Jimmies heading into second year under Zalesky with new faces
The Jimmies have three of their first four meets of the season at home.
JAMESTOWN — In head coach Jim Zalesky’s second year at the helm of the University of Jamestown men’s wrestling program, the team looks a lot different than his first squad.
The Jimmies lost 11 wrestlers from last year’s team, and Zalesky and his staff of Claude Robinson and Theo Robison have 12 new freshmen on the roster.
“We have a combination of returners and newcomers, so it’s how those guys fit in, how the guys from last year improve,” Zalesky said. “Some guys are switching weights, we have some guys who got quite a bit of experience from last year. So, we have a mixture of that group, inexperience and experience.”
One of the 18 grapplers who is returning is sophomore Park Beeler, who is wrestling in the 165-pound weight class. Last season, Beeler finished his year by finishing third in the GPAC Championships. As a result of his performances, Beeler was named a GPAC All-Conference Honorable Mention.
Beeler said his biggest hurdles in the sport have been more mental than physical.
“I’ve always had the ability to be one of the best and I know that but something about me in a wrestling match I just stop myself,” Beeler said. “I was my biggest enemy, I look in the mirror and I would hesitate on shots for example, and when you’re not shooting you’re allowing them to shoot. I had some success last year off of my defense and purely my defense and that’s not even the best part of my wrestling and I got away with too much last year off of my defense. I think this year, I’m gonna be shooting a lot more, you’re gonna see that on offense.”
The Jimmies lost their most successful wrestler from last year in sophomore Theorius Robison, who was the only Jimmie to make it to the NAIA Men’s Wrestling National Championships. Robison went 2-2 in his four matches at the Nationals. Robison was also named a member of the GPAC All-Conference second team.
While Zalesky did not pick out one specific member of his team who he expects to replace Robison, he said he is excited to get started and see who steps up.
The Jimmies open the season at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, when they host Minnesota State University-Moorhead.
“We got some new guys in there, some freshmen that came in,” Zalesky said. “Some guys look good in the practice room but that’s practice. This weekend we get to watch them compete, especially the next two weekends, get to watch them compete and solidify the team, at least for the early duels this year.”
Zalesky said he is expecting breakout seasons from Beeler and juniors Ian Howell and Tommy Beringer. He said he is looking forward to seeing how Beringer wrestles in a higher weight class.
“Park Beeler had a pretty good freshman year last year, probably one or two matches away from going to the nationals last year," Zalesky said. "If he won a couple more matches he would’ve gotten an at-large (bid). He was the first at-large bid to not get in, so those guys can help us and we’ll see what the new guys have.”
Beeler said his heart and never-ending motor have allowed him to overcome the skill deficit that is present in some of his matches. Beeler said his goals for this season are not results based as much as strategy based. He said he wants to be aggressive at the beginning of matches and go for early takedowns. He also said he is working on putting in work after practice.
The Jimmies have not had an NAIA All-American since Dillon Kifer in 2017. Zalesky said it is a tough goal to reach but sophomore Kaena De Santos is hoping to end the team’s drought.
“I think a new guy does, a (157) pounder, Kaena De Santos, has talked about it, he wants to win a national tournament,” Zalesky said. “So, if you want to win a national tournament, you already gotta put yourself in nationals now, it’s getting there.”