(Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com; Graphic courtesy of Anna-Lee Marie)
Tomorrow, November 13th, will mark the first time in 616 days that wrestling has returned to the campus of Stanford University. Plenty has transpired since. In that time, the Stanford athletic administration vowed to eliminate wrestling and 10 other sports, only to see that decision reversed. Mixed in the middle of this chaos was 165 lber Shane Griffith winning the school's second-ever national title in the sport, head coach Jason Borrelli leaving for American University, and Rob Koll was lured to the West Coast from Cornell.
Another factor that limited wrestling on the picturesque Palo Alto campus was some of the strictest Covid-regulations in the nation. While Stanford's wrestling team was able to participate in 2021, they started competition on January 24th and did not host any home events.
Now we've gone two paragraphs without mentioning that the Cardinal will kick off their 2021-22 dual season by hosting the #2 ranked dual team in all the land, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys feature a veteran-laded squad with five returning All-Americans, including a pair of national finalists (Daton Fix 2x 2nd and AJ Ferrari 2021 national champion). If OSU's 2020 freshmen, Trevor Mastrogiovanni and Dustin Plott, continue to develop, they could be a team that pushes their way into the national title picture along the likes of Iowa and Penn State.
Despite the turmoil surrounding the Stanford program, they have an very strong team returning, especially in a tournament format. The Cardinal has a pair of 2020 All-Americans, along with a 2020 NWCA All-American and three others with NCAA experience.
InterMat's very own Willie Saylor and Corby Van Deventer are out in Palo Alto for the dual and will have plenty of additional coverage surrounding these two programs.
Now, we'll go through the dual meet with our conference correspondents for each school, Seth Duckworth for the Big 12 and Darius Levan for the Pac-12. Each has provided their picks for the ten dual matches.
#19 Trevor Mastrogiovanni (Oklahoma State) vs. Logan Ashton (Stanford)
It' shouldn't come as a surprise since nine of the ten probable starters from OSU are currently ranked, but the Cardinal has a tough match in the opening bout. Trevor Mastrogiovanni started in 2021, as a true freshman, and finished fifth at the Big 12 meet before moving on to the NCAA Tournament. In St. Louis, Mastrogiovanni picked up two wins before his elimination. With a full, more normal, offseason in the Oklahoma State room under his belt, expect a much-improved version of Mastrogiovanni in 2021-22.
Likely to get the nod for the Cardinal is redshirt sophomore Logan Ashton. Logan was 6-7 during his redshirt campaign in Palo Alto, competing at 125 lbs. Last season, he moved up to 133 and saw action in a pair of dual meets. Neither went his way and he's still in search of his first â€œWâ€ in dual competition. Last week, Ashton won his only two bouts at the Menlo Open, down at 125.
Earl's Prediction: Mastrogiovanni by decision (3-0 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Mastrogiovanni by decision (3-0 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Mastrogiovanni by decision (3-0 OSU)
#2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) vs. #25 (at 125) Jackson DiSario (Stanford)
The good news is that we have a ranked vs. ranked match slated for 133 lbs. Unfortunately, for Stanford, that opponent is #2 Daton Fix, a two-time NCAA runner-up and recently, a world silver medalist. Fix is 48-3 during collegiate competition, with two of those three losses coming in the national finals. He really turned his dominance up in 2021, earning bonus points in more than 78% of his 14 matches, a figure that almost doubled from his 2018-19 season. Fix will certainly have the opportunity to go after bonus points again here.
Stanford is likely to send out Jackson DiSario, a two-time Pac-12 runner-up and two-time national qualifier. Both national bids came at 125 lbs and that is where DiSario is currently ranked. He did compete at this weight for the Menlo Open and edged the team's returning starter at the weight, Jason Miranda, 3-2. All signs point to DiSario staying at 133 for the year. In Stanford's extremely limited 2021 slate, DiSario went 7-5, including a 6-2 mark in dual competition.
Earl's Prediction: Fix by Tech (8-0 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Fix by Tech (8-0 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Fix by Major (7-0 OSU)
#16 Dusty Hone (Oklahoma State) vs. Jason Miranda (Stanford)
One may have expected to see Real Woods compete for Stanford, but we understand that the #8 ranked 141lber is likely not available Saturday. In his place, expect to see 133 lber, Jason Miranda, step up. The Poway, California native went 6-4 as a true freshman last season. Had it been a normal year, he may have been able to amass more wins and put together a better resume for an at-large berth to nationals. Even so, Miranda's collegiate debut saw him pin eventual NCAA Round of 12 finisher Chance Rich (CSU Bakersfield) and, a week later, he downed Big 12 runner-up Tony Madrigal (Oklahoma) in sudden victory. Last week, Miranda picked up three falls before losing by a point to DiSario.
Oklahoma State also may not send out the wrestler we initially expected. Carter Young is a very talented true freshman that finished third at the World Team Trials in September. Shortly thereafter, he decided to stay home and attend OSU after initially signing with Northwestern. We understand there are still some details to be worked out regarding that switch and it doesn't seem like something that will be resolved in just over 24 hours.
Without Young, Oklahoma State is still in good shape with 2020 national qualifier Dusty Hone. Hone was 7-4 last year, but was injured late in the year and didn't compete at the Big 12 Championships. In 2019-20, Hone finished third in the Big 12 and had wins over All-Americans Tariq Wilson (NC State) and Kyle Shoop (Lock Haven). While Miranda isn't someone to overlook, facing a veteran like Hone, up a weight, is not ideal for Miranda on Saturday.
Earl's Prediction: Hone by Decision (11-0 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Hone by Decision (11-0 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Hone by Decision (10-0 OSU)
#22 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State) vs. #7 Jaden Abas (Stanford)
This is, in all likelihood, the de facto co-main event of the day. While this bout may look like a bit of a mismatch solely based on rankings, it should be very even, provided that we see the best version of Kaden Gfeller. The Cowboy has been in-and-out of the lineup during his time in Stillwater, but when he's on his game, he's a high-All-American threat. As a redshirting freshman in 2017-18, Gfeller won the Southern Scuffle by pinning Nick Lee (Penn State) in the finals. A year later, he won his first 19 matches in a Cowboy singlet, a span that includes the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Scuffle. At the Scuffle, he edged eventual All-American Mitch Finesilver (Duke). He went on to earn the #7 seed at nationals, but did not win a match.
Since then, Gfeller has only seen action in 14 collegiate bouts. He wrestled in three different weight classes in 2021 and did not qualify for nationals after going 1-2 at Big 12, while down at 141.
His opponent is a returning All-American in seventh-ranked Jaden Abas. In the 2021 postseason, Abas claimed a Big 12 title by avenging an early-season loss to Legend Lamer (Cal Poly). At nationals, he lost twice to eventual third-place finisher Yahya Thomas (Northwestern) on his way to seventh, himself. Last week, at the Menlo Open, Abas ran up bonus points in all four of his contests, two of which came against opponents from CSU Bakersfield. For now, we'll bank on the more consistent Abas.
Earl's Prediction: Abas by Decision (11-3 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Abas by Decision (11-3 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Abas by Decision (10-3 OSU)
#14 Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State) vs. Charlie Darracott (Stanford)
At 157 lbs, we'll see the Cowboy's most unlikely All-American from 2021 take the mat in Wyatt Sheets. Unlikely, not because of ability, just because most didn't even expect Sheets to finish the season after suffering a devastating knee injury. Even coming in as the 33rd seed wasn't a deterrent for the veteran. He put together a strong run through the consolations and ended up in eighth place. When more healthy, in 2020, Sheets was a Big 12 runner-up and earned the 11th seed at the 2020 NCAA Championships.
Georgia native Charlie Darracott is expected to get the go-ahead for Stanford at 157 lbs. As a true freshman in 2021, Darracott saw action in three dual meets between 157 and 165 lbs. He was victorious in his dual debut, a third-period fall over Little Rock's Noah Aziere. Because of the presence of 2019 Pac-12 champion, Requir van der Merwe, Darracott didn't get to compete in the postseason for Stanford. This year, Darracott battled through the Menlo Open with four wins, all coming via decision.
Earl's Prediction: Sheets by Decision (14-3 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Sheets by Major (15-3 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Sheets by Decision (13-3 OSU)
#6 Travis Wittlake (Oklahoma State) vs. #1 Shane Griffith (Stanford)
Without a doubt, 165 lbs has the potential to be the best match of the entire weekend. A clash between returning top-four finishers at the 2021 national tournament is the type of match we could see again in the NCAA semis or finals. Shane Griffith and Travis Wittlake are both redshirt sophomores (juniors) with a combined career record of 94-6. Each earned a conference title as a freshman, but suffered upset losses at their respective 2021 conference tournaments. That resulted in an eighth seed for Griffith and a ten for Wittlake.
As we all know by now, Griffith's remarkable run through the 2021 NCAA Championships brought mainstream attention to the fight to Keep Stanford Wrestling. Not only was Griffith a primary factor in the school reversing their decision to nix the Cardinal program, but he also removed his name from the transfer portal and decided to stay at the school after the Rob Koll hire was made. Griffith's NCAA title was only the second in school history and the first since 2004. Regardless of the rest of his career, Griffith is a made-man in Stanford athletics. Get the Hall of Fame bust ready!
Looking to spoil Griffith's triumphant return to competition in Palo Alto, is Wittlake, a 2016 Cadet World bronze medalist. Wittlake only suffered two regular-season losses during his freshman campaign that saw him receive the fourth seed at the 2020 national championship. The first of those lossesâ€¦.was to Griffith at the Southern Scuffle, by the score of 4-1. An undefeated Griffith was seeded third at the ill-fated 2020 NCAA Tournament. Let's see how round two between these two plays out!
Earl's Prediction: Griffith by Decision (14-6 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Griffith by Decision (15-6 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Griffith by Major (13-7 OSU)
#16 Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State) vs. #31 Tyler Eischens (Stanford)
In a lineup full of stars and potential All-Americans, one to keep an eye on for Oklahoma State is Dustin Plott. One of the top recruits in the Class of 2020, Plott admirably battled through shoulder injuries all year. Even so, he managed a 15-6 record and was seeded 18th at the NCAA Championships. Plott managed to pick up a win before bowing out with a loss to Clay Lautt (North Carolina). Now, Plott is reportedly back to 100% and could significantly outperform his current ranking.
Back in 2019-20, Tyler Eischens went 21-9 at 157 lbs and earned a slot at the NCAA Championships. His runner-up finish at the Pac-12 tournament helped him land the 29th seed at nationals. Last year, Eischens moved up to this weight class and put together a solid, 6-3 campaign, though he didn't compete at the conference meet. Eischens made his 2021-22 debut last week with a title at the Menlo Open. There he notched a pair of falls and prevailed over CSU Bakersfield's Albert Urias with a 10-7 win.
We're banking on Plott making a big jump this year.
Earl's Prediction: Plott by Major (18-6 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Plott by Decision (18-6 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Plott by Decision (16-7 OSU)
#7 Dakota Geer (Oklahoma State) vs. Judah Duhm (Stanford)
The Oklahoma State lineup is filled with stars, but one that's probably most overlooked is Dakota Geer at 184 lbs. Geer has made the NCAA podium in both of his appearances representing the Cowboys and was named an Honorable Mention AA by the NWCA in 2020. His NCAA Tournament run last season, as the 11th seed was excellent, earning wins over the likes of Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech), Brit Wilson (Northern Illinois), and Taylor Venz (Nebraska). If Stanford can pull out some sort of magic, this may be an opportunity for the Cowboys to assert their dominance, as Geer was responsible for bonus points in more than half of his 2021 contests.
Opposing Geer will likely be veteran Judah Duhm (Stanford). Duhm hasn't taken the mat for Stanford since the 2018-19 season, so it's hard to guess where he'll be Saturday. As a true freshman, Duhm went 16-7 and over his career, he's defeated national qualifiers like Corey Hazel (Lock Haven) and Dom Ducharme (CSU Bakersfield). Another possible option for Coach Koll is Nick Addison, who went 1-3 in 2021. Last week, he posted a win at the Menlo Open, but could not continue in his second bout, so his status is unknown.
Earl's Prediction: Geer by Major (22-6 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Geer by Decision (21-6 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Geer by Decision (19-7 OSU)
#1 AJ Ferrari (Oklahoma State) vs. #25 Nick Stemmet (Stanford)
Even though this is a bout between a pair of ranked opponents, it didn't seem to have much appeal, as it looks like #1 against #25 on paper. That was until earlier this week when messages between AJ Ferrari and Nick Stemmet found their way to social media. There seem to be some underlying issues between the two. Is the drama real or some contrived made-for-MMA type of beef to draw eyes?
Either way, it will mark the return of 2021 NCAA champion AJ Ferrari. Though he competed at the Olympic Trials, Ferrari has been hampered by a foot injury since nationals and it limited his offseason training. Even so, with the exchanges between these two, it seems like Ferrari is ready to jump back into competition. Ferrari's national title made his the first OSU freshman to win one since Jake Rosholt in 2003 and the first true freshman since Pat Smith in 1990.
Stemmet jumped in as a true freshman for Stanford last season and responded by winning his first three dual meets. He automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships by finishing third in the Pac-12 and was given the 27th seed at nationals. In the opening round, Stemmet was majored by Ferrari's eventual finals opponent Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh), 15-2. Last week, Stemmet saw plenty of action at the Menlo Open, winning all five of his bouts. None came against DI competition, so it's difficult to gauge his progress. After a full offseason, heading into his second year, it's not out of the question for Stemmet to take a big jump.
Earl's Prediction: Ferrari by Major (26-6 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Ferrari by Major (25-6 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Ferrari by Major (23-7 OSU)
Luke Surber (Oklahoma State) vs. Peter Ming (Stanford)
The only unranked member of the Cowboys projected lineup for Saturday is their heavyweight Luke Surber. Really, that's because his teammate Austin Harris was considered for the rankings and comes in at #11. Reportedly, Surber defeated Harris for the opportunity to get the start here. Like Derek White before him, Surber packed on a bunch of weight since his arrival in Stillwater and could be a force. As a high school senior, Surber competed at 182 lbs! Last year, Surber saw action in â€œextra matchesâ€ and posted bonus points in five of his eight wins.
Stanford counters with their own wrestler from the high school Class of 2020, Peter Ming. Ming impressed in â€œextra matchesâ€ last year two. With four-time qualifier Nathan Traxler in the mix, Ming wasn't needed to start. Even so, he went 5-1 and picked up a win over CSU Bakersfield's Jarrod Snyder, who has been in-and-out of the Roadrunner starting lineup. At the Menlo Open last week, Ming went a perfect 4-0 and had a fall and a major decision.
Earl's Prediction: Surber by Decision (29-6 OSU)
Seth's Prediction: Surber by Decision (28-6 OSU)
Darius' Prediction: Ming by Decision (23-10 OSU)