First annual Mill Matness is direct result of culture change for ASU wrestling

Mill Matness provided a fun fan experience

The wrestling team participated in the first annual Mill Matness event Thursday, showcasing takedowns, acrobatic throws and team camaraderie on a makeshift arena on Mill Avenue.

Mill Matness is the first event of its kind, said ASU wrestling head coach Zeke Jones.

“It’s really about building a championship culture," Jones said.

Jones said he believes that events like this are a key component to earning respect for the wrestling program, which is fresh off a Pac-12 victory and a coaching overhaul last season. 

The new culture — and No. 7 ranking — within the wrestling program is contagious, as some of the most respected wrestlers in the world make their way to ASU to train with the team. 

On Thursday, it was two-time junior world champion Victoria Anthony who flaunted her athletic ability by hip-tossing ASU heavyweight Tanner Hall during the event. Anthony is the No. 1 ranked 48kg wrestler for the USA women’s national team. 

During Mill Matness, coaches and players answered questions directly from the crowd. One fan alluded to ASU’s tough schedule — Jones responded, “If you want to be the best you have to beat the best … if we have to go through Ann Arbor (Michigan) and Columbus (Ohio), so be it.”

That wasn’t the only answer that had the audience’s blood flowing. Redshirt sophomore Zahid Valencia answered a fan’s question about his upcoming re-match with Penn State’s Mark Hall. Valencia said that he was ready to dominate his opponent. Valencia and Hall met up in last season’s NCAA semi-final – Hall notched a close victory 3-2 in somewhat controversial fashion.

Pac-12 Champion and redshirt sophomore Josh Shields has experienced every bit of culture the ASU wrestling team provides. 

“Even since I first got here, it’s been such change,” Shields said. “I think the biggest reason for that is Zeke Jones. He is someone that excels in everything.”

The Sun Devils will look to carry last year's success into this season, despite a daunting schedule.

Jones believes that all the little things like health, grades and improving are the keys to leading the team to victory, he said.

ASU will begin the season in East Lansing competing in the Michigan State Open, while Valencia and Hall compete in the NWCA All-Star Classic on Nov. 5. 

A couple weeks following the beginning of the season, the team will wrestle against Pitt inside ASU’s Gammage auditorium,  in what is hoped to be a sell-out crowd.

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