Stanford had a tough season, ending with a 6-7 dual season record, second at Pac-12 Championships and 26th at NCAAs.
“Last year was the first losing season in my 33 years as coaching,” Coach Rob Koll said. “We had 17 or 18 kids in the room.”
The Cardinal program has looked to find its rhythm after almost losing its program a few years ago.
Although Stanford had its first losing season since the 2012-13 season, they showed some promise in the postseason. The main reason why Stanford has struggled is the lack of recruits and depth.
“If you look at it, every other team has four years of recruits and we have three,” Koll said. “It’s massive because 25% of your team is not there and you can’t replace it in one year.”
Since Koll has had less time to recruit, he struggled in certain weight classes.
“Nobody was allowed to get hurt last year and we couldn’t rest guys because we didn’t have backups,” Koll said. “It was not ideal.”
Stanford took one final loss this offseason when Shane Griffith transferred to Michigan. However, Koll is elated that Griffith is moving forward with his career and Koll looks to give his underclassmen the opportunity to grow.
“We lost Shane but it wouldn’t have benefitted him to be here another year and getting another master’s in another program,” Koll said. “On the other side, it’s time to move on and develop the guys coming in. Our goal is to compete with trophies. With Shane, we maybe finish 10th or 11th instead of 20s.”
Stanford will now focus on some of their top underclassmen to take over the program. 157-pound Daniel Cardenas won the Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year. Cardenas, a true freshman, was a Pac-12 champion, undefeated in duals, and reached the Round of 12 at NCAAs.
Nico Provo showed flashes last season, starting off 13-2 before falling to 20-11 and going 0-2 in the 125-pound class at NCAAs. Hunter Garvin backed up Shane Griffith at 165 pounds. He finished 10-7 as a freshman and is fresh off a runner-up finish at U20s. Jack Darrah went 12-8 as a backup at 184 pounds. He represents the U20 U.S. freestyle squad at 92kg.
With these young stars and a handful of recruits landing on campus, Koll hopes Stanford can return to prominence in two years.
“It will take another year until we can get into the top 10 and above and succeed at dual meets,” Koll said. “There will be a few holes but for the first time we have flexibility and depth.”
Koll wants to build Stanford the old-fashioned way with recruiting and developing compared to the transfer portal and NIL deals.
“I don’t need to dip into the portal because we won’t lose guys,” Koll said. “I’m building a team, not buying a team like the Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan models.”
Koll’s lone transfer is his former Cornell wrestler Dom LaJoie. LaJoie will be joining the lightweights after finishing 9-5 last season at Cornell.
Instead of using the transfer portal, Koll will rely on his resources at Stanford. Besides amazing weather and campus, Koll will promote his RTC program, scholarships, and stipends that Stanford provides to the athletes.
Once the resources are set and the recruits begin to take over the Stanford program, Stanford looks to aim for the top of the NCAA.
“Next year is hard because we will have nine freshmen or sophomores on the team,” Koll said. “I’m not so concerned about next year. The following year we will contend for trophies and the top four. I’ve been there before and know what it requires.”
Koll finished as runner-up at NCAAs twice at Cornell and eight top-five finishes too.
The Stanford coaching staff, from left: Grant Leeth, Ryan Deakin, Koll, and Enock Francois