Cardinal Returns Home For Saturday's Stanford Duals

Jan. 6, 2009

THIS WEEK: The Stanford wrestling team (3-8, 0-2 Pac-10) returns home this week to host the annual Stanford Duals, a five-team event that includes the Cardinal, UC Davis, Columbia, Drexel and Cal State Bakersfield. Action begins at noon, with Stanford wrestling for the first time at 1:30 p.m.

ABOUT COLUMBIA: The Lions (0-5) are led by heavyweight Ryan Flores, a sophomore who is ranked 13th nationally. Flores is the team's only wrestler coming off a 2008 NCAA appearance but junior 149-pounder Matt Dunn (2007) and senior 141-pounder Sal Tirico (2006) both have made it there earlier in their careers. Senior 157-pounder Derek Sickles currently leads the Lions with 15 wins, while Flores has pinned six opponents in his 14 bouts. Stanford last wrestled Columbia in 2006-07, and lost 27-11.

ABOUT DREXEL: Senior Jon Oplinger, a 2006 NCAA qualifier, paces the Drexel wrestling sqaud (4-7) this season with a No. 8 national ranking at 197 pounds. Oplinger has built up a 16-2 record with four pins so far this year. Senior Steve Mytych is also a force for the Dragons, as the 125-pounder is a three-time NCAA qualifier. Stanford topped Drexel last season in Philadelphia, 24-12.

ABOUT UC DAVIS: UC Davis enters the weekend with a 3-2 record and a 1-1 mark in Pac-10 duals. Seniors Marcos Orozco (2007, 2008) and Tyler Bernacchi (2006, 2008) are both two-time NCAA qualifiers, and Orozco is ranked 15th nationally at 125 pounds. Bernacchi was the Pac-10 runner-up at 174 pounds last season, while senior 141-pounder Nexi Delgado also qualified for the NCAA Championships with a fourth-place Pac-10 finish. Another senior, Dustin Noack, was the conference runner-up at 165 pounds in 2007 and also has a trip to the NCAA Championships under his belt. Last year, UC Davis finished eighth in the Pac-10 and lost to Stanford in a Jan. 18 dual, 30-9.

ABOUT THE STANFORD DUALS: Wrestled in Burnham Pavilion, the Stanford Duals were held for the inaugural time in on Jan. 5, 2007. That year, Stanford suffered losses at the hands of Columbia, Lehigh and UC Davis.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stanford heads to Colorado next week, taking on Air Force on Friday night in Colorado Springs and Northern Colorado on Saturday in Greeley.

SO FAR THIS SEASON: Facing a number of early injuries in its upper weights, Stanford has wrestled short-handed in many of its duals and gone 3-8. The Cardinal went 0-3 at the Lonestar Duals in Texas last week, but had three placers at the competitive Reno Tournament of Champions in mid-December.

PINS A PLENTY...: Stanford's only senior, Luke Feist, recorded another pin last week, moving himself into sole possession of sixth place on the school's career top-10 list (22 pins). Feist, who has secured eight of his 12 wins by fall this year, currently stands two pins short of fifth place on the school's career chart (Chris Horpel `75 holds the school record with 56) and one pin short of joining the single-season top-10 (Tanner Gardner `08 holds that record with 19 pins in 2007-08).

...AND WINS TOO: Luke Feist is just one win 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, and added one more with a win over his Harvard opponent last Saturday. 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 on Dec. 18, 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. Sophomore Lucas Espericueta is just six wins short of joining them.

20 AND BEYOND: Junior Jake Johnson secured his second-straight 20-win season on Saturday, defeating his Army opponent to nab his 20th win of the year. Sophomore Lucas Espericueta (19-8) needs just one more win to earn his second 20-win season in a row as well. 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.

TOUGH SCHEDULE: Stanford wrestlers have faced some of the nation's top competition this year, taking on 31 ranked opponents so far. To date, the Cardinal has pulled four upsets in those matches, with big wins coming from Luke Feist, Jake Johnson and Nick Amuchastegui.

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: Redshirt freshman Nick Amuchastegui headlines the Stanford wrestlers to watch this week, as the Talent, Ore. native won all three of his bouts in Texas, including two by fall. Amuchastegui got his first career win over a ranked opponent on Nov. 15 and boasts a 16-4 record and a team-high 38 dual points. Senior Luke Feist has won 10 of his last 13 bouts and upset two ranked opponents in mid-December to reach the Reno Tournament title match. Junior Jake Johnson and sophomore Lucas Espericueta are also performing well, and Johnson leads the team in both wins (20) and major decisions (8) and Espericueta boasts 19 wins and 27 dual 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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