Jensen hits 25-year mark as Gator coach
April 10, 2008 3:04 PM
Even though the season is over, you can still find coach Lars Jensen in his office with 51 All-American certificates draped like wallpaper behind him.
Each certificate is a visual testimony to his successful 25-year tenure as architect of SF State’s nationally recognized Division II wrestling program.
However, just like the 24 years before this one, Jensen doesn’t have time to reflect on accomplishments as he is already working the phones for recruits, sending letters out to high school seniors and scheduling fundraising for next year.
“I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s only for five or 10 minutes, then you’re back at it again,” said Jensen. “But the hard work is going to pay off. The more time you put in, the more successful you’re going to be.”
And successful is exactly what Jensen has been.
In his 25 years at the helm he has turned SF State wrestling into a D-II powerhouse
The most amazing statistic, though, is the one team title in 1997 that came without a single wrestler on scholarship.
After winning the title he was given five scholarships the next year, but today he is back down to only two full rides. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from qualifying four of his wrestlers for nationals and naming another All-American this year—Curtis Schurkamp, who was ranked in the top five nationally throughout the season.
Former SF State wrestling coach Allen Abraham, Jensen’s mentor, said Jensen has been successful because he was trained and developed in a program without scholarships from the very beginning.
“Nobody wrestled here for scholarships,” Abraham said. “You wrestled for the sheer enjoyment, to improve yourself and to get an education.”
“They come here for several reasons. I try to sell them on the great academics, the great campus, the city and myself,” Jensen said.
But it’s his ability to turn unheralded recruits into successful wrestlers that has kept Jensen victorious.
His philosophy of down playing the importance of individual record by having his team wrestle better competition during the season is one of the keys to his success.
Just this year two wrestlers with records under .500 qualified for nationals, senior Alecxis Lara (7-12) and true freshman Josh Nolan (15-18).
Another important part of his program is his insistence on participating in practices with the team, whether it be running with the team or even wrestling the heavyweights.
“It’s a great way to keep in shape and I think the wrestlers respect you more when they see the coach doing practice with them,” Jensen said.
Lee Lofton, wrestling alumnus from the 1997 title team and recent SF State Hall of Fame inductee, still remembers one of the practices in which he told Jensen he would take him down five times in one round.
“And I did. I ran circles around him,” Lofton said. “But he kept us motivated and stayed involved.”
Now, as Jensen looks toward next year, he says he is very excited, as he will have three of the national qualifiers returning and has high hopes for the Gators.
But that still won’t stop Jensen from lightening his work load during the off-season.
“There’s only 362 days left before nationals, I got work to do,” Jensen said only two days after the season ended on March 16.
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