In Search Of A Title: Stanford Looks For First Pac-10 Championship In Eugene

Feb. 26, 2008

Stanford, Calif. - THIS WEEK
The Stanford wrestling team travels to MacArthur Court in Eugene, Ore. this week for the Pac-10 Championships, hosted by the University of Oregon. Ten Stanford wrestlers will look to win a conference title and qualify for the NCAA Championships, Mar. 20-22. in St. Louis, Mo. The tournament begins Sunday at 11 a.m. and continues through Monday evening, with the championship bouts scheduled for 7 p.m.

For the second year in a row, college wrestling fans across the country will have the opportunity to watch the Pac-10 Wrestling Championships live via online streaming video, free of charge, available exclusively at Tickets to the championships start at $10 for single session general admission and can be purchased by calling the Oregon Athletics ticket office at 1-800-WEBFOOT.

Ten wrestlers from each school will be looking to claim a Pac-10 title and qualify to continue the 2007-08 season at nationals. This year, 38 of the conference's top wrestlers will earn spots at the 2008 NCAA Championships at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., Mar. 20-22. The seedings for this weekend's tournament will be announced on Saturday.

Cal State Fullerton leads the field with a 7-1 conference record and a No. 24 national ranking. The Broncos of Boise State also have just one Pac-10 loss (6-1) and have eight of their ten starters ranked in the top half of the conference. Fourteen conference wrestlers are ranked nationally, with four belonging to both Boise State and Cal State Fullerton and two belonging to Stanford, Cal Poly and Arizona State. Oregon State is the defending conference champion, having edged Cal State Bakersfield for the title last year.

The Cardinal is amidst one of its best seasons ever, having posted the program's highest win total in over three decades with a 13-4 dual record. The Cardinal also won six of nine Pac-10 duals, the most in four years, beat Arizona State for the first time in program history and posted the first shutout in the program's recorded history against Wagner. Senior Tanner Gardner won three tournament titles and placed in every tournament he competed in, leading a combined 16 tournament placers and four tournament champions on the year. As a team, Stanford wrestlers combined to win 257 matches, pin 59 opponents and beat four ranked individuals.

Entering the postseason, five Stanford wrestlers have already posted 20-win seasons, and two of those are already at the 30-win mark. Seniors Tanner Gardner and Josh Zupancic went undefeated in duals this year, leading four wrestlers with 50 or more team points and six wrestlers with 30 or more.

Seniors Tanner Gardner and Josh Zupancic have both been consistently ranked in the top-10 nationally this season. Gardner currently holds the No. 6 spot, while Zupancic stands at No. 9.

Stanford has competed in NCAA wrestling since at least 1933 and has never won a conference championship. Since the conference became the Pac-10 in 1980, the Cardinal's highest finish has been third place in 1985 and 1986. The program's highest conference finish ever came during the 1964-65 season, when Stanford placed second in the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU). Last year, the Cardinal finished sixth at the Pac-10 Championships hosted by Cal State Bakersfield. Stanford has had 13 Pac-10 individual champions since 1980, including Tanner Gardner, who will be looking to become Stanford's first repeat conference champion in more than two decades this year.

Five of Stanford's probable ten have competed at the Pac-10 Championships before. Senior Tanner Gardner, the defending 125-pound champion, has placed three times, coming in fifth as a freshman in 2004, second as a sophomore in 2006 and first as a junior in 2007. Junior Luke Feist placed fourth in last year's competition at 174 pounds, and took fifth as a freshman in 2006. Senior 157-pounder Josh Zupancic returns for his third championship, as he took second last year and competed at the event as a freshman. Sophomore Zack Giesen was the Pac-10 runner-up at 184 pounds last year as a freshman. Senior Phillip Doerner will be making his second consecutive appearance in the championships at heavyweight. Gardner, Zupancic, Feist and Giesen all advanced to the NCAA Championships last year, and Gardner and Zupancic both earned All-America honors. Gardner has been to the NCAA Championships three times, and will be looking to become the program's first three-time All-American this year.

Tanner Gardner, Stanford's 125-pounder, has already recorded a personal best 17 pins this year, good enough to lead the Pac-10 and rank third nationally. Gardner needs just one more pin to match the Stanford single-season record set by Chris Horpel in 1975 (18). He is also just one win short the the Stanford career win record set by Matt Gentry in 2005 (138). Not to be overshadowed, senior Josh Zupancic is third on the career win chart with 114, second only to Gentry and Gardner. Redshirt freshman Lucas Espericueta, Stanford's 149-pounder, is also climbing his way up the charts. He is currently tied for fifth for wins in a freshman season, with 23 already this year.

Tanner Gardner leads the Cardinal squad with 17 pins this year, and also paced the squad with 93 dual points during the regular-season. Gardner and Josh Zupancic lead the team with four wins by technical fall, while freshman Lucas Espericueta leads the squad with 11 wins by major decision. Gardner is the team's leader with 35 overall wins.

Stanford has two returning All-Americans on its team. At 125 pounds, senior Tanner Gardner is looking to become Stanford's first three-time All-American this season, after finishing 7th and 8th in the nation the last two years. Senior Josh Zupancic earned his first career All-America honor last year, taking 7th place at 157 pounds. Last season, Zupancic and Gardner became the first Stanford duo to earn All-America honors in the same year since 1966-67.

Tanner Gardner and Josh Zupancic are both members of Stanford's 100-win club. Tanner Gardner earned his 100th win at the NCAA Championships last season, and Zupancic picked up his earlier this year at the Reno Tournament of Champions. The elite club also includes Scott Wiggen `87, Steve Buddie `91 and Matt Gentry `05. Sophomore Zack Giesen and junior Luke Feist are already halfway there. Giesen posted his 50th career win against Oregon State on Feb. 3 and Feist notched his against Menlo College on Jan. 25.

Six Cardinal wrestlers are currently ranked among the top five in the conference and will likely receive seeds when the final bracket is announced on Saturday. Tanner Gardner is top-ranked at 125 pounds, and Josh Zupancic and Luke Feist stand second at 157 and 174 pounds, respectively. Zack Giesen, the 2007 Pac-10 runner-up, is currently ranked fourth at 184 pounds. Both newcomers to the Pac-10 tournament, Lucas Espericueta and Jake Johnson round out the top Cardinal wrestlers with No. 5 rankings at 149 pounds and 197 pounds, respectively.

Senior Phillip Doerner has already more than doubled his career win total this year. Doerner has 16 wins on the season, and has pinned a career-best three opponents.

A few Stanford athletes are among the nation's statistical leaders. Going into the week, senior 125-pounder Tanner Gardner is the Pac-10 leader and ranked third nationally in both wins and pins. Redshirt freshman 149-pounder Lucas Espericueta is ranked sixth nationally with 11 major decisions, while senior 157-pounder Josh Zupancic is among the nation's top-10 with 33 wins on the year.

Stanford Head Coach Kerry McCoy has been named to the coaching staff for the 2008 Olympic Freestyle Team. McCoy was a two-time Olympian, competing at the Games in Athens and Sydney. Former Stanford wrestlers Matt Gentry and Patricia Miranda are in contention to be Olympians this year.

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