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Hundreds march to home of Fresno State president demanding reinstatement of wrestling program



They had only four days to get it organized, but the community came out in big numbers for a public demonstration asking for the reinstatement of varsity wrestling at Fresno State Univ.

A crowd estimated at almost 500 people marched on the home of Fresno State president John D. Welty on Wednesday night, expressing their frustration and disappointment that the university dropped its successful Div. I wrestling program on Thursday.

The crowd included a variety of people from wrestling, as well as numerous local citizens who were upset with the decision announced just days ago. It included alumni, parents, children and others, most who carried signs and wore Fresno State red clothing as part of the protest.

"It was perfect," said Tim Cornish, president of Fresno State's Takedown Club and an active leader in the reinstatement effort. "There were lots of mothers, little kids, alumni and community people. It was a mixed flavor."

In addition to all of the demonstrators, many of the local media outlets attended the rally, interviewing young wrestlers and their families. They all talked about the unexpected and sudden decision to eliminate a program with great success and over 40 years of service to the university and the community.

"People were very supportive," said Steve Tirapelle, coach of Clovis High School, one of the nation's most storied prep wrestling teams. "They wore red, with shirts that said Bulldog Wrestling. They were well behaved. It was a positive thing. I think it all helps our cause. It was a very positive response to wrestling in this community."

The goal of the march was to let university officials and the community know that there is strong support for wrestling at Fresno State. Organizers wanted to make sure that everybody understood that this decision was not right, and would be challenged. Those who participated felt like the goals for the protest had been reached.

"It was awesome," said Tirapelle. "Our goal is to bring back wrestling. We wanted to let it be known that if they don't keep wrestling here, that we won't support any activities at Fresno State in the future."

"The big thing was to bring attention to the fact that if we don't get reinstated, we will no longer support Bulldog football, baseball, basketball, softball or anything at all. We let them know that this decision will have an impact. The $300,000 they believe that they are saving will be greatly impacted in many other ways," said Tirapelle.

Cornish was excited at the many ways that people expressed their support for the program. In addition to the hundreds of signs, there were also seven huge boards which showed the pictures of past Fresno State NCAA champions, All-Americans and conference champions. Many former Bulldog wrestlers were there to join with the wrestling supporters.

"Everybody felt they were taking part in something special," said Cornish. "You could feel the passion. One little kid had an amazing sign. It said, 'My father wrestled for Fresno State. I'd like to wrestle for Fresno State, but President Welty said I shouldn't.'"

The members of the media there were able to interview many of those who attended the demonstration.

"They asked a lot of questions," said Tirapelle. "They heard that this is a Valley sport that is supported here and has had a lot of success. It is truly the No. 1 sport in the Valley for success on the state and national level. To take away Fresno State wrestling is not believable and not acceptable."

This protest is just the beginning of activities planned by the supporters of the wrestling program. In fact, those who attended the march believe that the next public activity will be even bigger and more powerful, as more learn about the decision and have time to get active.

"We hope to have a really big rally," said Cornish. "It will have some major people involved, and will be totally about wrestling. There will be clinics and more. It will be huge. We look forward to the next one. In four days, we got all of this support and media attention. Wait until we have more time to prepare."

Those who wish to support the effort to bring back Fresno State wrestling should visit the website at:

http://www.savefresnowrestling.com/

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