“Shot selection is everything,” echoed a booming voice across a crowded practice facility early Monday morning. But it wasn’t ASU basketball coach Herb Sendek.
Rather, the voice came from ASU wrestling coach Shawn Charles, who was instructing various starters clad in maroon and gold singlets to precisely time single-leg takedowns, and mix them with a variety of hesitation moves and subtle fakes on the mat.
Assistant coach Lee Pritts shared an inspirational anecdote as the staff addressed the full squad prior to the practice.
“It isn’t just one to 10, we need all 25 guys here in this room to be at their best to win,” Pritts said.
During warmups, assistant coach Tyrel Todd offered his own motivational thoughts.
“This the end of the season boys, it’s an exciting time,” Todd said. “It’s time to cash in all the hard work you’ve been putting in.”
The team underwent an intense, formal preparation in an effort to simulate the conditions of the Pac-12 Championships on Sunday. The wrestlers slotted to compete warmed up together on the far side of the mat, while the rest of the team — designated as sparring partners for each starter — wore gray and warmed up on the near side.
Charles ran to his office and announced the starters from the PA, then ran back out, continuing to bark instructions at his wrestlers. Then the entire team stood off the mats in silence while Charles played a recording of the national anthem over the speakers.
Charles explained his preparation methods.
“What I want them to do is just get used to the environment,” Charles said. “This is what it’s gonna be like, and you’ve got to perform.
“We want to do a lot of simulations, just like we’re at the (Pac-12) tournament so that when they get there, it’s not an awkward feeling, that how they feel will not affect how they perform.”
Charles was optimistic and confident in his team’s efforts thus far.
“We hope that because of this they are going to have a positive, upbeat approach to being in that environment, because they’ve been there before,” Charles said.
The team then broke off into normal sparring sessions, except for matchups between starting sophomore Wesley Moore (197), and his backup, redshirt sophomore Josh DaSilveira, which were officiated by Todd.
The starters rotated between their backup counterparts, and a mix of coaches and non-starters officiated and kept score of several rounds of simulated matches.
“It’s very inspirational,” Charles said of the athletes who are drilling with the Pac-12 competitors, who may one day see their roles reversed. “Everyone only gets to see the 10 guys we put on the mat, but it’s a room full of 25 to 30 kids, and those guys that aren’t showing up in the matches are the guys who push these guys (the starters) to wrestle harder, to be tougher, to understand positions and situations.”
Charles said each one has an obligation to fulfill to help the team prepare for the conference tournament.
“At this junction in the program, everyone has a role to play, and those guys that aren’t in the singlets are the wind beneath the other guy’s wings,” Charles said.
The Sun Devils will travel to Stanford, Calif., over the weekend and compete at the Pac-12 Championships at 11:30 a.m. MST at the Burnham Pavilion.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @modrich_22