Lennie Zalesky, 2018 Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame Inductee
Lennie Zalesky describes himself as a “quick study”, credits his work ethic and the wrestling environment in Iowa as keys to his success as a competitor and coach.
“I didn’t get started in wrestling until eighth grade but I was athletic enough to pick up the technique quickly,” Zalesky stated. He was however quick to point out he had great coaches from the start until graduating from the University of Iowa.
By today’s standards Zalesky had a slow start as he became a starter at Cedar Rapids Prairie his sophomore year. The three years at Prairie culminated in winning the 126 pound state title in 1977. In his high school career Zalesky only lost four matches with his state title year being unbeaten.
“My dad taught hard work and to be tough” Zalesky recalls. “I grew up in an area that held wrestling in high esteem. Those influences were key to my success.”
That work ethic and environment is easily demonstrated when Lennie said he recently got a old photo of 13 wrestlers working out in the summer at Lisbon. “Al Baxter left the wrestling room door open,” he explained. People in the picture included Lennie, his brother Jim, Barry Davis, Joe Gibbons, Jim Gibbons, Greg Randall and Royce Algers, all inductees into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Those wrestling skills were further developed by Dan Gable at the University of Iowa where Lennie was a 3-time Big Ten champion and a 3-time All-American. He placed, 4th, 2nd and 2nd at those NCAA tournaments.
Post graduate competition included Silver medal honors at the Pan Am games and the World Cup. He was also a gold medalist in a Nice France tournament, and another in Cuba.
After leaving the University of Iowa Zalesky coached at Palmer High School, AK for eight years. He was named High School Coach of the Year in 1996 while being induced in the state’s hall of fame in 2010. He then coached nine years at University of California, Davis nine years and was named Pac 10 coach of the year in 2007. After Davis dissolved its program, Zalesky has coached at the California Baptist University. He was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference coach of the year in 2016. He was also named Division II coach of the year in 2017.
Zalesky was inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018 along with Steve Hamilton, Shane Light and Kirk Myers.
High School: Prairie, Cedar Rapids
Coach: Ron James
1977 27-0 126 Pound State Champion
College: University of Iowa
Coach: Dan Gable
Three-time Big Ten Champion
1980 31-11 4th NCAA tournament
1981 27-2 2nd NCAA tournament
1982 24-2 2nd NCAA tournament
Palmer AK High School
University of California, Davis 57-81
California Baptist University 30-41-1
1996 High School Coach of the Year
2010 AK Hall of Fame Inductee
2007 Pac 10 Coach of the Year
2017 Division II Coach of the Year