If ever a road trip could define a season, that time is now for the ASU wrestling team.
The Sun Devils (5-5, 3-1 Pac-10) have just three duals remaining before the start of the Pac-10 Championships.
The ASU squad will take on Stanford today (6-12-1, 1-4) before heading north to Corvallis, Ore., to counter Oregon State (9-7, 5-2) on Sunday.
ASU coach Thom Ortiz said this weekend’s matches will come down to effort.
“If you [wrestle] full-hearted, you’re eventually going to win,” Ortiz said. “Win, lose or draw, I want to see effort. Through this season we’ve been dedicated, we’ve been disciplined, and these kids have a lot of desire. So right now it’s about the effort.”
Some of that effort will likely come from No. 12 sophomore Anthony Robles (125 pounds), who will return this weekend after a two-dual layoff because of illness.
Freshman David Prado filled Robles’ spot and went 1-1 with a pin in his place.
For his effort, Prado will be wrestling up a weight class at 133 pounds this weekend, taking the place of sophomore Orlando Jimenez.
“We’ve got a couple of tough matches on the road,” junior Jake Cranford (197 pounds) said. “Stanford and Oregon State are gonna be some pretty good matches for the Pac-10 and seeding.”
Cranford knows about moving up. Originally slated at 184 pounds, he now starts at 197 pounds and is 6-2 in duals this season.
“The key is Jake is starting to believe in himself,” Ortiz said. “He’s really turning the corner.”
Stanford is a young team as well. Like ASU, it features eight underclassmen. Like the Sun Devils, they also start at least two true freshmen.
OSU will not be an easy opponent. The Beavers have been excellent on the mats for most of the season, showcasing a pair of nationally ranked wrestlers in No. 11 Kyle Bressler (174 pounds) and No. 16 Heinrich Barnes (149 pounds). Though only 16th in the nation, Barnes has won 10 straight matches and is 30-4 on the season.
“I am not on the mat,” Ortiz said. “Coach Fuentes is not on the mat.
Coach Stith is not on the mat. The effort must come from within. All day long we can work on technique. All day long we can work on position, and all day long we can talk. But it’s the actions that define us.”
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