After the Aggies upset No. 10 Northwestern at home, they took to the mat in two big national tournaments in Las Vegas and Reno over the winter break. They also hosted conference rival Portland State at home.
The Aggies had an impressive showing at the Las Vegas Invite, finishing 20th out of 44 with Orozco placing fifth in his class. A week later the Aggies hosted Portland State at Hickey Gym, winning in convincing manner, 28-15.
UC Davis then headed back to Nevada for the Reno Tournament of Champions, where they placed ninth out of 30 and had three wrestlers place.
Dec. 5 and 6 – Las Vegas Invite
In a tournament that included nine-nationally ranked teams and six Pac-10 teams, senior Marcos Orozco led UC Davis to a solid 20th place showing.
Orozco led the Aggies with a career-best place finish of fifth in the 125-pound weight class. Senior Tyler Bernacchi and redshirt freshman Joey Wilson joined Orozco in the second day of the tournament, with Bernacchi falling just one win short of placing in the tournament for the second straight year.
UC Davis coach Lennie Zalesky was proud of the all-around team performance, as well as the strong individual showings.
“I think we were about six points off our highest scoring performance,” Zalesky said. “That shows a good all-around effort by our team. We had seven guys win matches and three guys one away from placing.”
Zalesky also believes there is still much room for improvement.
“We’re still not bringing our best efforts,” he said. “We need to work on some technical stuff. Mostly we need to work on hitting our moves and doing the things we do best.”
Dec. 16 – Portland State, 28-15
UC Davis may have knocked off Portland State 31-9 last year, but that doesn’t mean the Aggies were overlooking the Vikings.
“I think Portland State has brought in some young talent and should be improved,” Zalesky said.
The Aggies proved that the Vikings still have a lot of improving to do by trouncing them at home, 28-15.
UC Davis dominated Portland State with five major decisions and a technical fall by sophomore Barrett Abel, which helped the Aggies improve to 1-1 in conference duals and 3-1 overall.
Brandon Low and Nexi Delgado both earned major decisions to start off the match to give the Aggies momentum. Abel’s technical fall then gave UC Davis a 13-0 advantage as the Aggies coasted to victory.
Abe Otrambo, Ricky Alcala and Orozco closed out the dual as each earned major decisions over their opponents and the Aggies picked up their first conference win of the year.
Dec. 18 – Reno Tournament of Champions
Just two days after their home victory over Portland State, the Aggies traveled to Reno for the Tournament of Champions, which claims to be the “Toughest Tournament in the USA.“
UC Davis had three wrestlers place in the tournament and finished ninth against some of the best teams in the country including, No. 13 Oklahoma State and nine Pac-10 schools.
Orozco, Abel and Alcala were the three Aggies to place and led UC Davis to a strong team showing amongst national powerhouses.
“The most we’ve ever placed there was three and we matched that this time around,” Zalesky said. “We had a few other guys who were very close from placing and just fell short.“
Zalesky was also very impressed with his team’s overall performance at the tournament and on the year.
“What it really showed us was that we can compete with the top-10 teams,” he said. “The fact that we weren’t seeded in any but one of the brackets also shows that we can battle. Overall, I feel like we had a good start to the first half of the season.“
UC Davis then traveled to Stillwater, Okla. to take on No. 13 Oklahoma State yesterday. For a full recap, see Tuesday’s Aggie.
KYLE HYLAND can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.