UC Davis is no stranger to success on the wrestling mat.
In 2006, the program saw Derek Moore win a national championship.
The Aggies may be in luck again this year as junior captain Ricky Alcala is looking to repeat Moore’s accomplishments – that is, winning a national title.
The 5-foot-11, 285-pound native of Arvin, Calif. is currently ranked No. 17 in the country in the heavyweight class and is looking to make some noise at the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament on Friday and Saturday at the Pavilion.
Alcala took a break from his preparation this week to sit down with Aggie sports writer Kyle Hyland to talk about his role on the team, his expectations going into this weekend and his hopes for the NCAA Tournament.
How do you prepare for a match?
I practice hard, physically and mentally. You have to have an assertive mindset before you step on the mat. In my head, I go through the moves that I plan on hitting against my opponent. I rely mostly on my coaches to prepare me physically with weights and conditioning. It is also important that I eat well and get plenty of rest.
How do you feel right before you are about to get on the mat?
I feel a little nervous no matter who I’m going to wrestle. If I don’t feel nervous I’m not ready to step onto the mat. I also feel excited and ready to battle. I’m always mentally ready to compete.
What is your role on the team this year?
I’m a captain on the team this year and my role is to lead by example on and off the mat. The coaches and the other wrestlers probably expect more from me than anybody else because I have demonstrated by my actions that I’m a responsible individual. I help fellow teammates with questions they have regarding technique, skill and personal life plus questions pertaining to school like financial aid and homework. So I feel my role goes beyond leading in the wrestling room.
What is different about this year than last year in terms of expectations?
There are definitely more expectations placed on me this year than last year because last year I was still a small fish in a big pond. There were guys on the team that were much older and more experienced than I was. This is my first year being a captain. Also being ranked in the top 20 in the nation all year has placed some added weight on my back in terms of pressure.
Your team was really young this season. Is it difficult being a leader on such a youthful squad?
At times, yes, just because I’m new to the leadership roles. But to be honest, I feel like I have the personality to be a good leader. The guys on the team look up to me. I’m an approachable individual and the guys like me, I think.
Are you excited that UC Davis is hosting the Pac-10 tournament this year?
I am excited, but I would be excited no matter where the Pac-10 tournament was. I think it’s going to be extremely convenient for me and the rest of the team in hosting the Pac-10 tournament. I live right across the street at the Colleges at LaRue [laughs]. Plus, it will be fun to have all the support of friends and family.
What is your overall goal for this year?
My overall goal this year is to become All-American or national champion. If that’s not your goal as a Division I wrestler and athlete then you shouldn’t be competing. That’s my personal opinion. You should dream of being a national champion.
KYLE HYLAND can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.