ASU wrestling falls to No. 24 UNC and No. 2 Ohio State in season's first home duals

The Sun Devils suffered two five-point losses over the weekend

Fresh off a strong showing at the 48th Bison Open and a convincing victory over No. 16 South Dakota State last weekend, the ASU wrestling team hosted No. 24 North Carolina and No. 2 Ohio State in its first home dual meets of the young season.

The Sun Devils fell to the Tar Heels on Saturday 20-15. On Sunday, ASU again suffered a five-point loss, falling 22-17 to the Buckeyes. 

Saturday: North Carolina

On Saturday, ASU jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in the 125 and 133-pound bouts, with victories from redshirt senior Ryan Millhof and sophomore Josiah Kline. UNC then rattled off three consecutive wins to take a 10-6 lead.  

After intermission, ASU redshirt junior Josh Shields recorded four takedowns on UNC’s Josh McClure in the 165-pound bout for a 14-8 victory, which brought the Sun Devils to within one point.

A North Carolina pin in the subsequent bout regained the Tar Heels' momentum. 

However, ASU redshirt junior Zahid Valencia and sophomore Kordell Norfleet each wrestled up a weight class for the Sun Devils and earned a pair of victories to narrow the score to 16-15 UNC going into the heavyweight bout. 

Not only did the match come down to the wire, but it also featured two brothers battling it out on the mat. 

UNC’s No. 13 ranked redshirt senior Cory Daniel took on his younger brother, ASU redshirt freshman Brady Daniel with the dual meet on the line. The big brother got the best of his little brother, as Cory Daniel cruised to a 12-3 win, giving the Tar Heels the victory. 

Sunday: Ohio State

ASU got off to another strong start on Sunday as Millhof again set the tone for the team with a blowout tech fall victory of OSU redshirt freshman Brady Koontz by a score of 18-1.

ASU head coach Zeke Jones said that Millhof was “dominant,” and his performance gave the team a boost. 

“He was a monster on top,” Jones said. “He scored bonus points and that’s what we struggled with yesterday (against North Carolina).”  

However, the early 5-0 lead for the Sun Devils did not last long as the Buckeyes stormed back and took the next four bouts to take a 15-5 lead heading into intermission.

Ohio State scored three consecutive major decisions before a hard-fought battle between OSU’s No. 5 ranked Ke-Shawn Hayes and ASU’s Christian Pagdilao.

Pagdilao sustained a slim lead until a late takedown in the third period by Hayes, giving him a 4-3-comeback victory.

Shields, Valencia and Norfleet then brought the Sun Devils back with three straight victories, including a pin in 6:15 by Norfleet. He put ASU in front 17-15 with two matches to go. 

Valencia said the momentum swing was a key in the dual.

“It’s always awesome getting the crowd into it, getting your teammates into it. You can see on our bench everyone standing up rooting for one another," Valencia said. “It’s a good feeling knowing that we’re a close-knit group.”

Against the No. 2 ranked team, Jones trusted the three wrestlers to get his team back in the match. 

“When you come into Shields, Valencia and Norfleet, you feel real confident against any team in the country,” Jones said.

After an OSU major decision in the 197-pound bout, it all came down to the heavyweights once again for ASU, as the score stood at 19-17 Buckeyes. 

Brady Daniel once again took the mat for ASU, and his battle with OSU redshirt freshman Chase Singletary was knotted at one with 1:15 to go.

Chants of “Let’s go Brady” filled Wells Fargo Arena in the final minute, but Daniel ultimately fell to Singletary in the waning seconds of the third period on a takedown, thus sealing a score of 3-1. 

Despite the loss, Jones credited the ASU crowd for its support

“We can’t win without them,” Jones said. “I think that’s what rose up the level of intensity today with our guys.”

The Sun Devils will look to regroup before their next event, the SIUE Cougar Clash, in Illinois on Dec. 2. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @Kaleb_Mart on Twitter.

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