ASU wrestling unable to overcome fall losses in defeat to No. 5 Missouri

The Sun Devils drop to 4-10 on the season following loss to the Tigers

The ASU wrestling team returned to Tempe on Friday for only the second time in the new year, where they fell to the No. 5 Missouri Tigers, 30-12.

Missouri improved its perfect record to 15-0 overall, while the Sun Devils dropped to 4-10 on the season, extending their losing streak to four duals. The Tigers are the third top-5 opponent ASU has faced at home and the fourth top-5 opponent the team faced this season.

2018 NCAA Champion and No. 2 ranked redshirt junior Zahid Valencia suffered only his second loss of the season, losing by fall to Tigers redshirt senior and No. 4 ranked Daniel Lewis in the 174-pound bout. It was one of four Missouri pins on the night.

"We have a hard time taking care of those bonus points where we're getting pinned," coach Zeke Jones said. "When the national champion gets beat, that never feels good."

Despite an opening overtime victory from redshirt freshman Brandon Courtney at 125 pounds, ASU failed to carry that momentum into the successive bouts. On the wrong end of four pins, the Sun Devils dug themselves a deep hole that they were unable to climb out of, which translated into 24 points for the Tigers.

Courtney's performance was one of a few bright spots for the Sun Devils Friday night. Graduate student Christian Pagdilao and redshirt senior Jacen Petersen each picked up narrow victories.

"There were a lot of things I could have done a lot better, but things turned out pretty well," Petersen said. "Obviously, you want the most you can get for your team."

Redshirt junior Josh Shields continued his consistent season on Friday with a three-point win over Missouri's Connor Flynn. Jones said that Shields' overall makeup has translated to success on the mat.

"He's a man of character, hard worker and diligent," Jones said of Shields. "He's a steady kid and he loves to learn wrestling. When you have a combination like that, good things happen."

In a season that's seen ASU face some of the stiffest competition in the country, the team's record may not be ideal. But the team's focus is on finishing the season on a high note. With only two regular season duals remaining, which are both at home, the Sun Devils are aiming to capture some momentum heading into the Pac-12 Championships and NCAAs. 

After Friday's loss, Courtney said that the team has yet to hit its peak.

"As a team, we're still growing," he said. "If you look at our team right now, and look at it at the beginning of the season, it's a completely different team."  

ASU's next opportunity for a victory will come next Saturday, Feb. 16 in Tempe as it hosts Pac-12 foe California State University, Bakersfield at 1:30 p.m. MST.

"Nothing changes. We just have to continue to get better," Jones said. "We'll watch the video, find out what we're doing wrong, continue to build on our technique and strategy and get a little stronger and faster."


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

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