This Sunday afternoon, Stanford men’s wrestling will take to the mat against the No. 17 Oregon State Beavers at Maples Pavilion. This dual is undoubtedly the most important of the season for both the Cardinal (8-5, 4-0 Pac-12) and the Beavers (7-2, 4-0), as the winner of this match will likely claim the Pac-12 regular season title.
Thus far, Oregon State has had a very successful season. Their only two losses are to No. 15 Missouri by three points and No. 12 Wyoming by one. Oregon State and Stanford have had four common dual opponents: Boise State, Missouri, Cal State-Bakersfield and Cal Poly. Both teams are 3-1 against those squads, their only losses coming against Missouri. However, Oregon State looked much more impressive in those four matches than Stanford. While the Cardinal wrestled close matches against Cal Poly and Boise State, the Beavers blew both teams out. In the dual against Missouri, Stanford lost handily, but Oregon State almost pulled the upset.
The two teams have also wrestled in two of the same tournaments: the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and the Reno Tournament of Champions. Oregon State finished fifth in Las Vegas and third in Reno. Stanford, on the other hand, finished 25th in Vegas and 16th in Reno.
All of these statistics point to Oregon State being the heavy favorite on Sunday. However, Stanford has improved immensely since those tournaments. In Reno and Las Vegas the Cardinal was without its best wrestler, top-ranked 174-pounder Nick Amuchastegui. Since his return the Card has wrestled extremely well and won four out of five meets.
Lately all of the Stanford wrestlers have been excellent at putting together complete matches and scoring points in key situations, such as at the end of the period or on the edge of the mat. If they keep that going, then they have a good chance at upsetting the Beavers.
In its last few duals, Stanford has not sent out a wrestler at 125 pounds, choosing instead to forfeit that match and give the other team six points. Against Oregon State those six points will be huge; it will be interesting to see what head coach Tom Borrelli decides to do for that weight class.
At 133 pounds, Stanford will send out junior No. 8 Ryan Mango. Mango is 22-5 on the year and has yet to lose a match in a dual. He will wrestle the Beavers’ Garrett Drucker. Drucker has had a successful season with 18 wins and six losses, but Mango already beat him 12-7 in Las Vegas.
The Beavers’ 141-pounder is No. 4 Mike Mangrum, (28-2) who has qualified twice for the NCAA Tournament and has twice finished third at the Pac-12 Tournament. Stanford will likely have freshman Alex Manley or sophomore Donovan Halpin go up against him.
Oregon State has three other ranked wrestlers: sophomore No. 18 Scott Sakaguchi at 149 pounds, sophomore No. 17 R.J. Pena at 157 pounds and redshirt senior No. 5 Clayton Jack at heavyweight. Jack is a three-time NCAA Tournament-qualifier and won the Pac-12 Tournament last season. He has lost just one match all season.
Two days before coming to Stanford, Oregon State will go to Boise to take on Boise State. It will be interesting to see if that match takes a toll on the Beaver wrestlers heading into this Sunday, but regardless of the outcome, Stanford needs to be ready to wrestle in this crucial dual.