Wrestling dominates Duke in season opener

With Stanford students, parents and wrestling enthusiasts watching in the bleachers at Taube Tennis Center, Stanford wrestling (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) defeated the Duke Blue Devils (0-3, 0-0 ACC), winning every matchup of the dual meet.

While wrestling matches are traditionally silent as the wrestlers hand fight, the Saturday afternoon crowd held gasp after gasp in awe of the slams, takedowns, escapes and reversals that the Cardinal wrestling team mastered. 

Stanford wrestlers attained wins across all ten bouts. Half of the wins came by technical falls, which happen when the victor wins with an at least 15-point margin, earning the team an extra five points. The team won by a score of 41-0. 

This season opener was also the first meet at Stanford for new head coach Chris Ayres. Ayres was appointed in September after transferring from Princeton, where he spent 17 seasons transforming the program into a conference and national contender. Ayres said that in preparation for the match against Duke, the team worked on improving wrestling from the bottom position. 

Starting off at the 125-pound weight class, sophomore Nico Provo beat his opponent in a 8-1 decision. Provo had a beautiful ankle pick takedown in the first round and another in the second round. He let his opponent escape in the third round, giving the Blue Devils their only point of the matchup, but Provo also earned an escape and over a minute of riding time later in the bout.

Next at 133 pounds, freshman Tyler Knox displayed a powerful 21-5 win in his first ever college wrestling match. Knox earned a takedown within the first 30 seconds as he wore out his opponent in the first round. Although the first round ended at just 3-0, with multiple takedowns and Duke escapes from bottom, the matchup ended with 23 seconds left in the second round and a 21-5 technical fall win. 

Tyler’s technical fall was followed by another from senior 141-pounder Jason Miranda, who did not let his Duke opponent earn a single point. Within seconds of a pin from Miranda, the first round ended 11-0. Through a ten-second escape from bottom and a takedown in the second round, Miranda earned the 15-point margin needed to win with a technical fall.

At 149 pounds, three-time NCAA qualifier and redshirt senior Jaden Abas achieved a 12-7 decision win with swift successful shots, including a stealthy outside single in the first and second round. Abas also let his opponent escape multiple times, allowing for neutral positions to emerge and for Abas to reshoot. 

Daniel Cardenas, a 157-pound sophomore, earned a 19-4 technical fall with a strong first round. He took shot after shot, earning 12 points from takedowns but giving his opponent three points by letting him escape. Cardenas finished the matchup in the middle of the second round after achieving a reversal, despite heavy resistance from the opponent on top and a near fall.

Freshman Zach Hanson, at 165 pounds, had a bit of a slower start, spending most of the first round engaging in hand fighting and ending the round 0-0. However, after a quick escape, powerful takedowns in the second round and two strong takedowns in the third, the matchup ended with a 10-3 decision win.

A big highlight of the night was the Cardinal debut of 174-pounder freshman Lorenzo Norman, who dominated his Duke opponent in a 20-3 technical fall to win in his first collegiate wrestling match. After getting a takedown within the first ten seconds, he amazed the crowd with three more takedowns and a near fall in just the first round, which ended 16-3. The three points earned by his opponent came solely from escapes. In 41 more seconds, Norman earned an escape and takedown, earning a 20-3 win before the end of the second round. 

Then, at 184 pounds, sophomore Jack Darrah engaged in a slow but steady first round — most of it hand fighting, arm grabbing and neck clenching — ending 0-0.  In the second round, Darrah escaped quickly from bottom before returning to neutral wrestling, ending the round 1-0. In the third round, Darrah’s opponent escaped twice, but Darrah took him down to end the matchup with a close margin of 4-2.

Another major highlight from the match was 197-pound senior Nick Stemmet’s win, the fastest of the afternoon. In just the first round, he pulled his opponent’s leg in with his own, bringing his opponent onto his chest. Stemmet then performed three more rapid and brutal takedowns before getting a technical fall, earning an 18-3 score in just over two minutes. 

The afternoon wrestling match ended with a 12-4 major decision from senior heavyweight Peter Ming, with two successful takedowns in the first two rounds. The third round started a little later then usual, as Ming’s opponent recovered from some forehead bleeding. However, this did not hold Ming back from putting in all his strength on the mat with two huge slams to the ground, sparking gasps of exhilaration across the bleachers in the final round.

The team will compete again next Sunday, as they take on Nebraska-Kearney at Burnham Pavilion. The dual is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. PT.