“Tradition – Honor – Success” is the new mission statement of USC’s club wrestling team, which has seen a great deal of change since its creation two semesters ago. For the first time, the team will be eligible to compete against varsity squads from other universities.
Previously, the team had only been wrestling against other universities’ club teams. USC recently joined the National College Wrestling Association and is now able to compete with opponents on the NJCAA, NCAA, NAIA and NCWA levels.
Up until early last semester, the team only had about 10 wrestlers. Peter Ferra, the president of the wrestling club and a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, says that since then, the program “has been growing at an unbelievable rate.”
Nick Cegelski, the web director for the wrestling program and a freshman majoring in public relations, says the team recruited new athletes via social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as by posting advertisements on campus. The club now features about 40 wrestlers, including a small women’s team led by Raquel Cannon, a freshman majoring in human biology.
This upcoming season is not only special because it is the first time USC wrestling will compete at the varsity level — it is also the first season the team will have an official head coach. Jack Schwartz had personal success as a wrestler in the past, winning third place in the Junior World Olympics and second place in the Pan American Games. He has also won the Senior National Olympics three times. In addition to personal success, Schwartz has an impressive coaching record: In 1981, he coached a South Hills High School team that won the California state championship. In his first season, Schwartz is looking forward to “fielding a complete team that is super competitive and creating the excitement to recruit other athletes to USC.”
In addition to Schwartz, Wesley Fulkerson, a USC alumnus, will be joining the coaching staff, while Marty Lockwood, who was an alternate for the 1976 Olympic Games, will continue to serve as an assistant coach.
Schwartz and Fulkerson’s arrivals have the athletes looking forward to the upcoming season, as their help will be necessary to compete against higher-level teams.
“I am very excited to work with our new coaches,” Cannon said. “I see great potential in our rising team and can only see the coaches as an extension of that potential. We are all very happy to have their help.”
The team hopes the new coaches will help build upon the success of last year. In a tournament on Dec. 1 at UCLA, USC’s somewhat young team fared well, recording 10 wins and nine losses against wrestlers from UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UCLA and Ventura College.
This season, the team will travel to Santa Barbara for a dual meet with UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 26, and will later compete in the California Collegiate Open, hosted by San Francisco State University, on Feb. 2.
“We have fairly high expectations for this season,” Cegelski says. “Even though we are a new team, we have a few guys who wrestled at community college before coming to USC, guys who competed in the high school nationals and a few state placers.”
The wrestling team welcomes new members and no experience is required. The expansion of the wrestling program is simply good news for Cannon, who says wrestling is a sport that more people should watch and more schools should adopt.
“There’s just something about wrestling; the blood, the sweat, the tears, the training, the accomplishments and the falls … it’s just something that the world needs to experience.”