ASU wrestling: 125-pound weight class spotlight

The 125-pound weight class is poised to produce medals in March

ASU wrestling’s 2017-18 roster is as solid as they come. The No.7 Sun Devils have a team comprised of national champions, conference champions and world medalists. 

"It’s kind of culminating,” head coach Zeke Jones said. “This is our fourth year now, we’re kind of getting some young and inexperienced guys some experience now, and then we’ve got a group of some transfers who are really starting to show some pretty good signs."

The 125-pound weight class is occupied by two wrestlers that fit the pattern perfectly; redshirt junior transfer Ryan Millhof and redshirt sophomore Joshua Kramer.

This year, the 125-pound class is occupied by a ton of tough wrestlers all over NCAA, including former national champion Nathan Tomasello from Ohio State. However, Jones said he expects nothing less than a national championship from his wrestlers.

Ryan Millhof

Millhof, who is ranked no.6 in the preseason polls, is entering his first season of official competition with the Sun Devils. 

Jones described Millhof as a low-maintenance guy that he never has to worry about.

“I think we have a really good team and a really good coaching staff,” Millhof said. “Myself personally, I just want to take it one match at a time.”

Millhof is a redshirt junior transfer from Oklahoma where he earned All-American honors and placed seventh at the NCAA tournament during the 2015-16 season. 

Years before Millhof wrestled his way up the collegiate food chain, he was a baseball player, but he knew he was in the wrong sport.

“My dad wrestled for a couple of years in high school,” Millhof said. “We were leaving the park one day and we were driving past a sign that said, ‘youth wrestling Dacula High School.”’

At the time Millhof was five years old and his dad asked him if he was interested in trying it. Millhof responded, “Alright, well sure.” 

Millhof went on to win three high school state championships in Georgia, which ultimately led him to a scholarship to wrestle at Oklahoma.

“OU was the first official visit I took,” Millhof said. He had other visits lined up for historically successful schools like Iowa State, but Millhof said Oklahoma felt like home and he liked the intensity of the up-and-coming program. 

“I just kind of fell in love with it,” Millhof said. “I actually cancelled all the rest of my visits and just committed right then and there.”

After a couple years and an All-American bid, Millhof decided to transfer out of Oklahoma and continue his career at ASU. 

Millhof was attracted to ASU because of the organization of the team as well as the talent that was being built. 

“I came out here and took a visit,” Millhof said. “It was kind of a very similar feeling like I felt at OU my freshman year.”

After sitting out a season, Millhof is ready to compete for a national championship and earn another All-American honor.


Joshua Kramer

Kramer is a redshirt sophomore this season and an Arizona native. Last season, he was runner up at the Pac-12 tournament. Kramer also beat the No.1 seeded wrestler in the semi-finals. 

Like other freshman, their first season competing can be a hard-fought battle for five months. Kramer’s experience was no different. However, unlike most other freshman, Kramer was able to flip the switch.

Jones noted that most freshman improve between the fall semester and the spring semester because they have had some time to adjust to the different physicality and speed of Division I collegiate wrestling.

Kramer’s first exposure to wrestling was similar to Millhof’s. He saw a sign and decided he wanted to try it out. 

Kramer's high-school wrestling experience was unique.

Although he was one of the best wrestlers in the state for four years, Kramer saw four different head coaches and attended two different schools. 

Kramer transferred high schools between his sophomore and junior year because he wanted to be in the same school as his brother, who was an incoming freshman at the time.

“Me and my brother are actually really close.” Kramer said. 

Kramer’s brother, Matt Kramer, is now the video coordinator for ASU wrestling.

For most freshman, the first few weeks can be a struggle getting to know teammates, coaches and medical staff, but Kramer already knew who everyone was. He had been a member of Sunkist Kids, a wrestling program hosted at ASU.

Kramer mentioned that he didn’t know if he wanted to attend ASU before Jones took over the program. 

“As soon as I knew that Zeke was coming here, this is the only place I wanted to go,” Kramer said. “Stay close to home and wrestle with one of the best coaches in the world.”

Kramer said that Jones had pulled him aside after he and high-school teammate and freshman Brandon Courtney started wrestling with the college athletes during his time in the Sunkist club and asked, “So you’re coming here right?”

Last season, Kramer had found himself in the finals of the Pac-12 tournament where he lost 7-5 in a tough battle. Kramer said he was upset, but now Kramer is using that experience to fuel him. 

Kramer said he wants to win Pac-12’s this season and earn his first All-American honors.

Conclusion

Having the No. 7 ranked team in Division I is extremely impressive. ASU hasn’t hoisted the NCAA Championship trophy in 29 years. 

This year the Sun Devils are ranked ahead of teams like Iowa and Minnesota who have novel-length resumès documenting their success in collegiate wrestling.

But building such a great team can come with some tough decisions. Having multiple wrestlers in one weight-class that are more than capable of getting the job done when it comes to crunch time can make for a tough decision for a coach. 

However, Jones and company shouldn't have to worry about whether the 125-pound class will produce during the 2017-2018 season.


Reach the reporter at trittenh@asu.edu or follow @trittenhouse34 on Twitter. 

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