No. 25 Stanford men’s wrestling (7-1, 1-1 Pac-12) heads out today for a dual meet against No. 20 Purdue (5-7, 2-4 Big-10) in West Lafayette, Indiana. Although the Cardinal have been enjoying a stellar season so far with a near-perfect dual record, a dangerous number of matches have been too close for comfort.
This past Saturday, the Cardinal defeated No. 9 Arizona State (4-9, 1-1 Pac-12) in a glorious match — clinched at the last second by the intrepid junior Gabriel Townsell, who was wrestling in the 125-pound class. In addition to Stanford’s many awards and titles this season, Townsell was also named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Wednesday and has moved to 5-1 in duals.
Saturday’s match showcased this narrow win margin; had Townsell not lifted and dropped his Sun Devil opponent in the final eight seconds of his bout, ASU likely would have taken the entire meet on a slim margin. Stanford set the pace of the meet at the beginning of the afternoon with three early victories at the hands of redshirt senior Mason Pengilly (133 pounds), junior Brandon Kier (141 pounds) and No. 15 redshirt sophomore Requir van der Merwe (149 pounds). Then the Sun Devils retaliated with a fireball of four victories, claiming the 157-pound, 165-pound, 174-pound and 184-pound matches.
The rest of the day came down to a takedown victory by redshirt sophomore and team captain No. 9 Nathan Traxler (197 pounds), a close call won by redshirt freshman and heavyweight Haydn Maley and, finally, the “Townsell Miracle.” The 21-15 decision betrays Stanford’s strenuous struggle to the top. The last time the Cardinal lost was not against a ranked opponent like the Sun Devils, but against the underdog CSU Bakersfield (5-8, 2-1 Pac-12), who won 20-13 and simultaneously shattered the Cardinal’s guise of invincibility.
Stanford’s close calls and occasional hiccups still should not take away from the team’s obvious triumphs; back in early January, the Cardinal set a new record at the Southern Scuffle National Tournament in Tennessee, where Stanford ranked fourth (right under No. 14 Iowa State) and put nine Cardinal wrestlers on a podium. Traxler and true freshman Real Woods both finished with second-place titles at the tournament. Traxler has also been having an unbelievable season; the captain leads Stanford in season wins and pins and is third in all-time wins (41) as only a redshirt sophomore.
The Boilermakers have not enjoyed as much success as Stanford this season, and Purdue is currently suffering from a three-match losing streak, but the team boasts talent that will undoubtedly give the Cardinal a run for their money. In the Boilermaker’s meet against No. 1 Penn State (10-0, 6-0 Big-10) — to emphasize, the best team in the country — the Boilermakers won three matches. Davin Schroder (125 pounds), No. 18 Ben Thornton (133 pounds) and Max Lyon (184 pounds) all claimed games against the Nittany Lions. Lyon currently leads the team on a flurry of stats: most wins (18), most dual wins (nine), most conference wins (five) and longest dual winning streak (six, and still going). Thornton and Dylan Lydy also took first-place titles at the Princeton Open at the beginning of the season, in which Stanford participated as well.
And although the team has undeniable talent in the lightweight classes, it was the heavyweights — Lydy, Lyon and No. 12 Christian Brunner — that took victories in the most recent loss against No. 7 Minnesota (12-2, 5-1 Big-10). Lydy defeated No. 11 Devin Skatzka in a close 6-4 match. For today’s brawl, Stanford’s Townsell and Pengilly will definitely be challenged at 125 and 133 pounds, and Purdue’s recent performance shows that the Cardinal’s heavyweight classes should not get too comfortable either.
The match against Purdue begins today at 4 p.m. PST in West Lafayette.
Contact Arman Kassam at armank ‘at’ stanford.edu.