Five senior Cal Poly wrestlers were honored Friday night prior to the Mustangs’ penultimate Pac-10 dual and final home dual of the season. One of them, Chad Mendes, said he had mixed emotions on Senior Night.
“It’s my last wrestling match ever in here and I went out with a good one,” he said. “It’s exciting but sad at the same time.”
Mike Williams, John Hanks, Ernie Varela and Arturo Basulto were also recognized.
Though Cal Poly (5-6, 4-4 Pac-10) was shorthanded and had to forfeit the lightest weight class due to injuries, assistant coach Sammie Henson didn’t want to absolve the blame for the 27-16 loss to visiting Stanford at Mott Gym.
“I think we had some individual points where we wrestled well,” he said. “Of course, everyone has injuries so you don’t want to make excuses.”
Even though it was a loss for the Mustangs, the 1,016 in attendance saw Mendes (21-0), who has been ranked No. 1 in the country at 141 pounds for four straight weeks, pin Max Rosefigura in 33 seconds.
“He went out the way he should in Mustang land,” Henson said of Mendes’ sixth pin of the season.
Cal Poly heavyweight Jim Powers earned his first Pac-10 dual victory of the season against Phil Doerner, winning 5-1 to improve his overall record to 11-16.
Eric Maldonado and Ryan Williams were others Henson thought had impressive performances.
“Those two guys wrestled hard,” he said. “They did a great job. They didn’t get as much competition because they didn’t start at the beginning of the year so it just takes a little longer to get going.”
Maldonado (11-9) claimed a 5-2 decision over Lucas Espericueta at 149, and Williams (16-8) had a takedown and near-fall in the last minute of the first period against Kyle Pubols at 165, winning 9-0.
Boris Novachkov returned from injury to wrestle at 133, a weight class higher than he started at this season. He fell to Tanner Gardner, ranked No. 6 in the nation. Gardner also has moved up from 125.
Henson said while Novachkov, a freshman, showed some weaknesses, “he’s a great wrestler but he was wrestling a senior that was a two-time All-American.”
Josh Zupancic, No. 10 at 157 on behalf of Stanford (12-4, 5-3), pinned Stephen Thalin in 4:48.
On Sunday, Cal Poly lost 27-12 at Cal State Bakersfield. Novachkov, Mendes, Mike Williams and Ryan Williams won by decision in the loss.
The Mustangs probably won’t change their routine much before grappling with Oklahoma on Friday, Henson said.
“We’re going to continue to do what we’re doing right,” he explained. “These guys are getting it. It’s just a process – it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Cal Poly wrestles at Oklahoma at 5 p.m. Friday, and then at Oklahoma State at 5 p.m. Saturday before heading to the Pac-10 Conference Championships in Eugene, Ore. on March 2 and 3.
While the Mustangs wind down the regular season, Mendes said they do so with only one goal, the national championship, in mind.
“I’ll keep my eye on the prize,” he said.