FRESNO, Calif. – Last year, Josh Hokit did the unthinkable. He dropped 30 pounds right after a grueling football season at Fresno State.
It worked for Hokit, though, as he became an all-American wrestler at 197 pounds. This year, however, he is doing things a little bit differently.
“Not having to cut so much weight is way better,” smiles Hokit.
The dual-sport athlete is wrestling up a weight class this year: heavyweight. And he says having that football background has really helped with the transition.
“The physicality, I mean you’re going against big guys in football, so you gotta use your leverage, figure out how to get it done against the bigger guy,” he says. “And that’s what I’m doing with wrestling.”
“He’s doing a good job,” says Troy Steiner, Fresno State’s head wrestling coach. “There’s definitely a little bit of an adjustment to how to wrestle some of those guys that are, you know, 40 pounds bigger than him. But he’s so competitive and he’s so athletic that he’s doing a good job adjusting.
“But he’s still got work to do, he’d be the first one to admit that. He’s got a lot of work to do ahead of him.”
Josh Hokit is the highest nationally-ranked wrestler at Fresno State this season. he is currently sitting at 11th in the country, according to FloWrestling.
But there are three more Bulldogs who have cracked the Top 25: Jackson Hemauer (14th at 174 lbs), Jacob Wright (23rd at 157 lbs) and DJ Lloren (23rd at 141 lbs).
“I think we’ve got more than that but these next few weeks, these next, really, six weeks, will tell a lot more,” says Steiner. “So we don’t worry too much about the rankings. We just gotta keep improving and developing.”
And that “never satisfied” mindset has trickled down to the athletes.
“I just want to keep on climbing,” says Lloren. “Not even keep my ranking. I’m at 25th, that’s not an All-American. I’m trying to be an All-American so that’s top eight guys. So I gotta keep climbing until I’m there and be an All-American.”
“I don’t think Fresno State deserves a No. 10 guy in the nation, I think they deserve a No. 1 one,” says Wright. “So that’s what I’m working towards, I want to give the valley the best they can get. So I’m still working to get to No. 1 and there’s a long way to go.”
Three out of the four Bulldogs who are nationally-ranked have something in common. They all grew up right here in the central valley.
“A little weird at first, I’ve known them like, my whole life,” says Wright, a sophomore from Dinuba. “So now it’s like, ‘sweet, we’re teammates.’ So it’s almost like a little breath of air. ‘Ah, you’re not my competition.'”
Adds Lloren, a Buchanan High School alum, “There were guys who were my enemies in high school, but now they’re on my team. So yeah, I get really into it, you know? ‘Cause it’s always been a competitive thing. So I know they have that very competitive nature too, so when they’re out there competing they’re giving it their all.”
“We got a tough valley here to recruit from and hopefully the kids want to stay home and be a part of this program,” says Steiner. “And we’re trying to show them that we’ve got the resources and we’re doing the work. They can do it here, they can develop and stay at home. So we just gotta do our job as coaches and as a program.”