Upcoming matches provide homecoming opportunities for two ASU wrestlers

ASU's Josh Maruca and Josh Shields will return home to Pennsylvania for three meets this season

When the ASU wrestling schedule was released last month, redshirt juniors Josh Maruca and Josh Shields noticed a reoccurring stop. The team will visit three different schools in Pennsylvania, where both athletes grew up, giving them the opportunity to wrestle in front of friends and family back home. 

“I can’t get enough tickets for them though because all my family is still back in P.A.,” Shields said. 

After the regular season, the Sun Devils will look to make another trip to the state for the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh.

Hailing from the same high school in the same town of Murrysville, the two Sun Devils go way back to their early wrestling days. To this day, their Pennsylvania connection remains intact even after they relocated to Arizona for college.

“Our (childhood) houses are like five minutes apart,” Maruca said.

As integral members of the ASU wrestling squad under head coach Zeke Jones, Maruca and Shields put together memorable high school careers back home. Maruca went 120-21 in his entire stint, while Shields compiled a perfect record of 41-0 in his final season at Franklin Region High School. Both wrestlers were top-20 recruits in the class of 2015, according to the D1 College Wrestling website.

“The competitive environment (in Pennsylvania) is through the roof,” Shields said.

Now in their fourth year with the ASU program, both are among the most experienced wrestlers on the team. 

The Sun Devils will visit reigning national champion Penn State on Friday, Dec. 14 before taking on Lock Haven and Lehigh on back-to-back days in late January. Maruca and Shields both said they used to attend Nittany Lion matches growing up.

Specifically, Maruca said the atmosphere against Penn State will be “electric” given the national implications of the matchup. 

“For me, it’s just going out and wrestling and doing my best, being well prepared, and with this coaching staff in Arizona, we’re always prepared,” Maruca said. 

Additionally, both wrestlers will look to remain even keel when they return to their stomping grounds. 

“I think it’ll just be like another day at the office. I’m trying not to think about it too much,” Shields said. “I think it’ll be so much fun … I’m sure I’ll have people booing me ... my sister went to Lock Haven too, so I know that area pretty well.” 

Maruca said he hopes his family can make it to the matches because his younger cousins are also getting into wrestling, so he wants to be a good example for them.

Shields said having his family there to watch him means a lot to him. His parents, who will travel to Tempe from Pennsylvania this weekend to take in the dual meets against Ohio State and North Carolina, have been supportive of him since day one. Brian Shields, Josh’s father, has been a prominent figure throughout his wrestling life.

“He was like my main coach throughout my childhood and up into high school. He’s got a great heart for the sport … He knew I was going to be something special and I really appreciate that,” Shields said.

Brian Shields said that parental involvement is crucial in the sport of wrestling, which is why he has made it a point to see his son compete whenever possible.

“Last year I think we traveled to Michigan and Ohio. We traveled to Illinois for the Midlands. We always go to Virginia Beach. I drove down to North Carolina … which for me, was about an eight hour drive,” he said. 

When it comes to the three duals in Pennsylvania later this season, he said he will not miss them. 

“You've got four or five years of your kid’s collegiate career to potentially watch them if you’re fortunate,” he said. 

It’s no secret that both wrestlers will garner tremendous support when they make the trips to their home state with the rest of their teammates. However, they are hoping to put a bow on their homecoming and cap it off with a deep run in March.

“For me personally, I want to win NCAAs this year in Pittsburgh,” Josh Shields said. 

Reach the reporter at kmgianco@asu.edu and follow @Kaleb_Mart on Twitter.

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