One thing is certain: the Stanford wrestling team is ready to go in 2012. The Cardinal wrestled against No. 9 American (4-4) at Burnham Pavilion on Sunday, losing an incredibly close and hard-fought match by a final score of 18-17. Despite the loss, No. 23 Stanford (5-5) did a lot of things well, and the team has shown resilience despite a rough stretch earlier this season.
Every wrestler came out extremely aggressive and showed something that has been lacking this season—flow. Early on in the season, the Cardinal wrestlers would execute one move at a time, which, when defended properly, would not lead to points. On Sunday, however, the wrestlers showed a determination to go from one move to another. There were numerous reversals and shots that were immediately converted into pinning combinations.
The Cardinal’s winning wrestlers were No. 9 junior Ryan Mango by major decision at 133 pounds, redshirt sophomore Bret Baumbach at 165 pounds, No. 1 redshirt senior Nick Amuchastegui by major decision at 174 pounds, redshirt junior Spence Patrick at 184 pounds and sophomore Dan Scherer at heavyweight.
The Eagles got off to a fast start, winning four of the first five matches. The only win for the Card in that stretch came from Mango, who is now 19-5 on the season and 10-0 in dual meets. But the Stanford wrestlers battled back, winning four of the final five matches and almost overcoming a 10-point deficit.
Those four wins exemplified how good the team can be. In particular, Baumbach wrestled extremely well. On neutral, he took good shots and showed great defense. He was able to scramble out of situations both on his feet and on the mat to score at crucial periods in the bout.
Amuchastegui looked very impressive and showed why he is the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class. On his feet, he worked an array of shots, including a smooth sweep single-leg and a deadly quick high-crotch. Amuchastegui was dominant on top, and if his opponent hadn’t continually fled the mat, Amuchastegui would have surely registered near-fall points and earned a technical fall, which awards five points to the winning wrestler’s team if that wrestler is beating his opponent by 15 points.
Patrick came out and immediately established that he was the aggressor. He constantly shot throughout the match, and his high-crotch was extremely successful. His opponent was called for stalling numerous times as Patrick asserted his will.
But perhaps no wrestler showed as much determination as Scherer. His opponent, Blake Herrin, was far bigger than he, and it looked as if Scherer was going to have a tough time. Going into the third period, Scherer was up by one; the only way to win was to ride his opponent out. Herrin stood up numerous times, but each time he attempted an escape Scherer took him back down to the mat. It was amazing to see Scherer out-will his larger opponent to pull out the 2-0 victory.
Although the Card lost this match, the team has been wrestling well lately. In its first dual of 2012, Stanford defeated Boise State 20-16 to snap a three-match losing streak. Prior to the win over the Broncos, the Cardinal had lost three straight duals and finished 25th at the Vegas Invitational, 16th at the Reno Tournament of Champions and 25th at Midlands.
The Stanford wrestlers weren’t at their best then, and in two of those tournaments, they were without their captain, Amuchastegui. Needless to say, his return against Boise State has helped spark this team, and it looks like the Cardinal is finding its stride.
Next up, Stanford heads to San Luis Obispo to take on the Cal Poly Mustangs (3-2) on Sunday.