Montclair State University’s club wrestling team is one of the school’s best kept secrets. The club sports team finished second in their conference and recently sent eight players to the upcoming nationals this month.
Just last year the program had low numbers, but there was optimism that the program could be resurrected. The team went from five to six guys competing last year to a full 12-man starting lineup this year.
Today, there are 20 to 30 total wrestlers on the roster. Some are competing and some wrestling for the love of the sport and to work on their skills with other wrestlers. The love of wrestling runs deep throughout this team, starting at the top with the president of the club, Elmer Fajardo.
Elmer Fajardo, a senior exercise science major, never saw himself wrestling after high school. This was a similar theme to most of the guys on the team.
“Guys like myself had no intentions to wrestle in college,” Elmer Fajardo said. “A lot of guys had a sour taste leaving high school wrestling because of coaching and cutting weight.”
With the team growing dramatically over the last two years, Elmer Fajardo gives credit to social media and Axel Urgiles, who got him into the program.
The team’s Instagram page @msuc_wrestling has been utilized as an effective way to draw in recruits. The recruiting around campus comes from Fajardo himself as well as Urgiles, who go around looking for former wrestlers to join.
“We’ve really been active posting on social media,” Urglies said. “I’d go around and see guys with cauliflower ear wearing gear and try to get them to come out.”
Brandon Leibfred, a senior business major, came to college having wrestled in high school. He joined the team just this year as a senior and has qualified for the National Championships in the 149 lbs. weight class.
Leibfred gives credit to Elmer Fajardo and Urglies for making the club much different than a normal wrestling team.
“It’s unlike any other team I have been apart of before,” Leibfred said. “To me, it’s what you put into it.”
Being a senior on the team, Leibfried envisions this program becoming an NCAA Division III program in the future and sees the club reaching new goals constantly.
Something new to the program this year has been the full-time coach, Anthony Fajardo, who fell in love with coaching after his wrestling career ended in college due to injuries. His injuries shed light on how he perceived wrestling and noticed he was into the sport for all the wrong reasons.
Being a coach comes with a lot of gratitude for how this sport has influenced his life.
“I don’t miss competing or winning, I miss the camaraderie and the brotherhood of it all,” Anthony Fajardo said.
Anthony Fajardo’s main goal as a coach is to make sure the brotherhood is strong, as well as the love for the sport. It is more than just winning for this club, it is building relationships and lifelong friends enjoying the present moments that they have on the mat.
“Loving the sport, loving the art,” Anthony Fajardo said.
This is what Anthony Farjado wants these wrestlers to get out of their experience here at Montclair State.
Anthony Fajardo sees himself as a coach that is always learning from his players and wants everyone around him to have fun and enjoy the moment.
“It’s fun to win but my goal is to create a family,” Anthony Fajardo said.
Anthony Fajardo says there is no ceiling to where this program can go to, but circles back to being in love with the process learning the sport of wrestling and perfecting the craft while having fun doing it.
The Montclair State Wrestling Club is so much bigger than just wrestling. It is an opportunity for students to connect with a passion they all have and make it bigger than just wrestling in itself. They love to have fun and enjoy the moments outside of the game, connecting as a brotherhood making lifelong friends. The recognition will come, but for now, they are enjoying this moment in time loving what they do.