Oct. 7, 2008
Stanford, Calif. - After a landmark 2007-08 season, the Stanford wrestling program has reached a new pinnacle of success. Having made a steady climb over the past few years, the program has succeeded in establishing itself as a national contender, a regional powerhouse and a consistent producer of some of the nation's top wrestlers.
Now, under the new leadership of Head Coach Jason Borrelli, the Stanford program is eager to build on the momentum gained during its notable 2007-08 campaign and reach even greater heights in the coming years.
Borrelli came to The Farm as an assistant coach last season, and was an integral part of the staff that guided the team to one of its most successful years in school history. Stanford won more duals than any season in the last three decades, posted its highest Pac-10 finish in school history, its second-highest national finish and sent a program-best five wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. Stanford took 19th nationally, its third all-time top-20 finish, and produced two All-Americans in the same season for just the third time in program history and the second time in two years. Owning two of the conference's four All-Americans, the Cardinal's 19th place finish was the best in the Pac-10.
This year, Borrelli and the core group of the wrestlers that made that happen are ready to pick up where they left off. Armed with three NCAA qualifiers, seven returning starters, 18 veterans, eight promising newcomers and a dedicated, passionate coaching staff, Borrelli is confident that his team has the tools to reach the high standards they have set. The Mt. Pleasant, Mich. native is passionate about Stanford's success and is confident that he can continue to build the program into a powerhouse.
"I am very excited about this year's team," said Borrelli. "All of the guys have great attitudes and are a lot of fun to coach. Our ultimate goal is to win an NCAA Championship. We realize this is going to take a lot of work and is not something that will happen overnight - you have to start small. Our immediate concerns are to build the best program in the Pac-10 Conference. If we are the best team in our conference year after year, we will no doubt be in position to compete for a national championship."
Stanford will depend heavily on a core group of veterans this season, including three NCAA qualifiers and six Pac-10 placers. Headlining the group is a pair of two-time NCAA qualifiers, junior 184-pounder Zack Giesen and senior 174-pounder Luke Feist, who both boast more than 50 career wins and a wealth of experience against some of the best wrestlers in the nation. In addition, sophomore Lucas Espericueta, who had one of the best freshman seasons in school history last year, returns from an NCAA trip to bring strength to the Cardinal middle weights.
Three more 2008 Pac-10 placers also return for Stanford - junior 197-pounder Jake Johnson, sophomore 133-pounder Porfirio Madrigal and sophomore 165-pounder Kyle Barrett. Four additional wrestlers on the Stanford roster - sophomore Cameron Teitelman, junior Tyler Parker, junior Eric Minnick and sophomore Max Rosefigura - all have Pac-10 Championship experience.
"Our veterans are going to have to step up and play a big role this season, setting the standard and expectation levels for the younger guys," said Borrelli. "They are a core group of guys that get along well with each other, and that is huge for the team. I am confident that with their experience, they will do a great job."
Stanford's assets are not limited to the team's veterans, however. Its eight-man freshmen class boasts numerous conference, district and state honors and includes a pair of state champions in Idaho's Spence Patrick and Washington's Matt Sencenbaugh.
"I'm really excited about our freshman class," said Borrelli. "Some of them will be stepping right into the starting lineup. Right now they are working very hard and I think they will do great things this year."
In addition, Borrelli has put together a promising coaching staff, which includes two former Stanford standouts, Matt Gentry and Ray Blake, along with Cal Poly product Vic Moreno. Gentry, who is coming off an appearance in the 2008 Olympic Games, will work primarily to develop Stanford's middle weights. Blake, who capped his career on The Farm with a 41-win senior season in 2005-06, returns to the staff after a one-year hiatus to work with the middle and upper weights. Moreno, a former USA National Team member, brings a great deal of experience developing All-Americans in the lower weights.
Stanford will begin its quest for the 2009 Pac-10 Championship with a challenging regular-season schedule that includes three fellow top-25 finishers. The Cardinal will face off against all eight other Pac-10 teams this season, helping the squad prepare for the conference tournament, which will be held in Fullerton next March.
The Cardinal will jump right into its competitive schedule two weeks after its intrasquad meet, meeting a Pac-10 opponent on the first day of the season. Stanford will begin the year with wrestle-offs on Oct. 25 at 2 p.m., setting the stage for the first competition against Navy and Cal State Bakersfield on Nov. 8.
The Cardinal will then travel to Laramie, Wyo. to wrestle the host Cowboys in a dual on Nov. 14 and compete in the Cowboy Open the following day. Stanford will follow with a pair of dual meets at Cal State Fullerton and Cal Baptist before returning to The Farm for its home-opener on Nov. 23.
Stanford will begin the home season against the Northwestern Wildcats, a team that finished 13th nationally last year. On Nov. 26, the Cardinal will continue its home stretch with duals against Menlo College and San Francisco State.
Stanford will then hit the road for two competitive tournaments, the Oklahoma Open and the Reno Tournament of Champions, before heading to Arlington, Texas to wrestle Harvard, Army and Oklahoma at the Lone Star Duals on Jan. 3.
The Cardinal will kick off the heart of the dual season by hosting the Stanford Duals on Jan. 10, where the team will compete against Columbia, Drexel and UC Davis. After two duals in Colorado in mid-January, Stanford will host Oregon State, Princeton and Portland State on Jan. 30. The team concludes the regular season with conference duals against Arizona State, Boise State and Cal Poly in early February.
For extra experience, individuals and redshirts may also attend the Menlo Open on Oct. 26, the Fullerton Open on Nov. 23, the Menlo Invitational on Jan. 4 and the California Collegiates on Jan. 31.
The Pac-10 Championships are scheduled to take place in Fullerton, Mar. 1-2. The NCAA Championships will be held Mar. 19-21 in St. Louis, Mo.
"Our schedule is challenging this year, and should pay off big in the end," said Borrelli. "We have to compete against the best to be the best, and by traveling back to the Midwest, we will see some of the best teams in the nation. Additionally, the NCAA has changed the national qualifier system for the NCAA Tournament, so it will really benefit our guys to be nationally exposed."
Following is a look at the 2008-09 Cardinal by weight class:
Stanford will have to fill the shoes of one of its best wrestlers of all-time at 125 pounds this year, with three-time All-American, two-time Pac-10 Champion and career win leader Tanner Gardner lost to graduation. A number of young wrestlers are eager step up to the challenge, however. Among the top contenders is newcomer Matt Sencenbaugh, a state champion and four-time state placer from Auburn, Wash. While at Auburn High School, Sencenbaugh made it to the state title bout three times and helped his team maintain its place as a Washington wrestling powerhouse. Competing with the true freshman will be sophomore Justin Paulsen, who will move down from 133 pounds this season. After a successful redshirt year in 2006-07, Paulsen was the Cardinal starter at 133 pounds last season until he was sidelined by injury in November. Sophomore Austin Quarles, who went 1-1 in two duals as a freshman last year, will look to win the starting job as well. Stanford's two female wrestlers, junior Joleen Oshiro and redshirt freshman Christine Cunningham, also return to this year's roster.
Sophomore Porfirio Madrigal is the Cardinal's returning starter at 133 pounds, and is the top candidate to defend his job. The Healdsburg, Calif. native gained valuable experience during his first collegiate season last year, winning 11 matches and finishing as one of nine Stanford placers at the 2008 Pac-10 Championships. Newcomer Jason Torres, a standout from Horace Mann School in Riverdale, N.Y., will look to step in and challenge Madrigal for the spot in his first collegiate season.
Stanford returns a pair of veterans in Cameron Teitelman and Eric Minnick at 141 pounds, with both looking to win back a spot in the starting lineup. Minnick, a junior, started for the Cardinal at 133 pounds as a true freshman in 2005-06 and competed at the 2006 Pac-10 Championships. Teitelman, who started for the Cardinal at 133 pounds and posted 11 wins in 2006-07, is coming off a valuable redshirt year and will look to earn his way back into the lineup. Additionally, the Cardinal returns redshirt freshman Steve Scheele, who competed unattached and claimed fifth place at the NWCA National Open last year. Newcomers Timmy Boone (Poway, Calif.) and Juan Jurado (Cambridge, Mass.) will also be contenders for the starting spot.
Stanford will see a battle between two of its veterans at 149 pounds this year. Sophomore Max Rosefigura moves up from 141 pounds, where he won 12 bouts and competed at the Pac-10 Championships last year. Junior Tyler Parker, who redshirted last year, has spent two seasons as a Cardinal starter at the weight class and accumulated 20 wins. After a valuable year of training, Parker has showed marked improvement and will look to reclaim his spot in the lineup. Also at 149 pounds, Stanford adds one of its top newcomers, Michael Kent out of Vacaville (Calif.) High School. With 171 prep wins, Kent led his team to the 2007 California state title and was a two-time California state placer. This season, he will look to make an immediate impact at the collegiate level.
Stanford will have to fill a sizeable vacancy left by two-time All-American Josh Zupancic at 157 pounds this year, but four talented underclassmen are confident they are up to the task. The leading candidate is returning NCAA qualifier Lucas Espericueta, who will move up from 149 pounds to battle for the spot. Espericueta posted one of the program's all-time best rookie seasons last year, becoming the fourth-winningest freshman in school history with 25 wins and standing as one of the nation's leaders with 11 major decisions. The Shafter, Calif. native went on to place fourth at the Pac-10 Championships, and earned an at-large bid to his first NCAA Championships. With that wealth of success and experience under his belt, Espericueta will look to build on his accomplishments this season.
"Lucas had a stellar freshman campaign that saw him ranked in the top of his weight class nationally for major decisions and qualify for his first NCAA Tournament," said Borrelli. "With his rookie year behind him, we expect Lucas to use that experience to have a breakout season."
For the starting spot, Espericueta will be challenged by newcomer Kyler Hasson (San Diego, Calif.).
The 165-pound weight class is wide open this year, with a number of Stanford's most promising wrestlers eager to stake claim to the starting role. Sophomore Kyle Barrett, redshirt freshman Nick Amuchastegui and newcomer Spence Patrick are the leading candidates for the job. When the Cardinal lost its starter late last season, Barrett stepped up and made an impressive Cinderella run through the Pac-10 Championships, upsetting three seeded opponents on his way to a fourth-place finish. Amuchastegui, a highly-touted recruit out of Oregon, posted a 9-2 record while competing unattached at two tournaments during his redshirt year, and took second at the competitive FILA Junior National Championships in April. Patrick won two Idaho state titles during his prep career, and was named a 2008 High School All-American. Another returner, redshirt freshman Murdoch Miller, will also look to wrestle at 165 pounds this season.
Stanford will be anchored by the only senior on its roster at 174 pounds this season, two-time NCAA qualifier Luke Feist. The fifth-year senior has started for the last three seasons, racked up 59 wins and placed among the top five at the Pac-10 Championships three times. Last season, he posted a career-best third-place finish at Pac-10s, earned an automatic return trip to the national championships in St. Louis and won his first career NCAA Championship match with a major decision in the opening round. This season, Feist is ready to have the best season of his career, looking to win a Pac-10 title, return to the national championship and cap his career with an All-America honor.
"As Stanford's lone senior and returning co-captain, Luke will be an anchor for us this season with the many young faces in the starting lineup," said Borrelli. "A four-year starter and two-time NCAA qualifier, Luke has the potential to have an outstanding season and break through at the NCAA Tournament."
Newcomer Victor Haug will join Feist as a 174-pounder on the roster this season. The product of St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H. will have a chance to train with one of the nation's best and provide much-needed depth in the Cardinal upper weights.
Two-time NCAA qualifier Zack Giesen returns for his junior season as one of the best wrestlers on the Cardinal roster. The Pac-10 Freshman of the Year two years ago, Giesen has qualified for the NCAA Championships twice, and has a fourth-place and runner-up Pac-10 finish to his name. Last season, he won his first career NCAA Championship match with a pin in the opening round, then upended the first ranked opponent of his career later in his championship run. At the midpoint of his collegiate career, Giesen already has racked up 55 wins, and is on pace to be one of the five winningest wrestlers to don a Cardinal singlet. This year, he will look to continue to assert his dominance as one of conference's top 184-pounders, return to the NCAA Championships and become the school's 14th All-American.
"A two-time NCAA qualifier, Zack will have a large impact on the upper weights this year, and will provide important leadership and experience," said Borrelli.
Junior Jake Johnson will reclaim his starting spot at 197 pounds this year, after a successful sophomore season in 2007-08. In his first year as a starter, Johnson posted a 25-14 record, a 14-3 mark in duals and was third on the team with 59 dual points. This year, Johnson will look to build on the momentum gained last year and vie for his first trip to the NCAA Championships.
Redshirt freshman Matt Winterbourne will step into the starting spot at heavyweight this year, filling the vacancy left by two-year starter Phillip Doerner. Winterbourne claimed the Oregon state title as a senior in 2007 with a 39-1 record, and won all four of his bouts while competing unattached last season. This year, the Cornelius, Ore. native will be a key wrestler for the Cardinal in his first year of collegiate competition.