As his team begins competition at the NCAA Championships today, Cal Poly wrestling head coach John Azevedo is not worried about the Mustangs’ disappointing fourth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships three weeks ago.
In fact, Azevedo feels that finish – after Cal Poly was expected to take at least second – could serve a purpose. The Mustangs wrestle today through Saturday at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Mich., with five individuals slated to compete.
“It was hard,” Azevedo said of the Pac-10 Championships. “I think these guys have recovered from that and are really looking forward to the nationals. We’ve had some guys injured. They’re just getting healthier. The Pac-10 is good for them in some ways. I think they’re more determined now.”
After beginning the season ranked 17th nationally in the Wrestling International Newsmagazine poll, injury-riddled Cal Poly lost six of its first nine dual meets. The Mustangs, though, battled back to finish with a dual meet record of 7-9 overall and 5-4 in the Pac-10.
The five Mustangs who will compete at the national championships are 133-pound senior Darrell Vasquez (28-3), 141-pound senior Dave Roberts (12-7), 157-pound redshirt freshman Chase Pami (20-11), 197-pound senior Matt Monteiro (21-6) and senior heavyweight Cody Parker (18-6).
In the USA Today NWCA InterMat Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll, Vasquez is ranked seventh nationally in his weight class, Monteiro 17th and Parker 10th.
While Vasquez won the Pac-10 title and both Monteiro and Parker were second to clinch spots at the national championships, Roberts and Pami were each fourth before receiving at-large bids.
To finish the season as an All-American, wrestlers must finish in the top eight of their respective weight classes at nationals.
“Individually, I think each of the guys would want to become an All-American,” Azevedo said. “I know Darrell is really looking at becoming a national champ. All of the guys are excited to go battle for it.”
Cal Poly will also be trying to improve on its 23rd-place finish at NCAAs last year.
“As a team, if the guys perform the way they’re capable, we could be a top-15 or top-10 team,” Azevedo said.
Vasquez has won 11 straight matches and 16 of his last 17 overall, with the only loss in that stretch coming via a 4-3 decision against Oklahoma State’s Coleman Scott on Dec. 20.
“It’s important,” Azevedo said of Vasquez’s final collegiate action. “He’s very capable. He’s shown he’s one of the best. I think he feels very confident. We just have to take it one (match) at a time. We’ve been looking at him finishing up with a national title. That’s definitely what we’re thinking and hoping for.”
Monteiro had won five straight before suffering a 10-7 loss to Cal State Bakersfield’s Brandon Halsey on Feb. 24. Parker had won five straight himself before losing 8-2 to Oregon State’s Ty Watterson on Feb. 24.
“Those guys are both capable of being All-Americans,” Azevedo said of Monteiro and Parker. “For Matt, that would be good. He’s excited to go wrestle well. We’ve seen he’ll have wins over guys that are ranked. He can beat anyone on a given day.”
Roberts has been up and down most of the season after recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. He competed in only one match from Dec. 3 to Jan. 20.
“Dave is healing up,” Azevedo said. “He’s feeling good and healthy. He wrestled (at NCAAs) last year and was in the round of 12. He could surprise some people and knock some people off.”
Pami has lost two of his last three matches but has enjoyed a breakout season after going 8-3 last year. He could easily be ranked, as five of his 11 losses are by a single point.
“(Pami) could surprise some people too,” Azevedo said. “As a freshman, it’s great to get there and get the experience.”
The Mustangs departed for the Detroit area Tuesday, two days before anyone takes the mat.
“We’re going there to take care of business,” Azevedo said. “The guys are ready, I can see that.”