ASU wrestling earns win at first athletic event hosted in Gammage Theatre

After dropping two duals in a row, the Sun Devils defeat Pittsburgh 32-6

ASU Gammage Theatre, originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright with the intention of being an athletic facility, hosted its first athletic event on Sunday, Nov. 19 when ASU grappled with Pittsburgh. 

“More than anything when you talk about Gammage and the performers that have performed in here and you can say that you competed in such a historic venue,” head coach Zeke Jones said. “I think it shows that Arizona State University cares about athletics and our team.”

The Sun Devils were looking for their first team win of the season after falling to Michigan and Ohio State.

The beginning of the meet started off with a standing ovation from the crowd after redshirt junior Ryan Millhof earned a big pin and the Sun Devils' first six points. 

After the impressive performance from Millhof, senior Ali Naser had the momentum and an opportunity to build on ASU’s early lead.

Naser opened up an offensive attack that Pitt freshman Jake Cherry could not keep up with. Five takedowns later and the Sun Devils led Pitt 10-0.

During a match between redshirt sophomore Nikko Villarreal and Pitt redshirt senior Nick Zanetta, they displayed relentless defense. 

After four overtime periods, Zannetta edged Villarreal out with a late takedown and cut into the ASU lead with Pitt's first victory of the dual.

After the theatrical match at 141 pounds, redshirt sophomore Josh Maruca and Pitt junior Robert Lee were set to wrestle at 149 pounds.

Maruca and Lee exchanged quick takedowns in the first period, but Maruca was able to neutralize Lee throughout the next two periods. Maruca picked up a 6-2 victory and three team points.

Next up was "The Open Mat" wrestler of the week, redshirt sophomore Josh Shields

“Josh Shields continues to be that guy,” Jones said. “He'll take eleven minutes of wrestling and smash it into seven (minutes).”

Shields jumped in the ranking after his impressive weekend performance beating two All-Americans in two days.

“Now that I am getting a little more attention because my name is starting to get thrown out there a little bit, people think that I am doing something special,” Shields said. “I’ve been doing the same things I’ve been doing my whole life.”

Shields's opponent, Pitt redshirt sophomore Taleb Rahmani, looked to get his team back into the dual.

After multiple electrifying scrambles, a Pitt challenge and clock confusion, Shields beat his ranked opponent and padded a comfortable ASU lead.

Heading into the intermission, the Sun Devils led Pitt 16-3. 

After the intermission redshirt ASU sophomore Anthony Valencia looked to bounce back from two consecutive losses. 

A. Valencia scored an explosive takedown and lateral throw that ultimately lead to the major over Pitt redshirt freshman Jake Wentzel.

Following the big win by A. Valencia, his brother and FloWrestler of the week, redshirt sophomore Zahid Valenica awed the crowd with his athletic takedowns against Pitt redshirt freshman Austin Bell.

Z.Valencia earned a pin, six team points and the second standing ovation of the night. 

Continuing on the crowd’s excitement, freshman Kordell Norfleet squared off with Pitt redshirt freshman Gregg Harvey.

Following tremendous amount of defense and hand fighting between Norfleet and Harvey, Norfleet ended a two-match losing streak and earned the Sun Devils three points. 

With two weight classes left to wrestle, ASU led Pitt 29-3 and locked up its first dual win of the season. 

Freshman Cade Belshay took on Pitt redshirt sophomore Kellan Stout. Stout showed toughness on top in the second period, which ended up earning him the victory 2-0. Stout earned Pitt’s second victory of the night leading into the final match of the dual.

The 285-pound weight class featured two top-10 wrestlers: junior Tanner Hall and Pitt redshirt senior Ryan Solomon. 

Succeeding the scoreless first period, Hall found himself scoring a two-point reversal that was reviewed and changed to a one-point escape. Unfazed by the score change, Hall rode out Solomon in the third period and  picked up a riding time point which led to final score of 2-0.

After dropping two straight duals to formidable opponents a week ago, the Sun Devils found themselves on the winning end of the spectrum 32-6 over Pitt.

The Sun Devils are back in action against their third ranked opponent of the season, No. 14 South Dakota State at noon on Sunday, Nov. 26 in Well Fargo Area. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @trittenhouse34 on Twitter. 

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