The ASU wrestling team fell just short of its upset bid Saturday night in Lincoln, falling to Nebraska 18-12.
The Sun Devils (5-2) led 9-3 at one point, but lost five of last six matchups to the No. 9 Cornhuskers (5-2).
Coach Shawn Charles wasn’t pleased overall with the result, but noted his team’s improvement since the Huskers 42-0 victory in Tempe last season.
“We wrestled alright,” Charles said. “We lost a couple of tough matches that could have gone either way, but was a good and exciting dual.”
Redshirt senior No. 9 Jake Meredith led off the scoring for the Sun Devils, winning a 1-0 decision over junior Caleb Kolb.
Fellow redshirt senior and heavyweight No. 13 Levi Cooper then won 3-0 over Nebraska’s redshirt freshman heavyweight Donny Longendyke.
125-pound redshirt sophomore Dalton Miller picked up the Sun Devils’ third straight victory, beating freshman Eric Coufal 9-5 in a dramatic third-round comeback.
Miller’s win earned him high praise from Charles.
“Dalton is starting to look like a Division I wrestler,” Charles said. “He’s turning into something special in his weight class.”
The other Sun Devil victory on the night came from freshman Codey Combs, who won 1-0 over senior Ross Grande in a highly criticized match.
The Nebraska crowd booed the Cornhuskers’ coaching staff after it had Grande start neutral instead of down to begin the third round trailing 1-0, but Charles agreed with the decision.
“Codey has proven to be a big threat when on top, so it was a good move,” Charles said.
Redshirt sophomore No. 20 Kevin Radford fell short in his rematch with No. 6 senior Josh Ihnen, losing 5-2 in the 184-pound weight class.
Redshirt sophomore Nathan Hoffer’s midseason slump continued, as he lost to No. 10 sophomore Jake Sueflohn 7-1 at 149 pounds.
The most anticipated match of the night was the finale, which pitted No. 14 redshirt freshman Blake Stauffer and No. 8 sophomore Robert Kokesh at 165 pounds.
Stauffer finished third at last weekend’s Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational while Kokesh placed first. The Nebraska sophomore continued his hot start to the season by winning 8-3 to secure the Cornhuskers’ victory.
“We had three guys (Radford, Stauffer and Hoffer) who wrestled some high ranked guys,” Charles said. “This proves they just aren’t ready to take down those guys that high. We will come up with a better game plan next time.”
The most controversial matchup came right before the finale, as ASU freshman Parker Madl tried to pin Nebraska redshirt freshman Austin Wilson with 30 seconds to go.
Madl wasn’t able to complete the pin and wasn’t awarded any points for a takedown. The freshman eventually fell 2-0.
Charles was perplexed with the decision of the official.
“I thought that because the kid was on his back and he couldn’t get through, the official should have awarded us two points,” Charles said, “We didn’t get any points, so I was very upset with that because in that situation, that really was the match.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com