Feb. 26, 2003
Stanford, Calif. -
The Stanford wrestling program faced a difficult season this year. Graduations and injuries gave the Cardinal a younger look in 2002-03. Amidst a lineup full of fresh faces are two starters who have combined for over 90 wins in their Stanford careers. As captains, both bring experience - having placed at the Pac-10 Championships and earning a trip to Nationals last season. They have been virtually unbeatable for the past two years. And they're only sophomores.
Wrestling since they were six and seven years old respectively, Brad Metzler and Matt Gentry are young but experienced athletes leading the Stanford squad. In a sport dominated by schools in the Midwest, these two are making their presence felt all the way out in California.
In his rookie campaign, Gentry compiled a 35-win season, setting a new school record for freshmen. Meanwhile, Metzler was on pace to match his teammate but was sidelined with injuries that kept him off the mat for the first two months of the season and ended the year with 16 wins.
This year, Metzler was again forced to sit out parts of the season because of nagging injuries, a situation he had not faced in until he arrived on The Farm. At Westside High in Omaha, Nebraska Metzler accumulated 120 wins and zero losses while pinning over 80 of his opponents. As a senior, he became Nebraska's first four-time state champion.
Gentry, a two-time state title winner describes his high school experience at North Valley in Grants Pass, Oregon as a process. He was a three-time state finalist and a fourth place winner at the 2000 Greco-Roman Junior Nationals.
But after coming to Stanford, the pair found out how different college wrestling is. "It is a hundred times more intense," said Gentry, "And you have to be that much tougher."
The physical nature of the sport hits young men early on as they grow into wrestling, but the most demanding part for any athlete is the mental aspect of the game. Wrestling is no different. Out on the mat, they challenge, fight and work their opponents in order to walk away and have their arm lifted in victory. Every second spent competing is a moment spent focusing on how to defend yourself and defeat your opponent. "Wanting to win and believing you can is a big deal," notes Gentry. "You have to be confident in your abilities."
Gentry and Metzler can be confident in their abilities. Despite a team season filled with ups and downs, solid wins and close losses, the Cardinal has bright spots. Metzler and Gentry are leading the way as captains this season and take their responsibilities seriously. Each helps his teammates through technique and verbal communication, but most importantly they lead by example. "You try and step up because you know the team looks up to you," comments Gentry.
With 42 wins and two tournament titles (Metzler took the Cal Open crown while Gentry earned the Aggie Open medal) between them this season, the pair has continued to surpass expectations. But the biggest challenges are still ahead of them. The Pac-10 Championships begin this Sunday, March 2nd in Boise, Idaho. By Monday night, the conference tournament will decide which wrestlers advance to Kansas City, Missouri for the NCAA Championships (March 20th-22nd). With the tournament, teammates and coaches and parents fade into the background as the two individuals take the floor.
Records and previous bouts become irrelevant. Only the next few minutes matter. The dedication and the practice create the foundation. But as Metzler notes, the key is to "go out there and wrestle tough. It's more of a personal thing. I'll be wrestling my best."
Pac-10's will see ten Stanford wrestlers fighting to continue their seasons. Brad Metzler and Matt Gentry will be representing the Cardinal at 133 and 157 pounds, respectively. But the best news is that they still have two more seasons to go.