Expectations are high this year for a Sun Devil team that was able to finish first at the Pac-12 Wrestling Championships last season. Not only were the Sun Devils able to snag a Pac-12 title; they were also able to finish in the top ten at the NCAA Championships. The roster this year boasts eight conference champs (seven of those eight are from the Pac-12) including the 174 pound redshirt junior, Zahid Valencia.
Last season, Valencia defeated Mark Hall of Penn State to become just the 11th national champion in Arizona State Wrestling history. Valencia did not partake in the action on Friday night; however, he was in attendance. Still, even with some of the stars sidelined, the rest of the guys were able to put on a show.
Of the 11 matches that took place inside Wells Fargo Arena Friday night, two stood out in particular for their exhilarating endings: redshirt sophomore Cory Crooks (gold) vs. redshirt freshman Navonte Demison (maroon) wrestling in the 141 pound weight class, and redshirt junior Josh Kramer (gold) and sophomore Josiah Kline (maroon) wrestling in the 133 pound weight class.
Crooks and Demison entered into the sudden victory round after a hard-fought three periods. Cory Crooks had escaped from Demison’s hold to even the score at five points each right before the buzzer sounded to send the match into OT. In overtime, Crooks was the first to strike giving him a 6-5 win.
In the final match, Josh Kramer (gold) was cradled by Josiah Kline (maroon). When it looked like we were about to head to a third period, Kline was able to somehow put Kramer in a cradle and give himself the immediate victory. Kline won both of his matches last night for the maroon team; however, it would not be enough as the gold team would end up with a 32-18 win Friday night in Tempe.
Arizona State’s schedule this season is anything but easy: They take on the defending champion Penn State Nittany Lions in December, and then in early January the Devils welcome in the Michigan Wolverines. The team is also slated to take on Ohio State and North Carolina.
When asked what his goals are for the team this season, volunteer assistant coach Jamill Kelly made his view clear: ASU should be expected to succeed the same way they did last year on a regular basis. The Sun Devils will be in Fargo, North Dakota next Saturday to kick off their season at the 48th Bison Open. Arizona State Wrestling may have a grueling schedule, but know that they have the fire power to put together another successful year.