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.