The Stanford wrestling team notched its first Pac-10 win of the season this past weekend with a close 20-19 victory over UC-Davis at Davis’s Hicky Gymnasium. The meet came down to the final match, but the Cardinal (9-7-1, 1-3-1 Pac-10) was able to pull out the win over the Aggies (2-10, 1-4).
The match started at the 125-pound weight class, and the Card quickly took the lead. Freshman Ryan Mango scored a quick pin in one minute 11 seconds, his fastest of the season. His record is now 20-11, and he is poised for a deep run in postseason competition.
However, Stanford was unable to build on its early lead, losing four straight matches including a major decision by Davis’s Trevor Machado-Ching over redshirt freshman Mike Kent.
“When [losing four straight matches] happens, you really start worrying,” said head coach Jason Borrelli.
The Cardinal were able to come back beginning with the 165-pound weight class, where redshirt sophomore Nick Amuchastegui took a 4-1 decision over UC-Davis’s Joey Wilson. He is currently ranked first in the conference and owns a record of 25 wins and four losses, including a 15-1 record in conference competition.
From there, the Cardinal was able to pick up two more wins, with senior Jake Johnson and redshirt junior Zack Giesen picking up wins in the 174- and 184-pound classes, respectively. Giesen continued to show that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming postseason — he is currently ranked No. 13 in the nation.
With two weight classes, 197 pounds and heavyweight, remaining, Stanford held a slim 16-13 lead. However, due to injury, the Card was forced to forfeit the heavyweight class, so the Aggies effectively held six more points and a three-point lead. That meant that freshman Richard Kessler had to score a major decision or better against UC-Davis’s Shawn Hoehne at 197 in order to secure the dual for the Card.
“I wanted to make sure I got a takedown early to give myself a chance to get a turn in the first period,” Kessler said. “I knew that was big if I was going to get the major.
“I knew I was going to be wrestling last, so there’s always a chance that the meet is going to come down to your match,” he continued. “As the meet progressed, I figured that it was going to be my match that decided the meet.”
Kessler’s strategy did eventually pay off, and he secured Stanford’s first Pac-10 win with a 9-1 major decision.
While the Cardinal did win the dual, Borrelli felt that the results could have been even stronger.
“Individually, we lost a couple of matches that I was disappointed in,” he said. “But I think our upper weights did a good job of keeping their composure and just worrying about it match by match.”
This weekend, Stanford will play in its final dual meets before the Pac-10 tournament, as it will take on Cal State Bakersfield (5-5, 1-4) on Friday and then travel to Arizona State (8-7, 3-2) on Sunday.
Of the two meets, the Roadrunners will most likely pose a lesser challenge. They currently have four wrestlers ranked in the top 32 nationally in their weight class. Over the past four seasons, Stanford has a 3-1 head-to-head record against Bakersfield, but the Runners won their most recent meeting last season, 28-13.
“Bakersfield wrestles a completely different style than what Davis did,” Borrelli said. “Bakersfield is really good on the bottom, and they score a lot of reversals to pins, so controlling the guy on the mat has been a key emphasis for us.”
Arizona State will also be a very tough match. The Sun Devils were ranked in the top 25 earlier in the season and currently sit just outside of the rankings. While they are currently on a three-meet losing streak, those losses have come against three top-25 teams: No. 21 Oregon State, No. 16 California Polytechnic and No. 2 Iowa State.
Arizona State also features three wrestlers ranked in the top 20 nationally in their weight classes. In addition, ASU’s Jake Meredith is fresh off of a victory over No. 7 Jerome Ward of Iowa State in the 184-pound weight class. Meredith will pose a significant challenge to Giesen, one of the Cardinal’s best wrestlers.
“I’d like to go into the conference tournament on a winning note and in a positive way,” Borrelli said. “Win or lose, it could be positive . . . I definitely think we’re trying to get some momentum going into the conference tournament.”