The Cal Poly Wrestling team’s regular season ended on a familiar note this weekend.
The Mustangs (2-10, 0-6 Pac-12) suffered their sixth and seventh consecutive dual meet losses, falling to Arizona State, 38-3, on the road Friday, and No. 12 Central Michigan, 41-6, in Mott Athletics Center on Sunday, topping off a disappointing 2-11 overall record in dual meets this year.
“We lost to a really good team,” head coach Brendan Buckley said. “That’s kind of been the story this year. We’re just a youthful team. We have some holes in our lineup. It is what it is.”
The young, rookie-heavy Mustangs faced an established and experienced team in Central Michigan, as the Chippewas (14-3, 6-0 Mid-American) sent four nationally ranked seniors to the mat, with Cal Poly’s Britain Longmire facing No.11 Christian Cullinan in the afternoon’s first bout.
“I had nothing to lose,” Longmire said. “I didn’t wrestle the best match, but I went out there and gave it my all. Sometimes you can get a little timid because you’re the first one out. You’ve just got to block that out because the team is dependent on you to get them started.”
The redshirt junior lost 5-0 by decision, and his teammates followed, as the Mustangs only victory in the meet came by forfeit.
“We were battling,” Buckley said. “I thought 125 was a match we could’ve won. 157 was a match we could’ve won. (Dillen) Rocha got first takedown on a good kid, but you’ve got to wrestle for seven minutes. That needs to improve a little bit being consistent throughout the whole match.”
Rocha, a true freshman and younger brother of 141-pounder Brandan Rocha, has struggled this season, posting a 0-7 record in dual meets with five of those losses by fall.
Things heated up during freshman Connor King’s 165-pound match, as fans of both teams, as well as a few Central Michigan wrestlers, began to repeatedly chime in and vehemently voice their opinions and game strategies.
“I didn’t think their crowd was that classy,” King said. “A lot of people were saying a lot of things. But as far as me and the guy wrestling went, we were wrestling hard and sometimes people get aggressive.”
Before re-setting in the center of the mat, King looked over at the Central Michigan bench and made a hand gesture indicating some excessive chatter on their part.
Among the Cal Poly’s three forfeits in the meet was Devon Lotito, the 133-pounder who owns the Mustangs’ best record with 27 wins and first place finishes at the Keystone Classic on Nov. 18 and the California collegiate open on Feb. 2.
“He got hurt a couple weeks ago,” Buckley said. “He sat out last weekend. We were going to wrestle him this weekend but it didn’t make sense. He is nationally ranked right now it wouldn’t make sense if we set him back another couple weeks.”
The upcoming Pac-12 Championships is the main reason behind Buckley’s decision to bench Lotito, as the true freshman, along with the rest of the Mustangs, will head to the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz. on March 2.
“(We’ve) just got to get ready for Pac-12s at this point,” Buckley said. “Being in the tournament setting, it’s each man for themselves. If any of the guys win the conference they are going to automatically go to the NCAA Championships. Anything can happen.”
A loss at the Pac-12 Championships means the end of the road for the Mustangs, who will only lose senior Atticus Disney going into next season, and look to improve on what has been a frustrating reconstructive year for Cal Poly wrestling.
“We’ve got a lot of really strong kids coming up through the program,” King said. “I knew this was going to be a rough year but I think we are going to start winning a lot of matches and be top of the Pac-12 pretty soon.”