The Stanford wrestling team started the 2006-07 season with a telling slogan -- Make it Happen. The team has high hopes for this year and has focused on creating a culture of determination and hard work as a means to making these hopes a reality.
Sophomore 174-pounder Luke Feist has been embodying that spirit this season, setting challenging individual and team goals and using a fierce sense of determination to achieve them.
"As a team, our goals are to win Pac-10s, take a bunch of guys to Nationals and make Stanford the best program in the west," said Feist. "Personally, I want to win Pac-10s and be an All-American."
Achieving the ambitions of Feist and the Cardinal will be no easy task, but the team is prepared to reach its goals by taking one match at a time. But Feist and the Cardinal know that getting better means challenging yourself and each other. Already, the Cardinal has done just that, competing in some of the nation's most elite tournaments with top-ranked individuals and teams.
Feist himself has already met seven top-25 opponents this season, more than nearly every other wrestler on the Cardinal squad.
"I'm definitely glad that I've had the opportunity to wrestle so many ranked guys," said Feist. "In my eyes, I've only been solidly beaten by one of them, so that's a confidence builder. I know that I can hang with all of these guys that are in the top-10, so that's good. I just know that I got to figure out those one or two things that are going to stop me from losing these one or two point matches."
Last week at the inaugural Stanford Duals, Feist's hard work paid off. The Sandpoint, ID native pulled a 6-5 upset of 11th-ranked Matt Palmer of Columbia, the biggest win of his collegiate career and his first over a ranked opponent. A few hours later, he nearly shocked No. 4 Ken Cook, coming close to scoring a decisive takedown early in the match, but ultimately was edged by the defending Pac-10 Champion, 4-2. Yet, Feist isn't satisfied with his notable performance. As with all of his matches, he's using it as a learning experience and a chance to make himself a better wrestler.
"It felt good to finally beat a ranked guy," said Feist. "But I don't feel like I really wrestled as well as I could have in that match. It was still a big win for me and it definitely helps my confidence, but I didn't wrestle the perfect match by any means."
Feist is constantly striving to be better and his effort against Palmer earned him some recognition. Feist was honored as the first recipient of the Tod Surmon Award, a new award that honors the outstanding performer at each home dual. The award is named after Tod Surmon, an All-American and Midlands Champion for Stanford, who passed away the day after winning his Midlands title. Surmon was a fierce competitor who always gave 100 % when he competed, and Feist is aiming to do just that.
In spite of his tough schedule, Feist has managed to accumulate a 16-13 record this season, highlighted by a seven-match winning streak in mid-November. On November 11, he posted the highest finish of his collegiate career, coming in third place at the Bison Open. Entering the heart of the dual meet season, he is armed with the ability to learn from his mistakes and build confidence from his successes, tools which will ultimately lead him to the top.