Former Cal Poly wrestler Boris Novachkov will represent Bulgaria in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Novachkov placed first in the 65-kilogram (143-pound) weight class at the aptly-named Last Chance Olympic Qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey this past weekend, beating highly-lauded American Frank Molinaro during the quarterfinals portion of the event.
Novachkov, often referred to as Borislav, went on to beat an opponent from Belarus in the semifinals, then claimed the finals match on an injury default from Canada’s Antonio Veranes Garcia.
He will head to Rio de Janeiro as the benefactor of some unusual circumstances. While Novachkov might have gotten a lucky break on Sunday, he boasts arguably the best career in the history of Cal Poly’s wrestling program.
The Bulgarian made a name for himself early by excelling on the mat. Competing in multiple weight classes, Novachkov became the first wrestler in Cal Poly history to claim NCAA All-American honors three times.
His closest call with the nation’s top spot came in 2011. As a junior, he finished runner up in the 141-pound weight class at that year’s NCAA national championships. In four years in San Luis Obispo, Novachkov compiled an exceptional 121-33 record.
The former kinesiology student originally hails from Radnevo, Bulgaria but moved to California shortly before starting high school. Novachkov decided to attend Cal Poly partly because he wanted to wrestle alongside his older brother Filip, an accomplished Mustang in his own right.
Novachkov is far from the first former Mustang athlete to compete in the Olympics. Stephanie Brown Trafton became the first Cal Poly graduate to take home a gold medal for the United States when she finished first in women’s discus at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Other Cal Poly athletes who competed in Beijing include American Sharon Day for women’s high jump and Canadian Jimmy Van Ostrand for baseball.
Novachkov has a tall task ahead of him if he hopes to mirror the success of Brown Trafton. According to a ranking by United World Wrestling, he stands as the No. 17 wrestler in the world for his weight class.
The dual citizen of Bulgaria and the United States will compete in the freestyle portion of the event. All Olympic wrestling matches are set to take place August 14-21 in Rio’s Olympic Training Center.