April 2, 2008
Stanford, Calif. -
With the 2007-08 wrestling season officially at an end, Stanford can look back on one of its most successful years in history. In the course of the season, the Cardinal squad won 13 duals, 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 opened its season with an impressive showing in the Midwest, beating Fort Hays State in its first dual meet before having four placers and two champions at the Central Missouri Open. Over the remainder of the preseason, nine more wrestlers placed and senior Tanner Gardner won two more 125-pound titles, including one in a field of ten ranked wrestlers at the Las Vegas Invitational. At the Reno Tournament of Champions, senior Josh Zupancic became the fifth wrestler in school history to reach 100 wins.
At the start of the new year, Stanford headed east to compete in five duals in a three-day span. The Cardinal won four of them, and capped the weekend with its first shutout in recorded history, a 52-0 demolition of Wagner at the New York Athletic Club.
When the Pac-10 season began in mid-January, Stanford already had six wins and was racing towards one of its best dual records in history. The Cardinal matched its win total from the previous two seasons (8) with an exciting win over Cal State Bakersfield on Jan. 24, and tied its second-highest dual win total in school history (10) the very next day with wins over Menlo College and Portland State. The team continued to run, and capped its regular-season with the program's first-ever win over Arizona State on Feb. 17. The victory boosted Stanford's win total to 13, the most in over three decades, and the second most in school history.
On Mar. 2, ten Cardinal wrestlers began competition at the Pac-10 Championships in Eugene, Ore. Nine of the competitors placed, and the team edged defending conference champion Oregon State for the runner-up spot, the highest Pac-10 finish is school history.
Gardner pinned two opponents and beat a top-20 wrestler in the title match to become the Cardinal's first back-to-back conference champion in more than two decades. In his second bout, the senior shattered two program records in one fell swoop, pinning Marcos Orozco of UC Davis to best both the school's career win record and single-season pin record. At the conclusion of the tournament, the senior was named the event's Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Three Stanford wrestlers earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships, and two more were awarded a Pac-10 wildcard spot. With five wrestlers earning a spot at NCAAs, Stanford matched the most in program history, a feat the Cardinal has now accomplished four times.
A number of other accomplishments followed at the national championships. Luke Feist and Zack Giesen won their first NCAA matches, and Giesen upended the first ranked opponent of his career. Lucas Espericueta ended his rookie season as the fourth winningest freshman in school history with 25 wins.
Zupancic topped three consecutive ranked opponents to advance to the national semifinals at 157 pounds. The senior finished sixth nationally to garner his second consecutive All-America honor and become just the third wrestler in school history to earn multiple All-America honors. He finished his career with 120 wins, the third highest total in program history.
Gardner took fifth nationally at 125 pounds and became the school's first three-time All-American. He continued to build on his school win record, finishing with a program-best 145 career wins. Gardner also became the first Cardinal wrestler to post more than one 40-win season, and broke his own single-season win record in his final collegiate match (43 wins).
As a team, Stanford took 19th nationally, matching its second-highest national finish in school history and just its third all-time top-20 finish. For just the third time in program history and the second time in two years, Stanford produced two All-Americans in the same season.
Owning two of the conference's four All-Americans, the Cardinal's 19th place finish was the best in the Pac-10.
All in all, Gardner won four titles and placed in every tournament he competed in, leading a combined 28 tournament placers and five tournament champions on the year. As a team, Stanford wrestlers combined to win 289 matches, pin 64 opponents and beat 13 ranked individuals.
The squad now bids farewell to two of the best wrestlers in school history, but the landmarks the Cardinal reached this season are merely a starting point for next year.
"We had an incredible year," says Head Coach Kerry McCoy. "A lot of records were broken, a lot of standards were raised and we're very happy about that. Although there was some disappointment, when you step back and look at what we accomplished - two All-Americans, finishing second at Pac-10s, nine conference placers, 13 dual wins, five NCAA qualifiers, a top-20 NCAA finish - it's all pretty good. We have a lot of good, young guys coming back, as well as three NCAA qualifiers, which gives us a great mixture of experience and youth. We look forward to having a good summer and will pick up where we left off."