While several individual athletes have shined this season, the Stanford wrestling team has had middling success overall. The Cardinal (8-7-1, 0-3-1 Pac-10) started the season on a strong note in November, winning three dual meets in a row at the No
rthwestern Duals in Evanston, Ill. Since then, however, the Card has been unable to gather any momentum. Pac-10 opponents have been especially tough — coming into last weekend, Stanford had lost dual meets to No. 21 Oregon State and No. 16 Cal Poly.
In two conference meets last weekend at the Ford Center, the Cardinal tried to improve on its current record. However, it was ultimately unsuccessful, falling 29-15 to No. 8 Boise State (12-2, 5-0) and tying Cal State Fullerton (2-6-1, 0-5-1) with a score of 20-20.
The Boise State meet was an especially tough loss for the Cardinal, as Stanford wrestlers were only able to win one non-forfeited weight class. At 165 pounds, redshirt sophomore Nick Amuchastegui shut out Boise State’s Michael Cuthbertson for a 4-0 victory. Amuchastegui is currently ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 in his weight class and has an individual record of 24-4.
“I wrestled at least a solid match,” Amuchastegui said. “I had the opportunity to be more offensive and score more points, so that’s definitely something to improve upon.”
There was one marquee matchup for the meet — the 184-pound weight class, where redshirt junior Zack Giesen took on Boise State’s Kirk Smith. The wrestlers entered the meet nationally ranked at No. 12 and No. 1, respectively. The first period was an indication of how the rest of the match would play out, with Smith scoring a takedown at 1:45 and Giesen getting a critical escape at 2:52. The second period was an even stalemate: Giesen started on the bottom and, despite numerous heroic and nearly successful attempts, was unable to escape from Smith all period.
The third period also saw a lot of action. Smith started on the bottom and was let up to score a point at 0:14. At that point, the score stood at 3-1 in favor of Boise State. The match ended at 4-1, as Giesen was unable to get a tying takedown and Smith got an additional point for riding time.
“I knew it was going to be a battle going out there,” Giesen said. “It was a test for me to see what I need to do in the month between now and Pac-10s.”
Giesen also talked about his mindset in the final period.
“I knew I needed a score,” he said. “I was down by two and he had riding time, so I had to either erase that riding time or take him down to his back. I was looking for ways to get my offense going and against someone like him who’s really hard to score on, it’s a little bit difficult to do.”
“We definitely didn’t accomplish our goals,” said head coach Jason Borrelli. “Our goal was to win the match, but there are smaller goals too. There were some key matches . . . you want to see Zack Giesen win that match.
“We thought we had a good game plan,” he continued. “We just didn’t go out and execute.”
Two days later, the Cardinal looked to improve its fortunes against a weaker Cal State Fullerton team. Amuchatsegui and Giesen both delivered big wins and there were two very close matches, both involving Stanford freshmen.
At the 197-pound weight class, freshman Richard Kessler held a 5-4 lead in the final period. Wrestling from the neutral position, he held off a last-second takedown attempt as time expired to preserve the win.
At 125 pounds, freshman Ryan Mango trailed No. 19 Andre Gonzalez the entire match until the third period. Down 4-3, Mango scored a takedown and took his opponent to his back for three more near-fall points. While Mango was unable to secure a pin before time expired, his 8-5 win still added three critical points to the Cardinal’s team total.
However, the day ended in a tie as Fullerton outscored Stanford by eight team points in its last two matches — five from a technical fall over freshman Bret Baumbach and a 5-2 loss by redshirt senior Tyler Parker.
“Some of the guys came back after Friday night’s performance and showed a lot of heart and what we’ve preached all year — when you get knocked down, you’ve got to be able to get right back up and be ready to go,” Borrelli said. “We had a strategy — we knew that if we wrestled hard and went out there and got after our positions, we’d have a chance to win the dual . . . We lost a lot of close matches. Some guys [executed] and some guys didn’t.”
Next week, the Cardinal will travel to face UC-Davis (2-9, 1-3). The Aggies also lost to Boise State over the weekend and the dual should be winnable for Stanford.
“Obviously, we want to come away with a win,” Borrelli said. “We’ll be favored in some matches and they’ll be favored in some matches. You have to win the matches you’re favored in and you have to score some upsets.”