Coach Shawn Charles took over his alma mater’s wrestling program when it was in disarray after it was reinstated as an NCAA sport by ASU.
Ever since, he has instilled expectations of discipline and hard work, restoring ASU’s relevance in the Pac-12.
However, Charles was not happy with his team’s performance Sunday at the Pac-12 Championships.
“We’re still hoping that we can get (redshirt junior) Joel Smith and (sophomore) Blake Stauffer into the NCAA Tournament through wild-card bids, but we’re not satisfied with the result,” Charles said.
The 2013-14 season was a turbulent ride for Charles’ Sun Devils, beginning the year with wins over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Ouachita Baptist University, and falling to perennial Big Ten power No. 8 Illinois at the Chicago Quad back in November.
After placing 31st out of 35 teams at the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1, Charles lit a fire underneath his team, as ASU rattled off wins over Old Dominion, Boise State and eventually No. 22 Oregon State at Wells Fargo Arena on Senior Night.
Charles said the team came together as a program during its dual meet season.
“Getting that part of our program corrected is going to bear a lot of fruit in the future,” Charles said.
Charles was optimistic as he reflected on some of the team’s better regular season performances.
“We went 4-1 in our conference, and this is our first winning season in the dual meets that I’ve been here,” Charles said.
ASU swept a weekend trip to California on Feb. 14 and 16, defeating Cal Poly by a score of 24-15, and CSU Bakersfield 22-15, ending its Pac-12 regular season on a high note.
Although he was disappointed in the ending to the season, Charles sees a bright future for ASU wrestling.
“The environment here has gotten to the point where we can be successful,” Charles said. “Going forward, when we recruit the right type of kids into the program, find out what our kids are willing and capable of doing and make sure they are spending enough time with academics.”
Charles said that the process of building the program from the ground up hasn’t been easy.
“It has taken a while, and it always will take a while to correct certain problems, and now that they are corrected, we are headed in the right direction as a program,” Charles said.
On March 2 at the Pac-12 Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., ASU had five wrestlers finish in the top three of their weight classes, and four Sun Devils earned first-round byes.
Looking ahead, the core of the ASU wrestling team will remain almost entirely intact, with just graduate student Nick Rex (165) leaving the program.
Sophomores Ares Carpio (125), Matt Kraus (141) Ray Waters (174) and Blake Stauffer (184) will anchor the 2014-15 team, along with redshirt juniors Joel Smith (157) and Josh DaSilveira (197) and much-improved junior Preston McCalmon (149).
Charles said he looks forward to completing the second cycle of his staff’s recruiting process.
“We’re just bringing in the best kids that we think fit into Arizona State, and we’ve got a good crop of kids coming,” Charles said. “The cream is going to rise to the top, so it’s important we recruit the type of kid who is going to commit to their teammates, train hard and go to school.”
Charles said he was impressed with his team’s attitude and commitment to already preparing for next season and said it would “benefit them a lot” next year.
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