A big pin at 285 from Nathan Butler was the highlight of a comeback push from No. 18 Stanford wrestling (11-3, 3-2 Pac-12) as the Cardinal emerged victorious on their Senior Night with a 22-15 victory over Boise State (3-6, 1-1 Pac-12) to wrap up their home season and pick up much-needed momentum before their biggest road trip of the season to Oklahoma State on Sunday.
“We’re really trying to build off this win after a tough loss to Bakersfield [earlier this season] and to Oregon State, and we’re just looking to get some revenge at Pac-12s now and hoist that trophy,” said redshirt senior Michael Sojka.
Stanford fell into an early 6-0 hole and trailed 9-4 after the first three bouts before winning five of the next six to overtake the Broncos for good and clinch on freshman Joey McKenna’s decision at 141. The win was Stanford’s second straight after a tough home loss to Oregon State a week ago brought the team back to earth following a seven-match midseason winning streak.
“The loss to Oregon State was tough,” Sojka said. “We had to do a lot of soul-searching, but we just put it in the rearview mirror and we’re looking forward to building for Pac-12s now.”
After having to forfeit the 157 bout on Saturday at Air Force without normal starter Walker Dempsey, the Cardinal turned to freshman Nainoa Calvo to open the meet in his first dual appearance of the season, who suffered a fall in 3:25 after two early near-falls to spot the Broncos an early 6-0 lead from the onset.
However, redshirt junior Jim Wilson, ranked No. 18 in the nation at 165, immediately gave some of the momentum back to the Cardinal with an 11-1 major decision over Boise State’s Taylor West punctuated by a 4-point near-fall as the second period closed. The win marked Wilson’s fifth straight victory and improved his dual record to 13-1 on the season.
After redshirt sophomore Keaton Subjeck faltered with a late near-fall in what had been a tightly contested bout at 174 to fall in a 10-4 decision, redshirt sophomore Garet Krohn and Sojka gave Stanford two tightly contested, dramatic decisions as the crowd roared its approval to push Stanford to a 10-9 lead at the Senior Night intermission.
It was a welcome bounce-back from Sojka, a team captain, who took advantage of an energized crowd at his Senior Night to snap a four-match losing streak and walk off the Burnham Pavilion mat for the final time in his career with a 2-0 decision to improve to 12-9 on the season.
“It was great — my parents were here, and I got a win in front of all of our great fans,” Sojka said. “It was my final wrestling match here over a good, quality opponent — they’re no slouches.”
Leading 1-0 late in the third period, Sojka was going to win his bout regardless due to his riding time advantage, but the senior emptied the tank to hold firm in the waning seconds as opponent Kadyn Del Toro sought an escape point to avoid the shutout.
“I would have won the match regardless, but it’s definitely a pride thing to beat him just a little bit more,” Sojka said.
The wins from Krohn and Sojka were exactly what Stanford needed to catch fire and pull away from the Broncos for good.
Butler pushed the energy in the building through the roof when he earned his eighth pin of the season in the heavyweight bout, dropping Gabriel Gonzalez in 5:31 to claim Stanford’s third straight bout, improve to 23-5 on the season and take over the team lead in wins.
With Stanford already leading 16-9 after Butler’s pin, redshirt sophomore Connor Schram twice came within inches of earning pins of his own before ultimately settling for a 9-4 decision, improving to 17-4 on the season and extending his winning streak to four.
Although Mason Pengilly once again couldn’t come through with a win at 133 in his third match back from injury, freshman Joey McKenna won his eighth straight with a hard-fought 4-0 decision at 141 after a last-second takedown in the first period to clinch the team victory for Stanford.
Stanford will next travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to wrap up its regular season with an imposing road dual against No. 2 Oklahoma State before ramping up its conditioning and making its final push towards the Pac-12 Championships on Feb. 27.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.