Stanford men’s wrestling (5-0, 0-0 Pac-12) triumphed over No. 22 Utah Valley (7-6, 0-0 Big-12) and Harvard (0-2, 0-0 EIWA) in a two-part dual meet this past Saturday. The first game at Burnham Pavilion against the Wolverines was a close contest in a majority of weight classes, but the Cardinal eventually prevailed 20-19 to secure their second dual meet victory against a ranked opponent. Stanford then turned to their east coast rival for a bit of redemption – the Crimson had managed to hold onto a 4-3 all-time record against the Cardinal before Saturday’s match. The 26-12 smack-down that followed was anything but a close contest; the Cardinal sought and delivered vengeance after beating the Ivy League school in seven out of 10 bouts.
Before the double victory over the weekend, Stanford had already been enjoying a string of tournament successes at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in early December and the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga at the beginning of 2019. Team captain, sophomore Nathan Traxler, wrestling at 197 pounds, took a second-place spot in Las Vegas and a fourth-place spot in Chattanooga. Joining Traxler, true freshman Real Woods claimed a runner-up title at the Southern Scuffle in the 141-pound division. In fact, a total of nine Cardinal found their way to the podium in Chattanooga as the team won a record-breaking fourth-place title at the national tournament.
As expected, the Utah Valley Wolverines posed quite a challenge for the Cardinal this past Saturday. UVU superstars like No. 11 Matt Findlay (141 pounds), No. 11 Demetrius Romero (165 pounds) and No. 10 Tate Orndorff (heavyweight) were simply too much for Stanford to handle, and each match against the three were lost quite decisively with the exception of the match against Findlay. Cardinal junior Brandon Kier, wrestling at 141 pounds, took seven points in the match against Findlay and managed to rebound for a win against Ryan Friedman in the following bout against Harvard.
In Stanford’s previous dual meet against a ranked opponent, No. 11 Northwestern (2-4, 0-1 Big 10), the Cardinal managed to hold out against the competition thanks to the spontaneous brilliance of redshirt junior Trevor Rasmussen (heavyweight) and redshirt senior Mason Pengilly (141 pounds). This time, the Cardinal did not have the luxury of winning by performances that catapulted the team out of a score deficit.
With match wins split 5-5, the handful of major-decision victories that Stanford accumulated decided the game. Pengilly won a key match for the Cardinal in the 133-pound class after a 12-0 major decision victory over Isaiah Delgado. Redshirt sophomore Requir van der Merwe, dubbed the “South African Tornado,” also claimed a major-decision win against UVU’s Cameron haddock in the 149-pound class. Both sophomore Dominick Mandarino and fifth-year Rico Stormer claimed major-decision wins after garnering more than 20 points in the 157 and 174-pound matches, respectively. Stanford’s last victory against UVU was taken by Traxler, who is currently ranked eighth in the nation for the 197-pound class and who took down No. 13 Tanner Orndorff. The entire dual meet was just barely won by the Cardinal, 20-19, far too close for comfort, but still enough to preserve Stanford’s spotless record.
The match against the Crimson was a different story altogether. Van der Merwe posted another major decision victory against Brock Wilson, boosting the “South African Tornado” to 15-6 overall and 4-1 in duals this season. Pengilly also brought in another major decision victory against Lukus Stricker and Mandarino took his second win of the day against Hunter Ladnier.
Then, wrestler Rico Stormer found himself at a crossroads between past and present. In the 174-pound match, Stormer, a Harvard transfer and current Stanford graduate student, took down the Crimson’s Leo Tarantino with a 7-4 decision, marking Stormer’s first win against his alma mater. The rest of the bout ended in Cardinal dominance. Traxler posted a 17-5 decision over Cole Bateman and Haydn Maley performed a takedown over Evan Callahan that launched Stanford into a massive 26-12 lead. Harvard may have taken last season’s match away from the Stanford with their tenuous 21-20 victory, but this year, the Cardinal proved that the past stays in the past. First they took their wrestler, then they took the win.
The dual meets will resume on Friday, Jan. 25, when Stanford hosts California Baptist (1-2) at the Burnham Pavilion and Ford Center.
Contact Arman Kassam at armank ‘at’ stanford.edu