The Cal Poly wrestling team comes off one of its biggest wins this season against Wyoming only to face two more ranked programs away from home this weekend. The team enters the heart of their Pac-10 conference schedule with a dual against Intermat’s No. 27 ranked Oregon State on Jan. 21 and No. 3 Boise State on Jan. 23.
The Broncos are one of the dominant teams in the Pac-10 and are going to be a factor in the NCAA Championships, giving Cal Poly a chance to see how it stacks up against the best in the nation.
“Boise State is my dark-horse to win the NCAA Championships this year, and we’ve got to be ready to go again,” co-head coach Mark Perry said.
No. 14 ranked Filip Novachkov tumbled down the rankings after an uncharacteristic loss to Wyoming’s Tyler Cox, but the weekend offers redemption when he faces Oregon State’s Garrett Drucker, ranked No. 11 in the nation, and Boise State’s Andrew Hochstrasser, No. 2 in the nation.
This weekend assistant coach Tyrel Todd said Novachkov will have one of the toughest matches of anyone.
“It’s always tough, as a senior, bouncing back from a loss like that,” Todd said. “But this weekend, he has the toughest matches out of anyone. We’re really hoping he’ll show up to wrestle against Oregon State and compete to get a win, just for his confidence back.”
Filip’s brother, Boris, will also face ranked wrestlers, although both trail slightly behind No. 4 Novachkov in the rankings. He will take on Levi Jones of Boise State on Jan. 23, a wrestler who split two matches against Filip last season.
Cal Poly coaches said they have debated the possibility of shifting their lineup against the Broncos in a close match. Jostling the match-ups could allow Filip to wrestle against Jones, who he has beaten, consequently pitting the Mustangs top ranked wrestler, Boris, against No. 3 Jason Chamberlin at 149-pounds.
“It would be, I guess, an unconventional way to go about wrestling Boise State this year,” Todd said. “In order to beat Boise that might be what we have to do. It’s taking a gamble.”
If the match starts at the 157 or 165-pound weight class and stays close until the Novachkovs’ turn at the lower weights, it would not be surprising to see such a move.
Only one rematch factors into the dual against Oregon State, and it is heavyweight. Atticus Disney looks to avenge a close 4-1 loss to No. 12 Clayton Jack at the Las Vegas Invitational. The match marked Disney’s first loss as a Mustang, but he said critical mental errors were a deciding factor.
“I think I got stuck in the moment and kinda froze,” Disney said. “I wasn’t being offensive and looking to score. I was wrestling not to lose instead of wrestling to win, and when you do that you’re almost always going to get beat.”
Disney said his wrestling strategy remains unchanged going into the match, but he looks to view the match through a different mindset this time.
“It’s time to prove to him that the loss was a fluke,” Disney said.
Although the only rematch occurs at heavyweight, the other conference matches will be just as intriguing.
Barrett Abel, a 157-pounder, has quietly racked up a 18-7 record in his first year as a Mustang after transferring from UC Davis, but he will face one of his biggest tests so far against No. 2 Adam Hall of Boise State. Abel said he has faced Hall in previous seasons, which left him nursing knee injuries, something he recalls but does not fear.
“If anything, I know I can be competitive with him and it takes a little bit of the mystique out of it,” Abel said. “I don’t think you prepare any different. You prepare to beat the best guys all year long, so now the best guy is coming up, you don’t change.”
Steven Vasquez, one of the heroes in the Wyoming match, has little time to enjoy the limelight, as he faces 184-pounder Kirk Smith, another top-ranked Boise State wrestler.
Ryan DesRoches leads the Mustangs in wins with a 24-5 record and boasts a top 20 ranking, and it appears he won’t face a higher ranked opponent for the remainder of the season.
“My goal now is to go undefeated straight through NCAA’s and hope to get ranked in the top 12. I don’t wrestle anybody now who’s seeded above me, which is a bummer,” DesRoches said after a tough loss against No. 6 Shane Onufer of Wyoming.
Fortunately for DesRoches, he has only dropped one match against an unranked wrestler this season, and the last time he fell to an unranked wrestler in a dual meet was in 2008 against Kevin Wainscott of Oklahoma State.
The results of this weekend will give Mustang fans a good idea of where Cal Poly currently stands relative to its conference competition, but may also foreshadow several matches to be replayed in the Pac-10 championships or the NCAAs.
“We want to prove that we can hang out with anybody,” Disney said.
Perry focuses on winning, but he will also keep a keen eye on the mental toughness and grit of his team.
“We want to win on fight and heart, and if we lose, we want to lose fighting and we want to lose with heart,” Perry said. “If they do that, we’ll be happy.”