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Chico State

Pitch-Perfect Wildcats

Three men pose for a photo on a soccer field, while the man in the middle holds a memorial plaque in his hands.
(Photo courtesy of Nick Lopez)

Nick Lopez, Mike O’Malley, and Nick’s father, Johnny.

Chico State has been a second home to countless families who’ve shared and cherished the Wildcat experience. For these families—and more than 177,000 alumni—Chico State is not just a university or campus. It is the branches of the family tree. This is one of six profiles of families who are rooted in their Wildcat connection.

When the Gallagher twins—Jim and Jerry—walked onto the pitch after spending the summer of 1967 working at University Farm, first-year Head Soccer Coach Don Batie says they were badly in need of haircuts. He took them into his office and shaved their heads.

Mike and Pat O’Malley. (Photo courtesy of Mike O’Malley)

The accepted hairstyles had grown longer when Mike O’Malley and his 13-year-old brother, Pat, hitchhiked from their home in Belmont so Mike could attend tryouts in 1971. Pat joined the team six years later.

By the time the Mitchell brothers—Mike, Paul, and G.G.—were all starters for the 1980 Wildcats, the list of siblings who had competed for the Chico State men’s soccer program was growing as quickly as the mullets they sported.

Today, 13 sets of siblings have donned the cardinal and white of the Wildcats, and the program’s legacy is becoming intergenerational as new sons and nephews follow family footsteps onto the training field.

Current student-athletes Preston and Josh Moll were babes in arms when they visited Chico to watch their uncle Mike (Moll) play.

Mike Moll, right, with Preston and Josh Moll. (Photo courtesy of Annette Moll)

Jordan Bryant, Derek Zylker, and Keegan Fraschieri all followed their fathers into the program. Jordan’s uncle, Ed, played at Chico State, too.

Nick Lopez was the latest to join his father on the program’s all-time roster. On a cool fall evening in 2018, he stood in the middle of University Soccer Stadium with the arms of his father Johnny (1984–85) and Mike O’Malley around his shoulders. Nick was the first recipient of the Brothers O’Malley Scholarship, formed by a group of alumni in honor of Pat, who died of brain cancer at 41. Having grown up around the program, Lopez was awestruck by the significance of it all.

“I was touched,” he said. “I feel like (Pat and I) have similar spirits. Thanks to my dad and the time I have spent around the program, I have a lot of old-school Chico State heritage and culture in my bones. So, I know how important Pat’s legacy is to the program. And of course, I know what my father’s legacy is. He inspired me to make an impact on the program. It was a full-circle kind of moment, and I’ll never forget it.”