The ASU wrestling team approached the Pac-12 Championships with great focus and intensity sparked by a challenging week of practice and simulated preparations, and as a result, saw five Sun Devils reach the podium Sunday night at Stanford.
The team finished fourth overall in the Pac-12, behind conference champion Oregon State, Stanford, and Boise State. While the seeding placed ASU against some of Oregon State’s top wrestlers in the early rounds, coach Shawn Charles said that the seeding was done fairly.
“We had the best tournament we could,” Charles said. “They felt ready, prepared, and optimistic. We just did not represent ourselves well.”
Sophomore Ares Carpio (125) was one of four Sun Devil wrestlers to earn a first round bye, but fell to Stanford sophomore Evan Silver 10-7 in the second round. Carpio would go on to the third place match, but squandered a 2-1 lead late and lost to Oregon State junior Pat Rollins.
Junior Preston McCalmon (149) struggled for the second half of the regular season. but came through in a big way for ASU with two overtime wins, one which earned him third place via a 3-1 victory over Stanford senior Donovan Halpin.
“(McCalmon) was unbelievable, and he did a great job for us, competing the way he did, showing up in the conference tournament like that,” Charles said.
Sophomore Matt Kraus (141) placed third after earning a 5-4 win over Boise State redshirt sophomore Brian Owen, redshirt junior Joel Smith (157) and graduate Nick Rex (165) earned Pac-12 runner-up honors.
The evening did not lack prime-time matchups, as Smith got to face highly-touted senior R.J. Pena of Oregon State, and sophomore No. 21 Blake Stauffer (184) went head-to-head with Boise State redshirt senior No. 7 Jake Swartz in what was billed by many as the match of the night.
Stauffer led 1-0 through two periods, but a late rally by Swartz gave him a 3-1 edge, which Stauffer was only able to cut to 3-2 in the closing seconds of the third.
Stauffer had a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament with a win in the second-place match versus Oregon State senior Austin Morehead but fell 5-2.
As a unit, ASU’s performance was improved overall, despite losing opening round matches against Oregon State opponents that the Sun Devils beat in Tempe, the team countered by defeating many Stanford opponents that took down ASU wrestlers in the regular season.
The setup of the Pac-12 Championships at Maples Pavilion — with three mats holding matches simultaneously meant that Charles had to juggle his coaching staff to ensure each wrestler was accommodated during the tournament. At times, there were three Sun Devils wrestling at once, which presented each team with logistical challenges.
“We assigned primary and secondary coaches to make sure that someone is familiar with the way they wrestle and that they have someone in their corner,” Charles said.
“Everyone wrestled to their seed or above their seed,” Charles said. “For me, we expected some more of our guys to wrestle above our seeds, but that did not happen.”
One surprise came at 197 pounds, with Josh DaSilveira starting in place of sophomore Wesley Moore, who was declared the starter on Monday’s practice before tournament. Charles declined to comment on the decision to start DaSilveria, who was previously injured and had yet to be cleared by doctors.
In spite of the injury, redshirt sophomore DaSilveira made it to the third-place match before falling to Cal State Bakersfield junior Reuben Franklin.
“Josh had a fantastic tournament, he did a great job. Can’t take anything from him,” Charles said.
Charles assumed full responsibility for his team’s results.
“There are no excuses from me, the coaching staff, or the wrestlers. As a team, we didn’t have the fight that the wrestling community has seen all season,” Charles said.
“We have to get better as a program, get more commitment from the program, and we can use this experience as a stepping stone in the offseason,” Charles said.
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