Stanford wrestling (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) persevered for a 22-15 win against Fresno State (3-4, 1-2 Big 12) at the Battle on Midway. The Cardinal were down 12-15 with only three matches remaining, but redshirt sophomore Requir van der Merwe won an upset over a top-20 wrestler that sparked a comeback and kept the Bulldogs in the doghouse.
Stanford opened up the 2018-2019 season two weeks ago at the Princeton Open, claiming triple victories for freshmen Real Woods (141 pounds), Shane Griffith (165 pounds) and heavyweight Haydn Maley. The Cardinal went on to dominate SF State (1-2) in glorious fashion, dropping a 41-5 decision and ending the day with four takedowns in a row. Only two days before the dual meet against Fresno State, both the Bulldogs and Cardinal participated in the Roadrunner Open, a tournament for wrestlers from around the region. Griffith and sophomore Dominick Mandarino came out on top in the 165-pound and 157-pound weight classes, respectively, while 13 out of 18 competing Stanford wrestlers placed at the Open. During this tournament, it appeared that the Cardinal would have to put up quite a fight to deal with the Bulldogs as Fresno State was able to place sixth out of their nine competitors.
Tuesday’s battle, a unique dual meet that took place on the flight deck of the USS Midway, began with a 9-5 win for Stanford fifth-year Rico Stormer against Dominic Kincaid in the 174-pound class. Both Stormer and Kincaid scored reversals, but it was Stormer who came out on top after achieving two takedowns and two escapes.
Stormer’s dominant 8-3 decision was followed up with a 7-0 win for redshirt sophomore Nathan Traxler, who is also ranked 8th nationally for the 197-pound class. With a takedown, four near fall points, and an escape, Traxler could have claimed a major decision for the Cardinal had his opponent, Danny Salas, not avoided confrontation.
These confidence-boosting matches seemed all the more sweet when No. 20 junior Gabriel Townsell took down the Bulldogs’ 125-pound Robert Garcia IV in less than a minute. Leading 12-7, the Cardinal had a bit of breathing room — it seemed that all this talk about Fresno State was a bunch of baloney. But the Bulldogs bounced back to prove that there is absolutely no baloney involved; Fresno State’s Gary Joint and Chris Deloza, 133 and 141 pounds, respectively, emerged victorious against Stanford sophomore Anthony Le and redshirt freshman Dalton Young. Bulldog Jackson Hemauer was able to score an 8-2 win at 184 pounds over Stanford freshman Colbey Harlan, and Haydn Maley took an 18-9 loss against AJ Nevills, who is ranked 19th in the nation for heavyweights. Stanford was down 12-15 with only three matches left.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for a handful of important things in my life: my loving family, delicious home-cooked food and of course, the South African Tornado — redshirt sophomore Requir van der Merwe. The Cardinal may have been down three points and Merwe may have had to face a top-20 wrestler in the 149-pound class, but he ended up taking the match against Khristian Olivas in a glorious 9-6 upset. Merwe was behind Olivas 2-4 after the second period, but in the third, the Cardinal scored a reversal and took four near fall points that left the opposition in the dust and tied up the dual meet 15-15. After that stunning victory over Olivas, redshirt senior Paul Fox took the Cardinal to a three-point lead through a 3-2 win over 157-pound Isaiah Hokit. Sophomore Dominick Mandarino then solidified the Cardinal victory after dominating opponent Jacob Wright in the 165-pound class with a 12-1 major decision.
The Cardinal approached this battle on the battleship with a near-spotless record, and as expected, Fresno State was a formidable threat to the record. The Bulldogs, more so than any other squad we have seen so far, put Stanford’s hegemony to the test. Luckily, the Cardinal were galvanized into action after feeling the bite of the Bulldogs, and with just the right amount of grit, the team gave us something else to be thankful for during this holiday season.
Next, Stanford is headed to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
Contact Arman Kassam at armank ‘at’ stanford.edu