The 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships started today at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. After the Pac-12 Championships concluded on March 9, junior Zahid Valencia (174 lb.), junior Josh Shields (165 lb.), grad student Christian Pagdilao (157 lb.), junior Josh Maruca (149 lb.), and senior Ryan Millhof (125 lb.) were the Sun Devils heading to Pittsburgh.
Millhof is not competing at NCAA’s due to an injury. The senior was out for most of the season, but was successful when he did take to the mat finishing with a 13-3 record and a win percentage of 81.25.
#23 Maruca started the day for the Sun Devils on mat seven against Iowa’s #10 Pat Lugo. Maruca escaped for the first point of the match early in the second period, but Lugo would answer with a takedown to go back on top. After escaping for a second time, Lugo wrapped up Maruca again to take a 4-2 lead late in the second. In the end, Maruca fell to Lugo 5-2 and dropped into the consolations.
#9 Pagdilao squared off next against UNC’s #24 Josh McClure, and he cruised to a 12-2 major decision. #3 Shields followed up Pagdilao’s win with a 14-4 major decision of his own versus George Mason’s #30 Colston DiBlasi. Valencia, also a three-seed, had no problems with his opponent, #30 Dean Sherry from Rider. Valencia gave ASU their third straight major decision in an 11-2 victory where he picked up almost four minutes of riding time.
The evening session picked up with Pagdilao taking on Lehigh’s #8 Josh Humphreys. Pagdilao had lost to Humphreys during the regular season in a dual meet away from Tempe, but a four-point nearfall late in the third helped him get some payback in the form of an 11-7 decision.
Shields continued his dominance with another major decision. Rider’s #14 Jesse Dellavecchia lost to Shields by a final score of 10-2. With this win, Shields secured a spot in Friday’s quarterfinals. Valencia found himself advancing to the quarterfinals as well after routing Utah Valley’s #14 Kimball Bastian 16-5. This is the third straight year Valencia has made it to the quarterfinals. Both Shields and Valencia are closing in on 100 career wins. Shields has 97 career wins; Valencia has 98.
The night ended with round one of the consolations and Josh Maruca going up against #7 Kaden Gfeller of Oklahoma State. Maruca got off to a quick start, and did not look back. A reversal made it 7-3 with short time left in the third, and he would go on to get the upset victory over Gfeller.
The 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships continue tomorrow from Pittsburgh. The quarterfinals start at 11 am ET on ESPNU; the semifinals start at 8 pm ET on ESPN.