Freshman standout, head coach receive Pac-12 honors for ASU wrestling

Redshirt freshman Zahid Valencia and head coach Zeke Jones were named the Pac-12 wrestler and coach of the year on Wednesday

An already unforgettable season for ASU wrestling became even better on Wednesday as two key members of the program received Pac-12 honors.

ASU redshirt freshman Zahid Valencia was named the Pac-12 Wrestler of the Year, and head coach Zeke Jones took home the Coach of Year award in the conference. Valencia was also given the Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year award.

Josh Orcutt | The State Press

ASU's wrestling head coach Zeke Jones during the wrestling meet versus No. 13 University of Illinois Fighting Illini in Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. ASU lost the meet overall 26-9.

“It is a great feeling to know that the hard work and sacrifice that I put in throughout the year does not go unnoticed,” Valencia told The State Press.

Valencia outperformed his competition at the Pac-12 championships in last month in California, winning the 174 lbs. division and being named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament. It was the first of many postseason awards for the standout freshman. 

Valencia went on to earn his first All-American honor after finishing third at the NCAA wrestling Championships, completing his first full season with a 38-1 record.

As for Jones, he guided ASU wrestling to its first conference title since 2006 after being hired to led the program in 2014.

“Everyone owns a piece of this one,” Jones said of his award via text message. “Everyone’s busting their butts for our team and giving our men the opportunity to be successful.”

Jones credited his coaching staff for their hard work behind the scenes. He had five ASU wrestlers compete at the NCAA championships, which were all part of his first top-ranked recruiting class in 2015.

“It has been fun to watch them make the commitment to be the best,” Jones said. “If they continue to work they can get everything they set out to do when they came to Arizona State University.”

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