Josh Zupancic is no stranger to success. As a matter of fact, he has met with little but success since coming to Stanford in 2003.
So far, the 157-pound junior has posted three 20+ win seasons on the Farm. He boasts a flawless 14-0 career dual record against Pac-10 opponents. He has placed in eight collegiate tournaments and won two. Yet, until this year, he has kept a low profile on the national wrestling scene.
As a freshman in 2004-05, Zupancic quickly made an impact at the collegiate level. Despite a late-season illness, he finished third on the team in wins and etched his name in the Stanford record books with the fifth-best freshman win mark in school history. He went undefeated in Pac-10 duals and won his opening round bout at the Pac-10 Championships, but fell a match short of placing. Last year as a sophomore, he was awarded the No. 1 seed at the conference championships, but was unable to compete.
This year, he is ready to take the next step.
After competing at 149 pounds during his first two seasons, the Akron, Ohio native moved up a weight class this year and set his sights high.
"My goal has always been to be a National Champion," says Zupancic. "This year, I'm looking to be an All-American and try to win that National Championship. To get there, I've been staying after practice and doing a lot of extra work."
So far, his extra work has been paying off.
The Cardinal junior is 27-7 this season, and has placed at every tournament he has competed in. In early November, Zupancic placed second at the Bison Open. A week later, he won the Fullerton Open title. On December 2, he captured seventh place at the elite Las Vegas Invitational and followed with a second place finish at the Reno Tournament of Champions. At the Southern Scuffle, Zupancic was back again, taking sixth place in the competitive field. He has pinned four opponents, and earned bonus points in 13 matches.
What's more, Zupancic's success has come while facing one of the most challenging sets of opponents in the nation. He has faced nine ranked opponents this year, more than any other wrestler on the Cardinal squad. His only losses this season are to top-20 opponents, and in the month of December, he beat two of them.
On Dec. 5, Zupancic finally secured a ranking of his own. The Cardinal junior jumped into the polls at No. 17 and has maintained his place in the top-20 ever since. This week, he is listed as the nation's 16th-best wrestler at 157 pounds.
"Wrestling so many top opponents this year has definitely helped a lot," he says. "I think I only wrestled one ranked person last year and the year before, I probably only saw one or two. Wrestling the best shows you where you are and where you need to get a little bit better to beat them."
Zupancic is currently ranked second in the Pac-10, but will have to defend his place against five conference challengers in the next ten days. On Feb. 16, he gets to square off with Arizona State's top-ranked Brian Stith, a battle which will likely determine the top-seeded wrestler at the Pac-10 Championships, Feb. 24-25.
Zupancic has been there before, but this season, he is ready to make it to the top.