Stanford men’s wrestling (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) is hosting No. 22 Utah Valley (6-5, 0-0 Big-12) and Harvard (0-0, 0-0 EIWA) today at the Burnham Pavilion & Ford Center, marking the fourth and fifth dual meets for the Cardinal this season. Stanford has dominated the competition in each of its previous meets, most recently winning against No. 11 Northwestern (2-4, 0-1 Big-10); the team has also achieved unprecedented glory in national tournaments at Las Vegas and Chattanooga. However, today’s competition may test just how much glory the wrestling gods have in store for Stanford. The Wolverines have gutted behemoths like No. 13 Purdue (3-4, 0-1 Big-10) and No. 15 Rutgers (6-2, 0-1 Big-10) over the season, and the Crimson holds a 4-3 all-time record against the Cardinal.
It is no surprise that sophomore and team captain Nathan Traxler, ranked eighth in the nation at 197 lbs, was recently named Pac-12 Wrestler of the Week. Traxler was one of three Cardinal able to break into the later stages of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, joined by No. 20 junior Gabriel Townsell at 125 lbs, and sophomore Dominick Mandarino at 157 lbs. The team captain ended the tournament with a fourth-place title. The Cardinal then moved to take on the Wildcats in mid-December. A minor point deficit was overcome with upset victories by redshirt junior Trevor Rasmussen (heavyweight) and senior Mason Pengilly (141 lbs). Pengilly’s match turned sensational when the senior performed a sudden takedown over opponent Yahya Thomas with only ten seconds left, catapulting Pengilly for the win. The Cardinal ended the day with a 21-15 victory over the Wildcats, preserving their spotless record.
Earlier this month, Stanford followed up their third dual meet victory with an outstanding, record-breaking appearance at the Southern Scuffle in Tennessee. Traxler once again dominated the mat, yielding him a second-place finish at the tournament. He was joined by true freshman Real Woods, who wrestled in the 141-pound class and secured a runner-up title to match a tournament victory that he earned earlier in the season at Princeton. However, these were far from the only Stanford wrestlers that placed at the tournament; nine Cardinal wrestlers found a spot on the podium at Chattanooga, improving from a ninth-place finish last year to this year’s jaw-dropping fourth-place success story. Among the wrestlers who placed were Mandarino (third place) and Shane Griffith at 165 lbs (third place).
Although Stanford is hot off of a string of successes, a formidable force can be found in today’s competition. The Wolverines, though presenting a mixed record in the season so far, have also gone up against some of the toughest teams in the nation. Titans like No. 8 Tate Orndorff (heavyweight), No. 8 Demetrius Romero (165 lbs), and No. 10 Matt Findlay (141 lbs) have had to deal with rosters that match and exceed their strength. Recently, the Wolverines did lose a pair of duals against No. 7 NC State at 23-11 (9-2, 0-0 ACC) and No. 9 Minnesota at 36-6 (8-1, 1-0 Big-10). But despite the overall losses, Findlay and Orndorff secured wins over ranked Wolfpack opponents, and both Romero and Orndorff came through against the Gophers with the only two UVU wins of the meet. Needless to say, the Cardinal should expect a firestorm in the 141-pound, 165-pound and heavyweight matches.
As for Stanford’s record against Harvard, it seems that the Cardinal has not been on great terms with Fortuna in the past. Currently, the Stanford of the East holds a 4-3 all-time record against Stanford proper, and the Crimson defeated the Cardinal, 21-20, at Cambridge last season. This year, Stanford is hoping to utilize its home advantage to give that little extra edge against its eastern rival. Today’s bout marks the first dual meet for Harvard, but the eastern school has been busy at tournaments. The Crimson’s Hunter Ladnier most recently took a second-place title in the 157-pound class at the David H. Lehman Franklin & Marshall Open, followed by Leonardo Tarantino’s third-place performance in the 174-pound class and Lukus Stricker’s 5th-place performance in the 133-pound class. Ladnier currently leads the team with 16 victories, six of which were secured in the last nine matches.
Stanford first faces Utah Valley at noon PST today in the Burnham Pavilion & Ford Center before shifting to a match against Harvard at 1:30 p.m. PST.
Contact Arman Kassam at armank ‘at’ stanford.edu.