Stanford Wrestling kicks off season with wrestle-offs on Saturday
After a long off-season, Stanford wrestling will set its starting lineup in place this Saturday at the annual wrestle-offs, where teammates will compete against one another for the top spot in their respective weight classes.
Just because the formal team competitions are just getting underway again does not mean that the Cardinal strayed far from the mats or the weight room this off-season. Third-year Stanford coach, Kerry McCoy, was excited by the work his athletes put in during the off-season, singling out six wrestlers likely to see significant action this season at least in part because they devoted their off-seasons to training.
“We had a good core of guys that were here throughout the entire summer that were training,” he said. “And if you’re training all the time you’re going to get better.”
For one, senior Tanner Gardner at 125 pounds followed up his conference title and All-American season with perhaps the best off-season training of his Stanford career. Tanner cited the help of new assistant coach Jason Borrelli as a major factor in the strides he has taken since his seventh place finish at the NCAA Championships last March.
“I think this summer was very valuable for me — I got a lot of good work on my technique. I think I really came a long way,” Gardner said. “It’s really the first time ever that I’ve really spent a whole summer working out and I think already I’m seeing the improvements from it, which generates some excitement for the year.”
The Cardinal has good reason to be excited about this season, with Gardner and fellow senior Josh Zupancic at 157 pounds both ranked in the top 10 of the preseason national rankings. Last year Gardner and Zupancic were the first pair of Stanford wrestlers in four decades to have All-American campaigns in the same season. However, as Gardner explained, the optimism emanating from the wrestling room in the basement of the Arrillaga Family Sports Center is about more than just the two highest profile Cardinal grapplers.
“It looks good right now,” Gardner said. “I mean you can never really account for injuries or anything like that. But as far as the experience coming back from last year, I think that we’re going to have potentially one of the best teams we’ve ever had here. We have a lot of proven guys in the lineup, and we also have a lot of newcomers who either redshirted last year or are freshmen this year that are really making some good strides already.”
Among the younger wrestlers on the team, perhaps none have proven more already than 184-pound sophomore Zack Giesen, who earned co-Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors last season. And in his mind, the sky is the limit for the Cardinal in the 2007-2008 campaign.
“I think we have a real strong team this year,” he said. “So really, a Pac-10 Championship and high placing at Nationals are everything we expect. With the team we have this year there’s really no reason why we can’t be the best in the Pac-10 and one of the best in the country.”
The 2007 Wrestle-Offs are slated to begin this Saturday at 2 p.m. in Burnham Pavilion.