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Fresno State Wrestling Supporters Aren’t Giving Up in Quest to Restore Program

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Supporters say they want to work with the university to find money to get the athletic programs restored. (GV Wire File)
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A coalition of community leaders is asking Fresno State to reinstate wrestling and two other sports that were cut last year and are planning to bring their case to university President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval.

The coalition sent a letter on July 21, signed by community leaders including Assembly members Frank Bigelow, R-Madera, and Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, asking Dr. Jiménez-Sandoval to take another look at the decision to drop wrestling, men’s tennis, and women’s lacrosse.

“Whether it is through an academic scholarship or simply providing the ability to compete as student-athletes, we believe the more avenues available to young people to learn and compete, the more likely they will be able to make valuable and positive contributions to the future of the Central Valley,” the letter said.

The university announced in October that it was cutting the three sports at the end of the 2020-21 school year because of revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reborn Wrestling Program Was Only 4 Years Old

It was a particularly hard blow for the Central Valley’s wrestling community, which had lobbied hard for a decade to have the program re-established at Fresno State, which finally happened in 2016.

The university said last year the program cuts would save $2.5 million once the scholarships, coaches contracts, and other commitments were fulfilled.

But supporters say they want to work with the university to find money to get the programs restarted. Because of gender equity, the university had to cut men’s and women’s programs.

“We believe reinstating all of the teams is possible,” John O’Brien, a wrestling team alum from the class of 1989 who helped organize the letter, said in a news release Thursday. “There is tremendous value for the community if the school reinstates all three teams. With support from the school’s leadership, we can find a way to solve the budget challenges created by the pandemic.”

The lobbying effort also includes an online petition at KeepFresnoStateWrestling.com that the coalition says has been signed by more than 750 alumni and supporters.

University officials did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the meeting between the coalition and Dr. Jiménez-Sandoval. Spokeswoman Lisa Boyles Bell confirmed later Thursday that Dr. Jiménez-Sandoval has agreed to meet with the group.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email