By Arman Kassam
This Friday, No. 25 Stanford men’s wrestling (7-3, 1-1 Pac-12) will face off against No. 18 Oregon State (4-7, 0-1 Pac-12) at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Oregon. Stanford seeks redemption after suffering devastating losses to No. 20 Purdue (6-8, 2-5 Big-10) and Indiana (5-10, 1-6 Big-10) last Friday and Saturday.
Before those recent defeats, Stanford was having a one-of-a-kind season. Back in early January, the team set new records in Chattanooga, Tenn., for total tournament wins. Team captain and redshirt sophomore No. 9 Nathan Traxler, wrestling at 197 pounds, appeared to be an indomitable force at both dual meets and competitions. In a dual meet against No. 9 Arizona State (4-10, 1-1 Pac-12), the crowd was wowed when No. 20 junior Gabriel Townsell took down his opponent with only eight seconds left in the entire meet, simultaneously securing Stanford’s third victory against a ranked opponent.
Then, the season took a turn for the worse in early February. Although No. 15 redshirt sophomore Requir van der Merwe (149 pounds), sophomore Dominick Mandarino (165 pounds) and Townsell were all able to notch wins for the Cardinal, the other seven matches were lost — including a bout between Traxler and his longtime wrestling partner. The 22-9 loss suffered at the hands of the Boilermakers was followed by a crushing 30-7 defeat at Indiana. Only Merwe and Traxler were able to win matches in the second meet.
Oregon State has had a rough season so far, but they also boast some top-notch talent. In the 125-pound class, the Beavers will be represented by No. 3 Ronnie Bresser — last year’s Pac-12 Champion. Considering Bresser’s 19-1 record this season and 11-0 record in duals, as well as his having won a whopping eleven matches by technical fall or pin, the Cardinal’s Gabriel Townsell will be given a run for his money.
On the other end of the weight class spectrum, No. 3 Amar Dhesi represents the Beavers in the heavyweight category. A graduate student, Dhesi finished third at last year’s NCAA tournament and like his 125-pound teammate, won the Pac-12 title in 2018. “The Goliath” has secured a 6-1 record this season, only dropping to No. 6 Michigan’s (10-1, 6-1 Big-10) Mason Perris.
In Oregon’s most recent loss to No. 12 Iowa State (10-2, 6-1 Big-12), the Pac-12 team still won four bouts — two of which were upsets. 141-pound Grant Willits managed to win his first dual meet match over a ranked opponent when he took down No. 11 Ian Parker. Colt Doyle, a Beaver redshirt junior, also secured an upset victory in the 174-pound class after dominating No. 20 Marcus Coleman.
At first glance, the Beaver roster seems polar; the team gives the illusion that it can only really dominate in the extremes of the heavyweight and lightweight classes. But take another look: the Beavers have a dam good squad all around, which might prove problematic for the Cardinal.
Catch the match tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. PT, at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.
Contact Arman Kassam at armank ‘at’ stanford.edu.