Amuchestegui shines, others fall at NCAAs
After qualifying four wrestlers to this year’s NCAA Championships in Omaha, Neb., Stanford’s team entered the tournament with high hopes for individual glory. These ambitions were partially fulfilled by redshirt sophomore Nick Amuchastegui, who placed fourth in the 165-pound weight class and was awarded All-American honors.
Amuchastegui won his first two matches of the tournament. He upset No. 3 Nick Marable of Missouri by a score of 4-1 in the opening round, and defeated Josh Asper of Maryland, 4-2, to advance to the quarterfinals.
However, in his quarterfinal matchup against No. 6 Dan Vallimont of Penn State, Amuchastegui fell in a 5-2 decision. The loss ended his chances of winning the tournament — however, he was placed into the back draw and retained a shot at third place.
Indeed, Amuchastegui capitalized well in the back draw, winning three consecutive matches to advance to the third-place match. His run through the back draw was even more impressive, as he went through two top-10 opponents to do so.
His first match, against No. 5 Colt Sponseller of Ohio State, ended in a close 2-0 decision. Amuchastegui took his second match by the same score over Iowa’s Ryan Morningstar, ranked No. 7 nationally.
To advance to the third-place match, Amuchastegui took down Oklahoma’s Tyler Caldwell in a 6-1 decision.
In the third-place match, Amuchastegui faced off against No. 2 Jarrod King of Edinboro. The match was Amuchastegui’s fifth against a higher-seeded opponent. King had fallen in the main draw’s semifinals to Vallimont, the Penn State wrestler who had also knocked Amuchastegui out of that draw.
In a close match, Amuchastegui was unable to pull out the win, losing an incredibly close 3-2 decision. However, he still received All-American honors.
Amuchastegui’s final record at the NCAA Tournament was a strong 5-2 mark, which included a 3-2 record against higher-seeded opponents. His final record for the season stands at 34-6, and his individual career record is 63-14.
Meanwhile, the rest of Stanford’s qualifiers all fell relatively early in the tournament.
The biggest disappointment for the Cardinal was redshirt junior Zack Giesen, wrestling at 184 pounds. After being one of the team’s best wrestlers (along with Amuchastegui) all season, Giesen fell somewhat short in the postseason. After finishing third in the Pac-10 Tournament, he received an at-large berth at the national tournament and opened against sixth-seeded Maxwell Askren of Missouri. However, Giesen did not present much of a challenge to Askren — he was pinned one minute and 38 seconds into the match.
In the back draw, Giesen met with some success, winning a 4-3 decision over Erich Schmidtke of Oklahoma and then a 10-4 decision over Wisconsin’s Travis Rutt.
However, his final match of the tournament ended very quickly, as Giesen fell to Cornell’s Steve Bosak in just 31 seconds.
Stanford’s other two wrestlers also failed to make a significant impact. Like Giesen, both lost their opening-round matches and rapidly bowed out of the back draw as well.
Junior 133-pounder Justin Paulsen, an at-large qualifier after a fifth-place finish in the Pac-10 Tournament, lost a 12-1 major decision to No. 6 Dan Mitcheff of Kent State.
Paulsen started strongly in the back draw, scoring a 16-1 technical fall at 5:18 over Wyoming’s Cory VomBaur. However, his next match of the tournament was to be his last, as he was eliminated by Ohio State’s Ian Paddock in an 11-2 major decision.
The fourth Cardinal wrestler in Omaha, freshman Ryan Mango, met with a fate similar to Paulsen’s. Mango was eliminated from the main draw by No. 5 Andrew Long of Iowa State, who would go on to take second place in the tournament.
In the back draw, Mango opened by pinning Harvard’s Steven Keith in 3:56. However, his next match came against No. 2 Troy Nickerson of Cornell, who would end Mango’s run by pinning him at 3:13.
Due to its small contingent, the Cardinal was not a factor in the team component of the tournament. The team title went to Iowa for the third consecutive year. The Hawkeyes topped the team table by 44.5 points, took three individual national titles and have now won 23 national championships since 1975. As a team, the Cardinal finished tied for 28th with Purdue, scoring 20.5 team points.