Wrestling loses to Old Dominion, North Dakota State

Levi Cooper wrestles against Grand Canyon on Nov. 13 at ASU. Cooper improved to 20-7 last weekend with a pair of victories at the Virginia Duals in Hampton, Va. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

The ASU wrestling team walked away from the Virginia Duals in Hampton, Va., this weekend with two losses.

But according to the Sun Devils (5-7, 1-1 Pac-12), it’s not time to panic just yet. In fact, the team took a lot of good out of its 20-19 loss to Old Dominion on Friday, as well as their 23-19 defeat at the hands of North Dakota State the next morning.

“We wrestled pretty decent,” redshirt junior Levi Cooper said. “It was five matches to five matches in both duals, so it just came down to bonus points.”

Several redshirt freshmen continued to make noise for the Sun Devils. Shane McGough (133 pounds), Nathan Hoffer (141) and Joel Smith (149) all posted two victories in as many bouts.

“I’m very happy with those three guys, and I’m very happy with their performance,” ASU assistant coach Brian Stith said. “Right now, we’re basically forming our national championship team. Freshmen like Tommy Burriel (197), Shane McGough, Joel Smith, Nathan Hoffer (are) going to be in the line-up when we’re in a contention for a national title.”

Despite its 5-match losing streak, the team’s consistency from the freshmen is giving the team its confidence.

“These young guys, they’re getting better, and they’re having the opportunity to see what it takes to win on a consistent basis,” Cooper said. “They’re gaining some very valuable experience right now.”

Cooper was the other ASU wrestler to pick up a pair of wins at the tournament. The No. 10 heavyweight improved to 20-7 on the season as he continues to live up to the All-American status he earned last spring.

“Levi’s basically the voice of the team,” Stith said. “When you have a leader that’s already been to the national tournament, faced the odds of becoming an All-American, and gotten the job done, he becomes the idol the kids look to and turn to for answers when things are down or for just anything in particular.”

However, the Sun Devils are going to need more than just Cooper and few talented freshmen to start winning duels.

“We work pretty hard, and obviously nobody likes to lose,” Cooper said of the struggling Sun Devils. “All we can really do is just come into the room every day and try and get better on a consistent basis.”

ASU also sent several wrestlers upstate over the weekend to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to compete in the 2012 Mile High Open Championships.

Wrestling unaffiliated, senior Jake Meredith (184) and true freshman Kory DeBerry (157) both took home crowns. Also, redshirt freshmen Lucio Murillo (125) and Chace Eskam (197) each took second place in their respective classes.

“That was just another positive to take away from this weekend,” Cooper said.

The going doesn’t get any easier for the Sun Devils. They travel to Stillwater, Okla., to face No. 1 Oklahoma State on Friday before a showdown with No. 12 Oklahoma in Norman on Sunday.

“We really do have talented kids who just haven’t figured out how to put together full matches yet,” Cooper said. “They’re still young, and they’re still figuring out exactly what it takes to get it done at this level.”

Reach the reporter at kjnawma@asu.edu

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