The No. 18 Iowa State Cyclones came to Wells Fargo Arena and defeated ASU 21-12, improving ISU head coach Kevin Jackson’s record to 5-0 against the Sun Devils in Tempe.
Coach Shawn Charles, who served as an assistant coach at ISU from 1993-95, remained positive despite the loss.
“As far as the dual went, 21-12 doesn’t really show how tough those matches were, for both sides,” Charles said. “We were in a lot of those matches, in position to win, and if they go the other way, then the score is going to be different.”
Junior Preston McCalmon (149) started the Sun Devils off Saturday night with three-round battle against redshirt junior Luke Goettl but ultimately fell in a 7-3 decision.
“With (McCalmon) and a few other guys, we’re wrestling a little too cautious,” Charles said. “We’ve gotta take our shots, we’ve got to wrestle in those situations that we trained for in the room, and really commit to those situations.”
Redshirt junior Joel Smith defended his sparring partner.
“Preston is a great kid and a great wrestler,” he said. “Maybe he’s going through a bit of a slump, but I have no doubt that he’ll come back and compete and wrestle hard for us.”
A crowd of 767 people contributed to the energetic environment at Wells Fargo Arena Saturday night. Nearly everyone in attendance erupted after Smith (157), who trailed 1-0 during the first two periods, came back in the final 30 seconds to pull even with an escape, and then take down ISU redshirt senior John Nicholson.
“We work a lot in the room, a lot of situations like that, to where it’s a takedown and a win, and it was one of those times where we just had to gut up and get it done,” Smith said.
Sophomore Matt Kraus’ (141) performance stood out to Charles. Kraus won the the Sun Devils’ last match of the dual, 8-4, over redshirt freshman Gabe Moreno.
“(Kraus) got into a situation where he could actually get a turn,” Charles said. “Instead of just turning him, he’s waiting for us to tell him to turn, so he can expand his lead.”
While Kraus’ win was a bright spot in the loss, Charles said there is plenty of room for improvement.
“What I’ve got to get our guys to do is open up, and stop being so conservative, and just wrestle, go out and get those points that are out there,” he said. “I think that when you’re wrestling ranked programs, you’ve got to open up a little bit more and take more risks.”
Despite the loss, Charles found solace in the competitiveness shown from his team, and said the goal is still a Pac-12 title.
“As a coach, I’m happy,” Charles said. “I see a lot of fight in our guys and a lot of improvements in areas … We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to go back in the wrestling room and correct our mistakes, and we’re going to use these as stepping stones to win that conference championship this year.”
The next step toward the goal for the Sun Devils will be against the Stanford Cardinal at Wells Fargo Arena Monday, Feb. 3, at 6 p.m.
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