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A few weeks ago I asked my Twitter followers how they would put together an all-time great college dual team with the current weights using athletes from their home states. The responses were great and really got me curious. So, I did the research and have now put together the best possible team for the top 16 states including some formidable back-up teams.
Across the next handful of days, we will unveil these teams before pitting them against each other in a national duals format type competition.
With how much the weight classes have changed over the years, I tried to slide wrestlers in where I thought they would wrestle, i.e. 126 = 125. I also tried to avoid having to bump wrestlers up or down weight classes when able.
Now, lets rundown that big state out west: California.
125 Starter: Stephen Abas, Hayward, 1998-2002
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 4 (118), 1, 1, 1 (125)
Stephen Abas killed people with speed and technique. After finishing fourth as a freshman at 118, he never lost a match at 125 lbs and won three NCAA titles. With a career record of 144-4, Abas was a Hodge Trophy finalist in 2001 and 2002, and would have won in 2002 if it wasn’t for someone by the name of Cael Sanderson.
Most recently, the California legend was on the Bader Show to talk about COVID-19, what he’s been up to, and his legacy.
125 Backup: Jesse Delgado, Gilroy, 2012-15
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 7, 1, 1, NQ (125)
Despite being one of the many career 125-pounders who end up injured, Jesse Delgado racked up over 100 wins and two NCAA titles while at Illinois. With darting in and out style and signature leg pass, he beat the likes of Matt McDonough, Nico Megaludis, Nahshon Garrett, and Cory Clark among others.
Honorable Mention: Dan Cuestas - 3x NQ, 1981 & 1982 NCAA champion for CSU Bakersfield
133 Starter: Eric Guerrero, San Jose, 1996-99
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 5, 1, 1 (126), 1 (133)
Guerrero compiled a 117-13 overall record during his time at Oklahoma State, highlighted by a perfect 31-0 record his senior year in which he recorded one fall, 12 technical falls, and seven major decisions.
While still in college, Guerrero made the while still a junior in college and made his first World Team just months after completing his college career in 1999.
133 Backup: Nahshon Garrett, Chico, 2013-16
Similar to Guerrero, Nahshon Garrett compiled a 149-12 overall record during his time at Cornell, highlighted by a perfect 37-0 record his senior year in which he recorded 11 falls, five tech falls, and seven major decisions. He defeated national champion Cory Clark 7-6 in the NCAA finals the same year.
Watch Nahshon Garrett win the 2016 NCAA title below.
Honorable Mention: Marco Sanchez - 4X qualifier, 2X AA for Arizona State in 90s and Yero Washington - 2X AA for Fresno State in the 90s
141 Starter: Gerry Abas, Hayward, 1992-95
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 6, 2, 2, 2 (142)
As a three-time finalist Gerry Abas will go down as one of the best to never win an NCAA title. His finals losses were to three-time champ and four-time finalist Lincoln McIlravy 16-15 (wtf), three-time finalist Alan Fried, and two-time finalist. He went 134-20 and was California’s first four-time AA.
141 Backup: Derek Moore, Redding, 2004-07
NCAA Tournament Finishes: R12, R12 (133), NQ, 1 (141)
If you wanted to argue that Moore should be ahead of Abas because of his national title run in ‘07, I wouldn’t argue too hard. Moore is one of the few people to ever earn a tech fall in the NCAA finals. After Ryan Lang got the opening takedown off of the whistle, Moore rattled off 17-straight points to win 17-2. The performance capped off an undefeated season and earned him the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award as well.
Honorable Mention: Boris Novachkov - 3X AA & 2011 national finalist for Cal Poly, Chad Mendes - 2X AA & 2008 national finalist for Cal Poly
149 Starter: Adam Tirapelle, Clovis, 1998-2001
NCAA Tournament Finishes: R12 (142), 3, 2, 1 (149)
The oldest of the Tirapelle brothers, Adam went 127-21 in college for a win percentage of .858. His 2001 NCAA championships bracket included Dave Esposito, Mike Zadick, and Jared Frayer.
149 Backup: Townsend Saunders, Torrance, 1987-90
NCAA Tournament Finishes: NQ, 2 (142), 3 (150)
Initially at CSU Bakersfield, Saunders won a DII championship at 142 pounds before transferring to Arizona State University. As a Sun Devil, Saunders went 77-9 and was a two-time AA, finishing 2nd and 3rd. In the 1989 finals, Saunders took Pat Santoro into overtime, where Santoro ultimately won on criteria.
Honorable Mention: Adam Cohen - 1986 NCAA finalist for Arizona State
157 Starter: Isaiah Martinez, Lemoore, 2015-18
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 1, 1 (157), 2, 2 (165)
Freshman and sophomore IMar was an absolute savage. There were talks of four-time undefeated and the next Cael. After getting upset by Jason Nolf his sophomore year, he came back to beat him at both Big 10s and NCAAs. Nolf, along with Vincenzo Joseph, are the only two who could beat IMar in college. He finished as a four-time NCAA finalist and four-time Big Ten champ with a record of 116-3.
157 Backup: Marty Kistler, Riverside, 1982-86
NCAA Tournament Finishes: NQ, 2 (150), 1 (158), 1 (167)
Marty Kistler made one of the greatest transformations in Div I wrestling history. After going 12-16 and 1-10 in duals his freshman year, Kistler took a redshirt and then went on a three-year run where he went 106-9 with 27 falls. He won three Big Ten Conference titles and was a three-time NCAA finalist, winning titles in 1985 and 1986.
Kistler won the NCAA tournament outstanding wrestler award his senior year after earning 79 points in five matches for an average of 15.8 points per match.
Honorable Mention: Jason Welch - 3X AA and 2013 NCAA finalist for Northwestern
165 Starter: Mark Schultz, Palo Alto, 1979-83
NCAA Tournament Finishes: NQ (158), 1 (167), 1, 1 (177)
Before Mark Schultz won three World and Olympic titles, he won three NCAA titles. The highlight of his career came in the finals his junior season when he bumped up to 177 and beat then two-time champion Ed Banach 16-8 and won outstanding wrestler.
165 Backup: Dave Schultz, Palo Alto, 1978-82
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 3 (150), 2 (158), 1 (167)
Who better to backup Mark Schultz than his brother Dave? After taking third while at Oklahoma State, Dave transferred to Oklahoma to be with Mark where he was a two-time finalist. In 1982 he won the 167-pound title by defeating Mike Sheets in the finals.
Honorable Mention: Mike Gallego - 2X national finalist for Fresno State in the late 60s.
174 Starter: Chris Pendleton, Lemoore, 2001-05
NCAA Tournament Finishes: NQ (165), 3, 1, 1 (174)
The new head coach at Oregon State, had an extraordinary college career. After being forced into the lineup due to injury as a true freshman and going 15-7, he redshirted and then went on a three-year tear that included a 97-5 record, three AA finishes, and two NCAA titles.
He’s often remembered for being two-time Hodge Trophy winner Ben Askren’s kryptonite. Pendleton went a combined 7-1 against Askren.
Watch Pendleton talk about some untold Askren stories below.
174 Backup: Darryl Pope, Escalon, 1984-87
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 5 (158), 6 (167), 2 (177)
Darryl Pope’s 86-7-1 college career record was capped off with a senior season where he went 44-1 with 17 pins and made the NCAA finals.
Honorable Mention: Quincy Clark - 2x AA and 1995 national finalist for Oklahoma.
184 Starter: Zahid Valencia, Bellflower, 2017-20
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 3, 1, 1 (174)
Zahid will always (and should) be remembered as a 174-pounder. However, he wrestled at 184 while he was wrestling this season, so for the benefit of California, I’m using him at 184.
Valencia went 121-3 over his 3.5 years of non-redshirt competition with almost an 80% bonus rate. While still in college Zahid was on the cusp of making a Senior World Team. This past December, he won a Senior Nationals bracket that included Alex Dieringer, Myles Martin, Brett Pfarr, and Sammy Brooks.
Watch Zahid win the 2019 NCAA title over Mark Hall below.
184 Backup: Dan Chaid, San Jose, 1983-86
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 6 (190), 4 (177), 1, 2 (190)
En route to his NCAA title, Chaid defeated Mark Tracey, Mark Cody, and Duane Goldman. The final’s result from ‘85 was reversed in 86 when Goldman defeated Chaid in the finals 5-4.
Honorable Mention: Eric Wais - a two-time NCAA finalist and 1979 champion for Oklahoma State
197 Starter: Jake Varner, Bakersfield, 2007-10
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 2, 2 (184), 1, 1 (197)
After being defeated by Jake Herbert and Mike Pucillo in the NCAA finals his first two years, Jake Varner would win two NCAA titles while going a combined 61-2 with over 20 pins. The best part for me might be the number of pins that came by way of half nelson. More people should pin people with a half nelson at the D1 level.
197 Backup: Mark Munoz, Vallejo, 1998-2001
NCAA Tournament Finishes: NQ (177), R12 (184), 2, 1 (197)
Before becoming an MMA standout, Mark Munoz was a two-time All-American and the 2001 197-pound national champion. His career record for Oklahoma State was 111-27. After his freshman year, Munoz won a Junior World silver medal.
Honorable Mention: Tom Kline - a national champion for Cal Poly in 1969.
285 Starter: Stephen Neal, San Diego, 1996-99
NCAA Tournament Finishes: 4, 2, 1 (275), 1 (285)
Stephen Neal put together a run his final two years that is up there with any two seasons from a heavyweight. His junior season he went 39-0 and won 20-5 over Trent Hynek in the NCAA finals. His senior season he went 44-0, won 3-2 over Brock Lesnar in the NCAA finals, and was awarded the Hodge Trophy. Neal’s overall college record was 153-9.
285 Backup: Ryan Flores, Clovis, 2008-12
NCAA Tournament Finishes: NQ, NQ, 2, 6 (285)
A two-time All-American for American with a career record of 92-21 and 43 pins in his final three seasons. Although he lost in the NCAA finals to Zach Rey 3-2 in 2011, he finished ahead of Tony Nelson, Dom Bradley, and Jarrod Trice.
Honorable Mention: Fred Bohna - national champion for UCLA in 1979
There you have it, the greatest California D1 lineup of all-time.
|125||Stephen Abas||Hayward||1998-2002||Fresno State|
|133||Eric Guerrero||San Jose||1996-99||Oklahoma State|
|141||Gerry Abas||Haward||1992-95||Fresno State|
|165||Mark Schultz||Palo Alto||1979-83||UCLA/Oklahoma|
|174||Chris Pendleton||Lemoore||2001-05||Oklahoma State|
|184||Zahid Valencia||Bellflower||2017-20||Arizona State|
|197||Jake Varner||Bakersfield||2007-10||Iowa State|
|285||Stephen Neal||San Diego||1996-99||CSU Bakersfield|