Former Aggie Derek Moore gave UC Davis national attention two years ago by becoming national champion of his weight class.
Now, the Aggies are doing it as a team.
UC Davis beat tenth-ranked Northwestern in a statement dual 23-15 in front of a home crowd of 944 at the Pavilion on Sunday. The Aggies improve to 2-1 on the year.
“It’s a big win for our program,” said head coach Lennie Zalesky. “Hopefully, this shows that a California team can build an extremely competitive program and contend with these top-10 ranked teams. We’ll use this win and hopefully keep things rolling as the season progresses.“
The teams stood tied at six after splitting the first four matches. Sophomores Brandon Low and Barett Abel earned decisions during that stretch, as each improved to 3-0 on the year.
Redshirt freshman Joey Wilson also improved his collegiate record to 3-0, picking up six points in a forfeit win to give UC Davis a 12-6 advantage it would not surrender.
Senior Dustin Noack earned a major decision with a 9-0 victory that increased the Aggies lead to 16-6. Fellow senior Tyler Bernacchi took advantage of his first match of the year by earning an 8-6 decision in the first sudden-victory period, giving UC Davis a 19-6 lead.
Northwestern’s Jake Hegert, a 2007 national champion, pinned Jon Clark in the next dual, giving the Wildcats some hope as they cut the lead to 19-12.
John Schoen then earned a decision over UC Davis‘ Abe Otrambo, meaning it all came down to sophomore heavyweight Ricky Alcala.
Alcala’s Aggies were clinging to a 19-15 lead when he stepped onto the mat knowing a Paul Rands pin would have spelled defeat for UC Davis.
Alcala didn’t disappoint, earning an 11-3 major decision to claim the win.
“I felt like I was bigger and stronger,” Alcala said, who improved to 3-0 on the year with the victory.
“Ricky looked incredible tonight,” Zalesky said.
While the victory may have come off as surprising to many, Alcala had confidence in his team from the start.
“We knew we were going to win,” he said. “We had taped ‘Beat Northwestern‘ in our room all week for motivation.“
The victory comes on the heels of a disappointing loss at Arizona State two weeks ago.
“We were struggling with injuries at Arizona State,” Alcala said.
The two-week break helped UC Davis recover from their injuries and prepare for the tenth-ranked Wildcats.
“We’re expecting big things this year,” Alcala said.
Following Sunday night’s win, there’s no reason for the Aggies not to.
KYLE HYLAND can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.