After a tough season for the Aggies as a team, it all came down to individual performances at Pacific 10 Tournament in the Pavilion.
“As a team, we didn’t do well this season,” Alcala said. “That doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is the conference championship.”
The Aggies big three came through as each earned a bid to the NCAA Championships. Juniors Ricky Alcala (heavyweight), Brandon Low (133) and Barrett Abel (149) will be representing the Aggies in Omaha, Neb. on Mar. 18.
Abel won in his weight class, giving the Aggies their first individual Pac-10 title since 2007.
“It feels good,” Abel said. “I had two goals this season. One was to be Pac 10 champion and the other was to be an All-American. I am only half way there. Right now I am in mindset to reach that All-American status.”
Low entered as the No. 1 seed at 133 but came up just short in the final dual, losing 4-3 to Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov.
“I felt like I came out decently aggressive,” Low said. “I knew it was going to be tough. He has an unorthodox style. It’s international style.”
The fourth seed heavyweight Alcala had a much more of a roller coaster ride to this third-place finish. He lost his first decision of the tournament to Kurt Klimek of Cal State Fullerton, putting him on a tough road to get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“I was playing it safe and it backfired,” Alcala said. “I overlooked the match. I was looking too far ahead to wrestling the number one seed and getting that rematch from two weeks ago.”
Alcala was able to regain his focus and win the next three to claim third place. His last win was a 6-1 victory over Klimek in the third-place dual, allowing him to claim a bid to Omaha.
Oregon State narrowly defeated Boise State for the Pac-10 title team title as the Aggies ended up in seventh place in the tournament.
Overall, head coach Lennie Zalesky was proud of his team despite the low finish.
“I don’t think anybody finished below their seed,” Zalesky said. “I thought they fought pretty well but there are a lot of good athletes out there. Our guys showed a lot of heart. They were just a little outclassed in experience and athleticism. We’re going to need some of the younger guys to make gains over the summer.”
For Low, Abel and Alcala, the season is not over, however. They will look to stay sharp during the almost three-week break.
“We will go over film,” Low said. “It’s just little, technical things – drilling things so they become second nature.”
The three-day NCAA Tournament will begin on Thursday Mar. 18.
KYLE HYLAND can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.