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A banged-up Fresno State squad entered the weekend without several key wrestlers, and after the first day of competition more Bulldogs were forced out with injury.
But in the midst of the chaos that has become Cliff Keen Las Vegas, another contender emerged for the ‘Dogs, as unseeded sophomore Jacob Wright fought to a fifth-place finish at 157 pounds.
“Jacob can be in the mix with anyone out there. He has to make a few adjustments, but he will continue to work and develop as the season progresses,” Fresno State head coach Troy Steiner said.
And with the progression of the season, the Bulldogs have gotten back All-American Josh Hokit, who makes his first appearance in a Bulldogs’ singlet this Sunday at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
The senior spent the first half of the season on the football field for the ‘Dogs, playing a key role at running back.
“My first week has been rough, especially coming into the wrestling room in football shape, which is definitely not wrestling shape,” said Hokit, who moves up from 197 to heavyweight this year. “I’ve been doing this all my life, so it’s nothing new but it is still frustrating not being in the shape I want to be in while others are already in midseason shape. So I’m constantly reminding myself that is a marathon, not a sprint.”
And that reminder is what, for the time being, is keeping the Bulldogs grounded, despite a local push to win right away. And a coaching staff that believes they have the capability to do just that.
The return of Hokit and the surging Wright are exactly the sparks the Bulldogs needed heading into competition this week. Fresno State is still without 165-pound starter Adam Kemp and two-time NCAA qualifier Khristian Olivas.
The Bulldogs also saw at least three other athletes medical forfeit out of the tournament in Las Vegas and their status for this week is uncertain.
“I was hoping to have a lot more guys competing in Reno this week, but we have to get our guys healthy as we head into the new year,” Steiner said. “Right now we have to work hard here through December on our recovery and rehab. If there is a good time to be banged up it is now. We will need everyone back soon.”
Soon couldn’t have come at a better time for Hokit.
“I’m looking forward to my first tournament this weekend. It’s always interesting to see how I do when coming right out of football and jumping right into competition so soon,” Hokit said. “I’ll take it one match at a time and at the end of the day I will have to find a way to win.”
Hokit’s presence back in the Fresno State room is instantly felt by all.
“Obviously having someone like Josh back in is good, but I know he has a lot of work ahead of him and a long ways to go to get to the level he wants to climb to, but I’m excited,” Steiner said.