Zalesky reflects on season, preparing for NCAA tournament

Danny Rice Sports Reporter

After an inconsistent regular season, the No. 22 Beavers finished strong by winning their fifth consecutive Pac-12 title. Oregon State also finished the season going 11-6 in dual meets and 3-2 in conference play.  Next up for the Beavers—the NCAA tournament. Zalesky talked with the Daily Barometer’s Danny Rice on Wednesday to reflect on the season and how his team is preparing for the biggest tournament of the year. 

Danny Rice: As the regular season has now concluded—on a scale of 1-10 with ten being phenomenal and one being unsatisfactory—rate your team’s performance throughout the season. 

Jim Zalesky: It depends on the meet. There were some meets where we deserved like a nine or a ten, and then there were others where we deserved a two or a three. I think we were inconsistent this year, especially early on in the year. We kind of started off slow at the beginning and it’s probably why we didn’t put ourselves in good enough position at the Pac-12 tournament to earn more spots for the NCAA tournament. 

DR: Did the team fall short, meet or exceed your expectations?

JZ: I think we have guys who should be going to the NCAA tournament that aren’t but I think it’s because of how we started. (Cody) Crawford was hurt all summer so that’s probably why he started off slow. (Abraham) Rodriguez started off slow but came on strong at the end of the year but didn’t do enough at the Pac-12 tournament to qualify. I feel like those guys should be moving on to the NCAA tournament but they aren’t. 

DR: What was the best moment of the season for you thus far?

JZ: Winning the Pac-12 title again and the way we had to win it. Last year we kind of just blew through it and won it before the final round. This year, every match we won made the difference, getting pins and getting bonus points—we talk about that all the time in practice. We’ve won duals because of it and it’s the reason we won the Pac-12 tournament. 

DR: What was the low point of the season for your team?

JZ: I think it was our first home meet. We wrestled Rutgers and got beat there and came back and wrestled Utah Valley and we just didn’t recover. A lot of guys didn’t recover and we got beat. The first two meets we had at home, we lost, so that made the coaches really look at where we were at and pick it up from there. 

DR: Who is the MVP of the team this year?

JZ: It’s hard to say, we have two guys ranked in the top ten in Amarveer Dhesi (No. 8) and Ronnie Bresser (No. 7). They are both looking to do big things at the national tournament so it will be easier to say after NCAA’s. They both have had good seasons and both are ranked pretty high. Other guys who have had pretty good seasons are Corey Greigo and Seth Thomas—who is our leader. I think there are a lot of guys who’ve had pretty good years but it’s about how you finish. 

DR: Who is the surprise or breakout wrestler this year?

JZ: It’s not a surprise to us, but Greigo has done well and the crowd likes watching him wrestle and how he gets after it. He wrestles well on top and is a grinder. He’s the guy who has come in and sparked our team. 

DR: With five wrestlers guaranteed going to the NCAA tournament—mostly likely six with Joey Palmer earning an at-large bid—was that the amount of wrestlers you were expecting to take to the NCAA tournament?

JZ: I thought we could’ve had more, but halfway through the year, that’s what it looked like. I thought we could’ve had more with Rodriguez and Crawford but at the other weights, we just didn’t wrestle well. At those weights, we just have to find ways in the off-season to get better. 

DR: What are you doing to prepare for the NCAA tournament in two weeks?

JZ: We kind of took it easy earlier in the week. We’re getting back on the mat today and working back into it. We’re going to take the weekend off and have a really good training phase next week and then we leave a week from Sunday. 

DR: With no All-Americans the past two years, are you doing anything differently to prepare and are you confident you are going to walk away with at least one All-American?

JZ: Earning All-American status is what it is all about. Your last competition is what you remember. The last two years have been disappointing, especially when you get guys in the round before placing. But this year, it’s a new year and once we’re there, it doesn’t matter what your record or what you’re ranked. You have to go out there and wrestle. The goal is to wrestle on Saturday and if it’s not in the finals, it’s in the morning in the placing rounds. To prepare, for us, it just about getting mentally right and having a good training phase. 

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