April 11, 2009
Stanford, Calif. - With the 2008-09 season in the books, the Stanford wrestling program can look back on a number of accomplishments. Under the direction of first-year head coach Jason Borrelli, Stanford won eight duals, had four top-three Pac-10 placers for the first time in more than two decades and sent two wrestlers to compete for a national title at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.
The Cardinal jumped into the heart of its season right off the bat, taking on a conference opponent on the first day of the season and making four road trips to wrestle eight duals in the month of November. Competing without a heavyweight for most of the stretch, Stanford dropped its first four duals but, after rebounding to get its first win at Cal Baptist on Nov. 21, won three of its next four matches.
In November and December, the Cardinal had some impressive individual showings at early season tournaments. Two Stanford wrestlers claimed tournament titles during the first month of action and the team had 25 placewinners over five competitions. 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. On Dec. 18, senior Luke Feist was the 197-pound runner-up at the Reno Tournament of Champions, going 4-1, pinning three opponents and upsetting two ranked wrestlers on his way to the title match.
Stanford was back on the mats following the holiday break, with 11 mores duals on the docket in the month of January. The month was highlighted by a 32-7 win at Air Force on Jan. 16, in which the team posted its largest margin of victory (25 points), scored bonus points in six bouts and won eight of 10 weight classes.
After taking down Portland State for its first conference win on Jan. 30, the Cardinal followed with two more critical Pac-10 victories in early February. On Feb. 6, junior Tyler Parker won a key overtime bout at 149 pounds to help the Cardinal beat Arizona State for just the second time in school history. A week later, sophomore Cameron Teitelman won the decider in a 21-18 victory over Cal Poly.
Stanford sent nine wrestlers to the Pac-10 Championships in early March and came away with eight placers, having four top-three finishers for the first time since 1986. Amuchastegui's inaugural appearance at the championships highlighted the event for the Cardinal, as the rookie went 2-1 and finished as the conference runner-up at 165 pounds. The Talent, Ore. native was the first Cardinal freshman to advance to a Pac-10 title match since Giesen did so as a rookie in 2007.
Three Cardinal wrestlers - Feist, Lucas Espericueta and Jake Johnson - took third place in their respective weight classes. Feist, a 197-pounder who wrestled at 174 pounds his first three seasons, took third for the second straight year and registered his fourth career top-five finish. The third-place finish was a career high for Johnson (184 pounds) and Espericueta (157 pounds).
Feist became the school's ninth four-time Pac-10 placer at the championships and recorded his 80th career victory in the consolation semifinals. Johnson secured his first career 30-win season with a 4-0 decision in his third match of the tournament.
Also placing for the Cardinal were Parker (6th), Teitelman (6th), sophomore Porfirio Madrigal (7th) and freshman Matt Sencenbaugh (8th). As a team, Stanford finished seventh in the conference with 81.5 points.
Following the Pac-10 Championships, Feist and Amuchastegui earned at-large bids to the NCAA Championships, marking the eighth consecutive year that Stanford has had at least one national qualifier.
In his first career NCAA Championship match, Amuchastegui shocked Missouri junior Nick Marable, a 2008 All-American, the two-time defending Big 12 Champion, the preseason favorite to win the national title and the tournament's fifth overall seed. He finished his first national tournament with a 1-2 record.
In his third-straight championship appearance, Feist handily won his opening match. After losing his second, the senior battled through three sudden victory periods, four tiebreakers and more than 11 minutes of wrestling to upset Iowa's No. 15 Chad Beatty. Feist was knocked out later in the session and finished his third NCAA tournament with a career-best 2-2 record.
Stanford finished 51st in the field with 4.5 points between its two wrestlers.
Stanford's season was highlighted by a number of individual accomplishments. Amuchastegui concluded his freshman season with a 29-8 record, matching Giesen's 2007 effort as the third winningest rookie in school history. In the course of his notable freshman campaign, the Talent, Ore. native led the team with 75 dual points, was the Pac-10 runner-up at 165 pounds and was one of four team members to post 20-win seasons. He upended two ranked opponents (and eventual All-Americans) during the year, including his stunning upset of Marable in his first career NCAA Championship match.
Feist put an exclamation point on his Stanford career with a 24-15 record during his senior season, boosting his career mark to 83-64. A three-time NCAA qualifier and four-time Pac-10 placer, Feist finished his career as the ninth-winningest wrestler in school history. With the second-most pins in the Pac-10 (11), Feist boosted his career tally (25) to rank among the five best totals in program history.
Johnson and Espericueta both posted career-best finishes at the conference championships and racked up more wins than anytime in their careers. Johnson upended the first ranked opponent of his career in December, was the only Cardinal wrestler to reach 30 wins (31) and led the team with nine major decisions. Espericueta posted his second 20-win season in two years, with seven bonus-point victories and 48 dual points.
Six Stanford veterans posted the highest win totals of their careers, while five freshmen combined to put 56 wins on their first-year records. Five wrestlers were honored with Pac-10 academic awards at the end of the year, with Amuchastegui, Parker and Johnson nabbing three of the 10 spots on the first team.
The squad must now bid farewell to Feist, but the rest of the young team will return next season, looking to reach newer and greater heights in its second year under Borrelli.
"I am very pleased with the overall progress that the team made this year," said Borrelli. "Although we endured many challenging situations, I am confident that we have taken great strides to become one of the top teams in the country. Our current group of individuals is extremely committed to accomplishing some very lofty goals. We only graduate one senior from this year's team and that is very encouraging for the future."