Cardinal Gets New Year Rolling At Texas' Lonestar Duals

Dec. 29, 2008

THIS WEEK: After a brief holiday break, the Stanford wrestling team (3-5, 0-2 Pac-10) is set to dive right into a busy new year. The Cardinal will begin 2009 at the Lonestar Duals in Arlington, Texas on Saturday, taking on Harvard, Army and No. 11 Oklahoma in duals that begin 12 hours apart. Stanford and Harvard begin the day at 8 a.m. (CT), and the Cardinal will take on the Army Black Knights at 4 p.m. (CT). In the final dual of the day, which begins at 8 p.m. (CT), Stanford meets Oklahoma. On Sunday, some of the younger Cardinal wrestlers will likely compete at the Menlo Invitational, hosted by local Menlo College.

ABOUT HARVARD: The Crimson (0-3) are led by a trio of wrestlers who are currently ranked among the top five in the nation. Junior 157-pounder JP O'Connor (No. 3) is one of two returning All-Americans on the squad, having taken sixth at 149 pounds last season and fifth the year before. Fellow junior Louis Caputo (No. 5), a 184-pounder, took seventh to earn All-America honors two seasons ago, but was sidelined by injury last year. Sophomore 141-pounder Corey Jantzen, who is coming off his first career NCAA appearance, is the highest ranked Crimson wrestler, coming in at No. 2.

ABOUT ARMY: All-American junior Matt Kyler paces the Army wrestling squad, having taken sixth place at 141 pounds at the NCAA Championships last season. Kyler, the defending EIWA Champion, currently holds a No. 13 national ranking at 149 pounds, while 197-pound teammate Richard Starks, also a returning NCAA qualifier, stands at No. 9. So far in 2008-09, the Black Knights are 3-1-1 and Kyler paces the team with 15 wins.

ABOUT OKLAHOMA: The Sooners, ranked 11th nationally as a team, enter the Lonestar Duals with a perfect 4-0 record and seven ranked wrestlers. Sophomore Joey Fio, coming off his first career NCAA appearance, is listed 13th at 125 pounds, while junior Kyle Terry stands 14th at 149 pounds. Junior Shane Vernon (No. 14, 157), sophomore Jeff James (No. 9, 174), sophomore Pat Flynn (No. 19, 184), junior Eric Lapotsky (No. 13, 197) and sophomore Nathan Fernandez (No. 19, HWT) are also among the nation's top 20 in their respective weight classes. The Sooner roster boasts four wrestlers who have made NCAA Tournament appearances - three-time NCAA qualifier Will Rowe (149 pounds), as well as Terry, Fio and sophomore 141-pounder Zack Bailey.

ABOUT THE MENLO INVITATIONAL: Stanford will send some of its younger wrestlers to Sunday's Menlo Invitational, held at Haynes Primm Pavilion at Menlo College. Stanford wrestlers last competed there in 2007, with then-freshmen Zack Giesen and Jake Johnson each claiming titles.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stanford is back on The Farm next week, hosting Columbia, Drexel and Pac-10 rival UC Davis in the annual Stanford Duals. Action begins at noon on Saturday, Jan. 10 at Burnham Pavilion.

SO FAR THIS SEASON: Facing a number of early injuries in its upper weights, Stanford has wrestled short-handed in its first eight duals and gone 3-5. The Cardinal won its last two contests before the finals break, however, and had three placers at the competitive Reno Tournament of Champions earlier this month.

PINS A PLENTY...: Stanford's only senior, Luke Feist, recorded three more pins on his way to the Reno Tournament title bout, moving himself into a tie for sixth place on the school's career top-10 list with 21 career wins by fall. Feist, who has pinned six of his last 10 opponents, leads the team with seven pins already this year. Currently, he stands three pins short of fifth place on the school's career chart (Chris Horpel `75 holds the school record with 56) and two pins short of joining the single-season top-10 (Tanner Gardner `08 holds the record with 19 pins in 2007-08).

...AND WINS TOO: Luke Feist is just two wins short of joining the school's all-time career win list as well. Feist nabbed his 70th career win in the Reno Tournament semifinals on Dec. 18. He needs 72 wins to tie Nathan Peterson `05 for 10th place.

NIFTY FIFTY: Junior Jake Johnson picked up his 50th career win at the Reno Tournament, using a technical fall in his first match to reach the milestone. Johnson joins teammates Luke Feist and Zack Giesen as the only current Stanford wrestlers in the 50-win club.

20 AND BEYOND: Two Stanford wrestlers - junior Jake Johnson and sophomore Lucas Espericueta - are on the verge of securing their second-straight 20-win seasons. Johnson (19-9) is just one win away, while Espericueta (18-6) needs two wins. Last season five Stanford wrestlers, including Johnson and Espericueta, reached the 20-win plateau. Junior Zack Giesen (2006-07 and 2007-08) and senior Luke Feist (2006-07) are the only other current Cardinal wrestlers who have posted more than 20 wins in a single year.

TOURNEY TITLES: Two Stanford wrestlers claimed tournament titles in November. On Nov. 15, redshirt freshman Nick Amuchastegui upended a three-time NCAA qualifier who was ranked 11th nationally to win the 165-pound crown at the Cowboy Open. On Nov. 23, junior Zack Giesen pinned three straight opponents to take the 184-pound title at the Fullerton Open.

STANFORD WATCH LIST: Senior Luke Feist headlines the Stanford wrestlers to watch this week, as the 197-pounder has won nine of his last 10 bouts, upset two ranked opponents in his last three matches and is coming off a runner-up finish at the competitive Reno Tournament of Champions. Junior Jake Johnson and sophomore Lucas Espericueta are also coming off admirable finishes in Reno, and Johnson leads the team in both wins (19) and major decisions (8). Johnson got his first career win over a ranked opponent in Reno, while redshirt freshman Nick Amuchastegui nabbed his on Nov. 15. Sophomore 133-pounder Porfirio Madrigal has been the best for the Cardinal in duals so far, winning seven of his eight matches and racking up a team-high 27 points.

TOP NOTCH RETURNERS: Stanford's 17 returners are highlighted by a trio that qualified for last year's NCAA Tournament. Junior Zack Giesen and senior Luke Feist have both competed at the last two NCAA Championships, and have more than 50 career wins apiece. Lucas Espericueta had one of the best freshman seasons in school history last year, winning 25 matches and qualifying for the NCAA Championships at 149 pounds.

A NEW LOOK: Stanford is under the guidance of a new head coach this season - former Cardinal assistant Jason Borrelli. Borrelli, a 2006 graduate of Central Michigan, was an integral part of the staff that led Stanford to one of its most successful seasons in school history last year. Working with the lower weights, Borrelli helped the Cardinal win 13 duals, post its highest Pac-10 finish in school history, its second-highest national finish and send a program-best five wrestlers to the NCAA Championships.

FRESH FACES: Stanford has seven newcomers on its roster this year, and three of those rookies have already been part of the starting lineup. Matt Sencenbaugh (Auburn, Wash.), Victor Haug (Emigrant, Mont.) and Timmy Boone (Poway, Calif.) are already playing a vital role for the Cardinal in their first collegiate seasons.

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