Watching his older brother wrestle at a youth tournament, Chris Gambino became inspired to start the journey that brought him to WSU as the Wrestling Club head coach.
“I wanted to walk in his footsteps and forever I did, until I finally made my own path,” Gambino said.
Gambino, a former wrestler from North Carolina State University, said having that younger-sibling mentality pushed him to strive for greatness in the wrestling world and life.
After arriving at WSU this past January, he took the reins of coaching the wrestling club in its first season this year.
During the club’s inaugural season in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, the club placed second at the Washington State and Northwest Conference tournaments right behind Central Washington University.
“We’re not taking anyone lightly, but we really want to redeem ourselves from how close we were to winning both the state and conference tournaments last year,” he said.
The wrestlers Gambino works with come from backgrounds with competition success at the high school level.
AJ Garza, a freshman from Othello, Wash., wrestled all four years in high school, and said he plans to continue his success here at WSU. During high school, Garza and his wrestling team were four-time league and district champions and were virtually undefeated.
His father served as a major inspiration in his life, he said.
“He motivates me to work hard every day and to wrestle hard,” Garza said.
He also said that the wrestling club is more than just a group; it's a family that raises each other up and strays away from bringing one another down.
Gambino praised Garza for his politeness and his raw well-rounded wrestling talent. He said Garza’s values growing up are what he tries to teach his wrestlers.
Gambino said his main motivation for coaching is more than just winning on the wrestling mat, but winning for one’s self and winning in life. He tries to instill similar values in his wrestlers.
“When they (the wrestlers) leave this university, they take something more than just the book smarts they’re going to get in the classroom… they take something else greater that’s going to help this society as a whole through the rest of their lives,” he said.
Zach Anderson, a junior from Richfield, Wash., said that the performance he gave at the state tournament during his senior year of high school motivated him to be the best wrestler and do everything possible to win.
“I think back on it and I feel like it could have been a lot better and it really motivates me to wrestle my best at every tournament,” Anderson said.
The wrestling club was able to qualify seven of their eight guys for the national tournament last season, but lacked the funds to do so.
On Friday, Sept. 20, the WSU Wrestling Club faces-off against the University of Idaho in the Battle at the Border showcase, the same weekend of the Homecoming football game against UI.
Gambino said he also wishes to continue that rivalry with UI in wrestling.