Wrestling Team Thrives After Five Years

    Five years ago Lonnie Gottschalk, an avid high school wrestler, came to UCSD and found nothing even close to wrestling on campus. No team, no trainer, no equipment, no coach — nada.

    “”I wanted to wrestle,”” Gottschalk said. “”They had [a team] before and it fell apart for some reason or other. They just didn’t have one so I started one.””

    Five years later, Lonnie and six of his teammates are headed to nationals in Dallas this weekend with an excellent chance of returning as national champions.

    Not a bad fruition to a project that started with just a few people interested in wrestling.

    “”It finally took me three years just to buy a mat,”” Gottschalk said.

    The club, like all other sports clubs, is funded by the Associated Students. Even after getting a mat, there was the issue of finding a coach and teams to wrestle against.

    “”We tried to get stuff going on with other schools but nothing really turned out,”” Gottschalk said. “”We wrestled San Diego State University earlier in the year, and we beat them, but that was our only match. On the East Coast it’s a lot more popular [than it is here]. They get about 40 or 50 matches a year, but that’s about it for us.””

    Due to the lack of competition, the members of the wrestling club mainly practice with each other and prepare for conference finals, which decides who goes to nationals..

    This year the club, which boasts about 20 guys and 11 weight classes, sent nine members to the conference finals last weekend and came out of the weekend with seven members going to nationals.

    Squaring off against wrestlers from Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and San Diego State, Gottschalk and his teammates came up big. Nathan Uchida came in second in the 133-pound weight class, Andy Wang earned second in the 141-pound weight class, Mike Johnn garnered second in the 157-pound weight class, while Dave Hall got second in the 197-pound weight class.

    Representing UCSD with first place finishes were Kyle Kleinschmidt in the 174-pound weight class and Cory Nagel in the 184-pound weight class.

    And last but not least, Gottschalk nabbed the top spot in the 235-pound category. Not bad, considering this is the first year of competition for the wrestling team.

    “”We’re having a pretty good year,”” Gottschalk said. “”The best thing is I’m the only one graduating. Everyone else is a first- or second year so they’re only going to get better.””

    This is also the first year the team has had an official coach.

    Gottschalk enlisted the help of Tony Ontiveros, a head trainer for UCSD.

    “”I met him through rugby,”” Gottschalk said. “”He wrestled at Humbolt State and he’s helped us out a lot. He’s worked out real well.””

    For these dedicated athletes, the season doesn’t end with the nationals. Most participate in freestyle wrestling, which begins after nationals and goes through fall, giving them a year-round schedule

    For Gottschalk, the reward has been well worth it.

    “”Just seeing the development and everything [has been a good memory],”” he said. “”Coming in with nothing at all and turning into a team that has a chance to do well in nationals in my last year here. Hopefully I’ll come back from nationals with a lot of good memories.””

    While Gottschalk won’t be here next year, the wrestling club will continue to move ahead, as it is planning on transiting from a club team to a sports team.

    “”Officially we’re a club. We’re in a probationary year to become a sports team. Hopefully we’ll be a full-on sport team next year,”” Gottschalk said.

    So to all the unaware students out there, wrestling is alive and kicking here at UCSD. In light of the club’s success and accomplishments, don’t be surprised if you hear of the wrestling club again.

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