RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- The National Collegiate Wrestling Association likes California Baptist University's chances for success in 2012-2013, as they are currently ranked No. 1 in the NCWA coach's poll.
After finishing in second place at the NCWA National Championships in 2012, CBU looks to improve by one spot in 2013 and win their second national championship in three years.
"I think it is an attainable goal, to win the national championship at the end of the year," said head coach Lennie Zalesky.
The Lancers are returning one of their two individual national champions, Merrill, and four of their six All-Americans. This gives them a strong veteran core heading into Zalesky's second season at the helm.
In 2012, Martinez, Merrill, Alex Anunciation and Dylan Cataline all made it to the NCWA final rounds. Anunciation and Cataline fell just short of winning individual national championships, but look to bounce back in 2012-2013.
Bradford Gerl, Caleb Gerl and Chris Santana are among other returning wrestlers looking to make an impact this season. Santana (.853) and Merrill (.850) have the second and third best winning percentages in the history of the CBU wrestling program. Caleb Gerl will join the team in the second semester to maintain eligibility for next season.
In addition to the strong returning core, CBU has 17 new wrestlers joining the team for the first time this year, including three transfers from rival schools.
"We will have a young team," said Zalesky. "We have a few guys redshirting to compete in the NCAA DII next season. We are focusing on getting better, we want to get all the young guys some experience."
This mix of new talent infused with veteran leadership could be the recipe for success that Zalesky and the Lancers need to get back on top.
"We will send five or six good guys out there everytime," said Zalesky. "Taylor Hall is a young guy that might make an impact, he won the tryouts pretty handily."
CBU will open its season this Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Menlo Duals, where they will face Stanford, Menlo College and Simpson. Last season the Lancers won the Menlo event, with Santana being named the Outstanding Wrestler. CBU will look to repeat their success at this event to get off to a quick start this year.
The Lancers have road competitions for the next five weeks, including the Cliff Keen invite in Las Vegas, Nev. on Nov. 30-Dec. 1.
"All events are important," said Zalesky. "Vegas will definitely be the most difficult, it is a big tournament with a lot of NCAA DI schools."
On Jan. 3, CBU opens their season at home with a dual against Colorado School of Mines at the Van Dyne Gym.
CBU will wrap up the season with two NCWA championship tournaments. The Lancers will host the NCWA West Coast Conference Championships on March 2, and will travel to Daytona Beach, Fla. for the NCWA National Championships March 7-9.