Frank Stranzl

The setting: Christmas Eve. I was sitting in front of a crackling fire, Christmas music serenading the room (real Christmas songs, like “Joy to the World” and The “Little Drummer Boy” ” that “PC” crap doesn’t fly in our house). But anyways, some childhood chums of mine were chuckling and having a hearty good time while we sang along. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit, or maybe it was the eggnog we downed by the carton, but we were having a grand ole’ time –

OK, so the crackling fire and Christmas songs were actually coming from the TV, a Christmas tribute by the WB. And, in all honesty, the fire wasn’t even crackling ” it was silently flickering.

There were no childhood chums, and I sure as hell wasn’t singing along as I sat alone in my room.

Most importantly, there was no eggnog (can’t stand the stuff).

But details aside, I decided to write the first Frankly Speaking of the New Year with a holiday theme, even though HanuKkah, Christmas and that other one, Kwanza, have long since passed.

Here for you now is my Cal Poly athletics 2006 wish list:

1. A clean slate for the men’s basketball team as they enter Big West Conference play. The non-conference schedule might have been ugly, but it could’ve been worse. Take, for example, Big West rival UC Riverside. The Highlanders finished the non-conference schedule at a gruesome 0-10, drawing time on ESPN.com’s “Bottom 10” teams of the week on several occasions.

2. Some love for Cal Poly wrestling. While you might have been skiing the slopes at Whistler or vacationing in a warmer part of the world (like Bangkok where it reached an impressive 90-plus degrees in late December), the Cal Poly wrestling team was slavishly practicing and posting impressive wins.

For example, the Mustangs upset then No. 14 Nebraska and nearly upset No. 8 Iowa State, a perennial Big 10 powerhouse. The team’s next home match is on Saturday at 5 p.m., so let’s show the team some top-25 caliber respect and pack Mott Gym.

3. Two simple words: “You’re in,” from an NCAA selection committee. The baseball and softball teams got the shaft last year. Here’s to hoping 2006 will be a different story as both teams are legitimate contenders for a post-season appearance, let alone to win the Big West Conference title.

4) Now call me biased, but I foresee some serious success for the men’s and women’s track teams in the spring. Junior transfer Danielle Ayers-Stamper competed for the USA Senior National team in Europe over the summer as a hept-athlete, and another transfer, Dierdre Byrne, figures to leave her mark in the 1500m.

On the men’s side, Luke Llamas looks to pick up where fellow steeplechaser and former teammate Ben Bruce left off. Matt Johnsrud figures to be a serious competitor after a successful cross country season that saw the senior qualify for the national championships. Meanwhile, a host of talented long-sprinters including Chris Frazeur, Joe Pappalardo and Kevin Loung look to form one of the most talented 4x400m relay teams in the school’s history.

5) I know it’s early to be talking about this, but how about a Cal Poly three-peat in the Buck Buchanan Award balloting.

A year ago, Mustang linebacker Jordan Beck, now of the Atlanta Falcons, won the award. This year defensive end Chris Gocong was named the top defensive player in Division I-AA. Let the ’06 campaign begin: Ryan Shotwell as Cal Poly’s third consecutive Buck Buchanan winner!

6) The emergence of Cal Poly volleyball as a top-25 caliber program. Word around the volleyball office is coach Jon Stevenson is putting together a schedule that includes several nationally prominent programs. And why not? If the selection committee said the Mustangs were denied a tournament bid due to strength of schedule, a tough schedule is just what the Mustangs need. You can take my word that when the schedule is announced, it will be one of the toughest in the nation.

There it is, my short Christmas wish list for Cal Poly athletics. Among the others considered: A huge cash donation from John Madden, perhaps in the sum of $165,000,001 to top billionaire Boone Pickens’ donation to Oklahoma State athletics by one-dollar.

Hey, a guy can dream, right?

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