Despite its sixth-place finish at last week’s Pac-10 Championships in Davis, Calif., the Stanford wrestling team has a final shot at redemption — this year’s NCAA Tournament. The championships will be held from March 18-20 in Omaha, Neb.
While there is a team component to the NCAA Tournament, Stanford has little chance to score highly on the team table. The Card has only secured two automatic bids to the tournament, and has not been able to keep up with the country’s elite teams this season. However, a few individual athletes have chances to make a significant impact in Omaha.
Stanford was somewhat underwhelming in the regular season, ending with a final record of 10-8-1 and a conference record of 2-3-1. The Card was only able to truly dominate one conference opponent — in a Feb. 12 match against Cal State Bakersfield, Stanford took a 24-13 victory. Its other conference win, a Feb. 6 contest against UC-Davis, was incredibly close. The meet came down to the final match, but Stanford was able to eke out a 20-19 victory.
There were a few bright spots during Stanford’s regular season. Redshirt sophomore Nick Amuchastegui and redshirt junior Zack Giesen were both extremely strong all year. Both are currently ranked in the top 15 nationally in their respective weight classes. Amuchastegui and Giesen also posted very good win-loss records — both have over 25 wins and less than 10 losses.
Freshman Ryan Mango also emerged as a force for Stanford. Though his win-loss record was not quite as illustrious as those of Giesen and Amuchastegui, he still won more than 20 matches for a strong start to his career.
At the Pac-10 Championships, Amuchastegui won a conference title in the 165-pound weight class, while Mango and Giesen both got third place in the 125- and 184-pound classes, respectively. Mango significantly exceeded expectations — he was seeded fifth and won three matches against higher-seeded opponents. On the other hand, Giesen was expected to reach the final, but instead fell in a close semifinal match decided by a single point.
By virtue of their finishes in Davis, both Amuchastegui and Mango have earned automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. While the NCAA’s at-large berths are not announced until March 10, Giesen has a very good chance of receiving an at-large bid due to his strong regular-season record.
Head coach Jason Borrelli is hoping that two other wrestlers — 133-pound redshirt junior Justin Paulsen and 157-pound redshirt junior Lucas Espericueta — earn at-large berths. Since both wrestlers only managed fifth-place finishes at the Pac-10 Tournament, it is unclear how good their chances are to make the tournament.