For the first time since 2004, the premier wrestling talent of the Pac-12 gathered in Tempe.
Many things have changed since then, but ASU wrestling success has remained consistent. After tying for fifth in 2004, the Sun Devils were narrowly able to hang onto third place on Saturday.
With 110.5 points, the Sun Devils finished well below the champion, Oregon State (158 points) and runner-up Boise State (136.5). Three individual second place finishes propelled them to third place, just 2.5 points ahead of Cal State Bakersfield.
The Sun Devils walked away disappointed with the bronze.
“We were in our home gym, and we just couldn’t get it done,” coach Shawn Charles said. “I feel like myself, and the coaching staff prepared them enough to fight the good fight and win this thing.”
Redshirt senior Jake Meredith, redshirt sophomore Kevin Radford and redshirt freshman Blake Stauffer all advanced to the championship match of their respective weight class, but each were narrowly defeated.
Meredith battled Oregon State sophomore Taylor Meeks for the 197-pound weight class crown. It was still scoreless heading into the third period. Then Meredith was credited with an escape and Meeks responded with a takedown that Meredith was unable to recover from and eventually fell 4-0.
Radford almost pulled off the upset against No. 1 seed Boise State redshirt junior Jake Swartz.
But Radford’s match fared similar to Meredith’s. It was a low-scoring battle that was decided in the final minute and the No. 1 seed prevailed.
Stauffer got off to a quick start against Cal State Bakersfield redshirt freshman Bryce Hammond, getting up 2-0 after a takedown. That would be Stauffer’s only lead of the match and Hammond took the title 10-4.
One of ASU’s most consistent and successful wrestlers this season, redshirt senior Levi Cooper, was ousted in the semifinals by Boise State junior J.T. Felix. Cooper did win his consolation match against Stanford junior Dan Scherer.
Both matches were low scoring, grind-it-out battles and Cooper admitted to not wrestling his best Saturday.
“The whole day was disappointing. … I don’t think I wrestled particularly well in either match,” Cooper said. “The third place match happened to fall my way, but the semifinals didn’t.”
While ASU may not have brought home any first place honors from the tournament, three Sun Devils automatically qualified for the national tournament. Joining Cooper will be Meredith, Stauffer and Radford.
Charles was disappointed in the way his team wrestled Saturday, but he has high hopes for those who will be competing in Des Moines in three weeks.
“We want to make sure we can bring back as many All-Americans and national champs as we can,” Charles said.
The four Sun Devils will join 326 other wrestlers vying for championships in their respective weight classes in Des Moines, Iowa on March 21 with the championships being held on the March 23.
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