Boris Novachkov remembers his 3-2 loss in the national finals last year vividly; a dual meet against Arizona State in January wasn’t going to stop him from planning to avenge it.
“Every time I go for a run, I see myself back in the finals,” he said. “It motivates me knowing that I’m going to be there again. It’s a long season, you’ve gotta find little things to motivate you.”
Novachkov capped a four-year dynasty on Friday night as he won his final match in Mott Gym with three other seniors as Cal Poly swept away the Sun Devils 26-11.
Novachkov, with his brother and former Cal Poly wrestler Filip looking on, won his match 11-0 in a familiar, deceptively methodical manner. After ending the first period 0-0, Novachkov escaped quickly, scored a takedown, then put Nathan Hoffer on his back twice. Before the second period ended, the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the nation had an 8-0 lead. He went on to win 11-0, a victory that was one more step toward the finals of the national championship, and a possible rematch with Kellen Russell, on his mind.
The prospect of another match with Russell (the two have faced off three times in the past two seasons, including in the national championship — Russell won each time) has been contemplated by head coach Brendan Buckley.
“Boris is back in true form,” Buckley said. “I’ve felt that Boris is the best guy in the weight class regardless of where he was ranked. We’re doing some things to really pull the trigger (against Russell) and continue to be offensive.”
Still, on a night that honored the veterans of Cal Poly wrestling, it was hard not to think about the uncertain future of the Mustangs.
Despite the loss of three now-ranked seniors next year, Cal Poly will return a class that includes sophomore Britain Longmire at 125 pounds and redshirt freshman Dominic Kastl, who Novachkov said has a chance at being an All-American this year, at 165 pounds.
Longmire displayed his speed in a 14-5 victory over Lucio Murillo. He stands just 5 feet 3 inches, but uses the height disadvantage to move quickly in on his opponents in punishing blast double-leg takedowns. Before Murillo could resist, Longmire had his head firmly planted on Murillo’s chest and two arms wrapped behind his legs. Longmire scored five takedowns, one of which put Murillo on his back for three near-fall points.
“He’s a super-athlete,” Buckley said. “His biggest challenge is learning to wrestle guys that are really big and strong, but if he wrestles (like he did tonight) then I don’t see a lot of guys that are going to be able to compete with him.”
After Gianpier Yanez clinched the overall victory for the Mustangs in a 13-1 major decision using Longmire’s patented blast-double, Kastl took the mat against Rush Hall. Rather than fight on the mat, after takedowns Kastl released his opponent only to send him right back to the mat for anther two points. Kastl ended up with a 12-3 major decision to seal the match.
Ryan DesRoches, the most potent of the Mustang wrestlers this season, took the mat first at 174-pounds shortly after he sang the national anthem with his father and two brothers. He was hardly out of breath.
In the first period, DesRoches scored a swing takedown, whipping behind his opponent Eric Starks in one smooth motion that culminated in two points. Following an escape by Starks, DesRoches scored another two points, this time taking Starks’ leg into the air and tripping him to the mat.
He was able to sit on his lead for much of the rest of the match, never letting Starks gain a semblance of control, and took a final victory bow after his 5-3 win and improved his record to 22-1 on the season.
Following a narrow 6-5 loss by sophomore Sean Dougherty, senior Ryan Smith walked out to face Chace Eskam. His father helped organize a bus to take Smith’s family and friends from Temecula to San Luis Obispo for his final home match which Smith said was all for them.
“I love wrestling in this gym,” he said. “In the walls of Mott Gym, I’ve lost two matches and that is something I will brag about. I am a home wrestler, and I love having fans here scream and make noise.”
He wasted little time getting the cheering started as he used a variety of throw to take his opponent, freshman Chace Eskam, off his feet and onto his back. Smith jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the first period and continued his dominance through the remainder of the match, eventually winning 15-5.
“From here, it only gets more and more exciting,” Smith said. “I’m ready to make one more run at (the national championships) with my year left.”
Atticus Disney got the night off at heavyweight, allowing senior Kelan Bragg to wrestle Michael Hawkins. The first period ended in a scoreless tie, but once Hawkins escaped to begin the second period, Bragg sped up the tempo in a quick takedown to go ahead 2-1. He added four more points in the final period, including another rapid takedown to win 6-1.
The team goes on the road to face Utah Valley on Feb. 3 before competing in the national duals on Feb. 10 before competing in the Pac-12 championships at the end of the month. Photos from the match can be found on the Mustang Daily Facebook page.