Stanford men’s wrestling (5-0, 0-0 Pac-12) hosts California Baptist (1-2) at the Burnham Pavilion & Ford Center today for an evening dual meet. This is the first season that the Lancers have competed as a D1 program, and the team has understandably hit some road bumps along the way after competing against some of the best programs in the nation. Meanwhile, the Cardinal have experienced an incredibly successful season so far with a spotless dual record and stellar individual performances across every weight class.
Stanford last hit the mat against No. 22 Utah Valley (8-7, 0-1 Big-12) and Harvard (1-3, 1-1 EIWA) in a double dual meet that started off rocky but finished with Cardinal hegemony. In the first match against UVU, No. 11 Matt Findlay (141 pounds), No. 11 Demetrius Romero (165 pounds), and No. 10 Tate Orndorff (heavyweight) all showed Stanford why their rankings make sense. The Cardinal were embroiled in a variety of close encounters – so close, in fact, that the 20-19 victory essentially came down to a handful of extra points secured by major decision wins.
Redshirt senior Mason Pengilly (133 pounds), sophomore Dominick Mandarino (165 pounds), and Harvard-transfer Rico Stormer (174 pounds) all contributed major decision points while redshirt sophomore and team captain No. 8 Nathan Traxler (197 pounds) defeated No. 13 Tanner Orndorff 9-7. The “South African Tornado,” Redshirt sophomore Requir van der Merwe (149 pounds), delivered a category F5 takedown over his opponent, Cameron Haddock. Overall, the close match was just barely secured with a flurry of gritty wins, preserving the Cardinal’s perfect record.
Intent on redemption over a tenuous 20-19 loss last year, Stanford dominated Harvard 26-12 this year. Pengilly, van der Merwe, and Mandarino all brought in wins against the Crimson, and Rico Stormer posted a 7-4 decision over Leo Tarantino from his alma mater. Redshirt freshman Haydn Maley also rebounded at this match, finding his first dual meet victory since Stanford’s win against Fresno State (6-6, 3-3 Big-12). Though the heavyweight has experienced a relative drought in the way of dual wins, both of his victories have come in the way of takedowns. Not to mention that Maley also won the Princeton Open at the beginning of the season alongside fellow freshmen Real Woods (141 pounds) and Shane Griffith (165 pounds).
In terms of tournament success, the Cardinal fumbled a bit at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite, but found their footing most recently at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, where Woods and Traxler took home runner-up titles that catapulted the Cardinal to a 4th-place finish – the highest title the team has ever won.
For their first D1 season, California Baptist started off strong. The Lancers posted a 28-10 victory over Cal Poly (0-4, 0-0 Pac-12), winning seven of the ten matches against their opponents. Most strikingly, Cal Baptist boasts a squad of young guns; five of their starters were underclassmen in the brawl against the Mustangs. 125-pound Antonio Saldate, a freshman, started off the match in spectacular fashion by pinning his opponent in about two minutes. Zander Silva (133 pounds) and Daxton Gordon (149 pounds) also secured major-decision victories.
But just as the team decimated their foes in their first D1 match of the season, the decimation was brought to them in their second and third. No. 3 Ohio State made quick work of the Cal Baptist upstart in a 43-0 domination. Despite the tragic loss, the Lancers set a new attendance record and showcased the skill of Almate, who hit a takedown in the third period of his match but came short 4 points of winning. The bout against Ohio State was followed up with a series of Tournament appearances; at the Roadrunner Open in Bakersfield, five Lancers finished in the top-five, and at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, Gordon came close to a top-eight finish. The most recent dual meet for the team was fought against Fresno State, who took down the Lancers 43-0 as well. Stanford should expect their sixth dual victory after today’s match, but they should also expect some serious trouble in the 125-pound and 149-pound weight classes.
The match against California Baptist will take place at Stanford, at 7:00 p.m. in the Burnham Pavilion & Ford Center.
Contact the Arman Kassam at armank ‘a’ stanford.edu