No. 25 Stanford men’s wrestling (6-1, Pac-12 0-1) will face No. 9 Arizona State (4-8, 1-0) in a dual meet on Saturday at the Burnham Pavilion. CSU Bakersfield (5-7, 2-1) inflicted the Cardinal’s first dual meet loss this past Sunday, clinching the upset 20-13. Stanford will get back into the groove of things tomorrow, aiming to restore themselves to their rightful place in winning-streak glory, but the competition will also be some of the toughest Stanford will have to face this season.
Considering tournament victories, Winter has truly been a season to be jolly for the Cardinal. The team ranked fourth at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga after nine wrestlers catapulted themselves to podiums – a school record. Redshirt sophomore and team captain Nathan Traxler, currently ranked ninth in the country for the 197-pound weight class, took a second place title at the national tournament alongside true freshman Real Woods (141 pounds). But beyond mere tournament titles, Traxler is having an annus mirabilis. The previously-named Pac-12 wrestler of the week is leading the team with 21 wins and five pins, and Traxler has only lost four matches this entire season – not a single match was lost in a dual meet. Traxler is also experiencing a general improvement from previous seasons, as his 21-4 record starkly juxtaposes his 40-16 career record. Freshmen Shane Griffith (165 pounds) and Real Woods have also brought the heat with exceptional dual meet and tournament performances. Griffith has a 20-2 record this season, Woods boasts a 14-1, and both have been consolidating their energy in tournament bouts.
The Cardinal were enjoying a spotless record and all the pride that comes with hegemonic muscle, but everything changed when the Roadrunners attacked. Stanford’s 20-13 overall loss saw only four Cardinal wrestlers claim wins: No. 20 junior Gabriel Townsell (125 pounds), No. 15 redshirt sophomore Requir van der Merwe (149 pounds), redshirt senior Paul Fox (157 pounds), and Traxler. Fox was able to take down his opponent by a major-decision margin, but the effort proved all for naught. Bakersfield was able to fend off Cardinal attempts while claiming a takedown victory for themselves.
Though the Sun Devils boast perhaps one of the most competitive squads in the nation, they have been running into some trouble too. Arizona State won their last dual meet against Oregon State (3-5, 0-1), where the Sun Devils opened up with four straight wins, but they then lost the next two meets against No. 24 Lock Haven (5-2) and No. 21 Lehigh (6-8). The pair of losses suggest that Arizona’s roster is a bit lopsided; the team has superstars in the 149 to 174-pound range, from wrestlers like No. 2 Zahid Valencia (who has an incredible knack for winning matches with bonus points) to No. 5 Josh Shields (whose last dual meet loss in the 165-pound class was to No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph). The Sun Devils are 11-7 all-time against the Cardinal, and ASU was able to take the last meeting against Stanford in a 24-15 win over a year ago. That being said, the last time the Sun Devils beat the Cardinal at Stanford was on January 6, 2013, indicating that a home advantage can make all the difference in tomorrow’s match against last year’s Pac-12 champions. Stanford has a good shot of deposing this leading Pac-12 team, but in the words of King Théoden, “Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered.”
Catch the match against ASU tomorrow, February 2nd, at the Burnham Pavilion at 1:00 pm PT.
Contact Arman Kassam at armank ‘at’ stanford.edu.