The ASU wrestling team will be in Iowa this weekend to face the top two teams in the nation.
The excursion begins Friday, when the Sun Devils (2-0, 2-0 Pac-10) face the defending NCAA champion No. 1 University of Iowa in a sold-out battle in Iowa City.
Two days after their matchup with Iowa (0-0), the Sun Devils will counter No. 2 Iowa State in Ames, IA.
“I know it’s going to be a long trip for us, but this is only going to make us tougher,” sophomore captain Anthony Robles said.
Every ASU wrestler will be thrown to the fire this weekend. It’s likely that each Sun Devil wrestler will face at least one ranked opponent during his two matches. Junior Tyler Bowles (133) appears to have the toughest road ahead and is expected to start both matches this weekend.
This weekend, Bowles is set to wrestle Iowa ‘s No. 1 Joey Slaton followed by Iowa State’s No. 5 Nick Fanthorpe.
He won’t be alone however.
Of the 10 weight classes, Iowa is expected to start eight ranked wrestlers, five of whom are in the top three. Iowa also has two top-ranked wrestlers Joe Slaton and Brent Metcalf (149).
ISU (1-0) is expected to start nine ranked wrestlers, with four ranked in the top three and one No. 1-ranked wrestler in Jake Varner (197).
For the Sun Devils, this means confidence will be necessary for success.
“I’m looking to go down there and do work, to throw some people around and get two wins,” said Robles, who is No. 8 in the 125-pound weight class. “I am one of the captains so I do need to be a leader. I know [my team] will be right alongside me and we’re going to push each other.”
Junior co-captain Thor Moen (197) agreed.
“Everyone’s real motivated here,” Moen said. “Even the guys that were here last year seem like different people. We’re just training harder and everyone’s more confident.”
ASU coach Thom Ortiz stressed the need for his team to stay focused, saying his wrestlers can’t afford to let thousands of fans and years of tradition change their approach.
“It’s not the rafters you’re facing,” Ortiz told his team after Wednesday’s practice. “Not tradition, not fans. Just wrestle your best. No matter how you feel: good, bad, ugly. Just wrestle.”
Focus seemed to be a repeated sentiment from the captains.
“I’m not out there wrestling the crowd,” sophomore co-captain No. 7 Chris Drouin (141) said. “I’m not there to make friends and neither is anyone here. It’s me against the other guy; we’ll wrestle on the mat. It’s just like any other match.”
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