Two seems to be a lucky number for redshirt junior Real Woods. On the second day of 2022 and in only his second appearance this season, Woods etched his place in Stanford wrestling’s history as the first two-time Southern Scuffle champion at 141 pounds. The Scuffle, a prestigious and extremely difficult tourney in its own right, has a reputation for predicting future NCAA champions.
Ranked seventh nationally in his division, Woods had a relatively straightforward path to the semifinals with decisive decisions over redshirt sophomore Marcos Polanco from Minnesota (4-0), redshirt freshman Andrew Bloemhof from Oklahoma State (6-0) and true freshman Ethen Miller from Maryland (3-1).
Woods’s biggest test came against No. 8 sophomore Andrew Alirez from Northern Colorado in one of the closest and most technically impressive bouts of the entire tournament.
In the first minute of the first period, Woods was unable to use a body lock to prevent Alirez from scoring with an outside snatch single. However, within seconds Woods sat-out back to standing to escape and dominated the remaining time by keeping pressure on and owning the center of the mat, eventually getting a snap-down to an arm drag for a take down.
The second period went scoreless, with Woods seemingly comfortable to keep Alirez at bay up two. Woods began the third period on top with an ankle ride, using his knee to trap Alirez’s right ankle. Alirez almost escaped with a standup, but Woods returned him to the mat with a lift. On the return Alirez executed a roll-thru switch. Woods countered the roll with a granby maneuver and drove Alirez to the very edge of the mat, but Alirez was able to keep a single toe in bounds while scoring a reversal and tie the match up 4-4.
With one minute left, Alirez on top and a confident Woods on bottom, Alirez disengaged to give Woods an automatic one-point escape and put Woods up 5-4. With 39 seconds to go, Alirez tried to score a takedown. He got Woods on one leg and used an ankle pick to get Woods’s leg in a tight single. Normally that tight a single would have been inescapable, but Woods showed incredible awareness and timing to one-leg hop over a trip attempt. Seated, Woods again countered his way out of a tight spot and won 5-4 as the clock ran out while he executed another driving takedown on Alirez.
Woods described the match to FloWrestling: “My leg defense came through but interestingly it was more of the ‘heart,’ you know,” he said. “Heart got me through that defensive position, that’s not something you work on technically. It’s something that — when you’re in the room in those bad spots, those bad positions — you wrestle through them.”
Heart is at the core of Woods’ technical style, which marries stingy defense with opportunistic awareness and a driving motor. He utilizes a low, active stance and owns the center of the mat.
“I think it even goes way back to when I was like 5, 6 years old, starting wrestling with my godbrother,” Woods said. “We’d go his dad’s — my godfather’s — police academy and grind it out. Stingy, stingy, stingy. We wouldn’t let each other have anything.”
Woods finished the tournament how he started, earning a 4-0 decision over No. 15 redshirt junior Allan Hart from Missouri in the finals to seal a history-making moment for Stanford wrestling.
Woods, however, was not the only Cardinal wrestler to earn some success this New Year’s weekend. Fellow redshirt junior Tyler Eischens also reached the quarterfinals of the tournament. After a loss to No. 13 redshirt sophomore Peyton Mocco from Missouri in the quarterfinals, a decision victory over redshirt freshman Jay Nivison from Buffalo in the consolation bracket earned Eischens a top-eight finish.
Eischens medically forfeited his final match of the tournament, placing him in eighth overall for the 174-pound division.
As a team, Stanford finished in 11th place with 47.5 points. The Cardinal’s next match comes during return to Burnham Pavilion on Jan. 9 to face California Baptist.
Ultimately, the program hopes to make another strong showing at the NCAA tournament. When asked by FloWrestling about how he views early-season matches like the Southern Scuffle, Woods said he was grateful for the chance to compete.
“Competing is different than the practice room; ask any wrestlers,” Woods said. “It’s different, and being out here getting these matches in before the NCAA title, I say NCAA title because that’s where my mind’s at!”