ASU wrestling practiced Tuesday morning with the backdrop of “1988 NCAA Champions” on the wall of the Riches Wrestling Complex.
While these large gold letters, among panoramic shots of the Grand Canyon, adorn the Sun Devils’ practice facility each and every week, they hold greater meaning in light of this weekend’s meet.
Saturday, the Sun Devils face 1987 national champion and current No. 18 Iowa State. The Cyclones are hungry to reverse the trend of runner-up finishes in the finals.
Coach Shawn Charles said there would be no changes to the list of probable starters.
With the improved focus and performance of this Sun Devil squad, it appears to be a good move. Iowa State suffered losses to two top-10 programs so far this season in No. 3 Iowa and No. 9 Oklahoma State, losing 23-9 and 29-3, respectively. However, the Cyclones boast five of the top 20 wrestlers in the country.
The good news for the Sun Devils is everyone is heading into the week healthy.
Charles confirmed the health of his team, and spoke on the plan for the week and the season.
“We’re on a path, and we’re going to stick to the path,” Charles said. “We’re not going to change anything for one individual team, the things that we’re doing in practice are the things we know are the best for our program, and we’re staying focused on those areas of concentration. We’re preparing for (Iowa State) no differently than any other team.”
The team has been intensely focused on repetition and execution in its practice sessions.
Charles had the team undergo three or four different sparring sessions, focusing his attention primarily on the matchups he assigned on the right side of the mat, redshirt sophomore Blake Stauffer (184) who faced sophomore Ray Waters (174) and junior Preston McCalmon (149), who was challenged by redshirt junior Joel Smith (157).
While Charles observed the team’s performance from a distance as the different pairs squared off, assistant coach Lee Pritts enthusiastically patrolled up and down the mat watching the sparring, as well as conditioning and drills, demanding full effort and exertion as the practice wrapped up with series of sprints.
While running alongside Waters, Pritts yelled, “Discipline is everything in this sport!” and asked them, “How do you want to be remembered?”
That question might not be answered for a while, but their focus and determination has carried them through an impressive week of practice so far.
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Correction: Due to a reporting error, the Riches Wrestling Complex was misidentified.