With its successful Pac-12 road trip in the books, the ASU wrestling team returned to practice Tuesday morning in preparation for its last regular season nonconference meet against Oklahoma State on Friday.
Assistant coach Tyrel Todd was eager to praise the team’s performances against Cal Poly and CSU Bakersfield.
“I really have seen some exciting changes in this team from the beginning of the year,” Todd said. “The atmosphere is built around these guys pulling for each other.”
Todd and assistant coach Lee Pritts have significant roles in preparing the team for competition and continue to reflect the spirit of discipline and work ethic established early on.
“If we’re working hard in the practice room, it’s obvious,” Todd said.
Todd lauded sophomore Matt Kraus (141) and senior Nick Rex (165).
“Without their bonus points, we don’t win on the road,” Todd said.
Also high on Todd’s list was redshirt junior Chace Eskam, who was asked to fill the void at heavyweight, despite being a 197-pounder.
“Can you imagine being 197 pounds and having to wrestle someone 50 to 100 pounds bigger than you every time?” Todd said.
Eskam won both his matches on the road over the weekend. Redshirt sophomore Blake Stauffer also came up big for the Sun Devils.
“Blake is the most accomplished wrestler on our team, and we’ve relied on him to go out and get bonus points,” Todd said. “He’s young, and incredibly resilient, only a sophomore, but he’s responded when we’ve needed him to in a tough dual.”
However, it wasn’t easy to get this level of energy out of Stauffer at first.
“Blake’s a guy who doesn’t like to push it very hard, but we’ve asked him to, and he’s been doing it and getting bonus points, and that’s what’s been helping us win these duals,” Todd said.
Todd agreed with coach Shawn Charles in criticizing other Pac-12 coaches who held their best wrestlers back against 20th-ranked Stauffer.
“They didn’t want to wrestle Blake, because he’s been getting a lot better,” Todd said. “For some coaches, it’s a strategic move. I like to compete. If we beat a guy once, and he’s pretty doggone tough, we want to go out there and train and then next time beat him even worse.”
Todd cited a match where Stauffer went up against a weaker wrestler for CSU Bakersfield and earned bonus points via a technical fall.
“It’s pretty hard to pinfall or tech-fall a guy who’s trying his hardest to stall and not get tech-falled or pinfalled,” Todd said. “But he did it.”
Todd offered a bold postseason prediction for the tournament in Palo Alto, Calif.
“I think that’s what we’re gonna see at the conference championships, and Blake’s gonna be a conference champion,” Todd said.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @modrich_22