24 at 174, Smith is No. 13 at 197 and Disney is No. 26 at 285.
A look at the Mustangs by weight class:
125 – Longmire is a redshirt sophomore who posted a 12-12 mark last year and was 3-4 in duals. "He is in position to step up and be competitive in conference," said Buckley. "He is an incredible athlete, has good skill sets and is very athletic."
133 – Rocha compiled a 14-12 mark as a redshirt freshman a year ago and finished fourth in the Pac-12 finals. Four of his wins were by fall. "Brandan is already competitive and has a lot of potential," said Buckley. "He is explosive and pretty strong."
141 – Novachkov. He is 87-19 in his three-year Mustang career, including 22-7 in duals. Novachkov claimed the Fullerton Open and Midlands titles last season.
149 – True freshman Damien Arredondo, third-place finisher in the California state high school championship last March, will start his college career at 149. The Buchanan High School (Clovis) graduate is a three-time state placewinner, placing sixth as a junior and fourth as a sophomore. He was 43-5 as a senior.
157 – A tossup between junior Travis Rasmussen and redshirt freshman Travis Gallegos. Rasmussen did not wrestle last season but compiled a 13-12 mark as a redshirt freshman two seasons ago, placing first in the Cuesta Invitational and fourth in the Missouri Open. Gallegos competed in five open tournaments as a true freshman and compiled a 15-8 record at 157 pounds with two falls, three technical falls and a pair of major decisions. "This one is going to be close and that is going to make each other better," said Buckley.
165 – One of two weight classes with compelling wrestle-offs pending in the practice room. Vasquez is a junior who was 16-16 a year ago and 6-5 in dual meets at 174 pounds. He is dropping to 165 this year. Redshirt freshman Dominic Kastl competed in six open tournaments as a true freshman and compiled a 14-5 record with two falls and three major decisions, placing first in the Cal Baptist Open and second in the California Collegiate Invitational. "These guys have different styles. Kastl is technically sound and Vasquez is really athletic. It's going to be an interesting matchup and I have real high expectations in this weight class."
174 – DesRoches "is really strong and powerful," said Buckley. "He's also real coachable, just a sponge, and has an amazing attitude. He's good on his feet, counters well, clearly one of the best guys in the country and real good on top." DesRoches is 83-31 overall in his Mustang career, 23-8 in duals and has 32 career pins, one shy of the school record.
184 – Ian Daube, a Poway High School graduate, wrestled at Oklahoma in the 2009-10 season and compiled a 9-5 record in open competition at 184 pounds. He attended Cal State Fullerton last season, but did not wrestle in any matches. Daube, now a redshirt sophomore, was a state champion at 189 in 2009 and compiled a 135-13 career prep record.
197 – Smith "has a great attitude and, for a big guy, is really explosive and athletic," said Buckley. "There is no reason he can't be an All-American with the other seniors. He hustles and works really hard on the mat." Smith is 47-35 in his Mustang career, including a 17-10 dual meet mark.
285 – Another very competitive weight class with Disney to be challenged by redshirt freshman Drew Meulman. Disney was 12-12 a year ago after transferring from Minnesota and is a three-time Kansas state champion while Meulman competed in seven open tournaments as a true freshman last year and compiled a 16-9 record. He placed first in the Utah Valley Open, second in the Menlo Open, third in the California Collegiate Invitational and fourth in the Fullerton Open. "For a big guy, Atticus has a lot of athletic ability," said Buckley. "He has to open up his offense and his success will depend on how much he decides to wrestle with movement. Meulman is technically sound. We need to get both of them in the mindset of not wrestling as heavyweights. We want them to use their athleticism, not their weight."