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ASU wrestling looks to build upon last year's successes going into new season

The Sun Devils are set to compete in the annual intrasquad meet on Nov. 5 and open up the season at the Mountaineer Open on Nov. 14

2021.1.2 ASU wrestling vs Little Rock-02383.jpg

ASU then-redshirt junior Michael McGee pins Little Rock then-redshirt senior Paul Bianchi onto the mat in Desert Financial Arena in Tempe on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. ASU won against Little Rock 39-3.

ASU wrestling will look to win its fifth Pac-12 Championship in the last six years, following a 7-0 season and coming in fourth at the 2021 NCAA DI Wrestling Tournament last season. 

In the 2020-21 season, ASU had issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately caused the postponement or cancelation of four matchups last season: Oregon State University, University of Missouri, University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University.

However, the pandemic could not stop the Sun Devils from going undefeated and winning their fourth Pac-12 Championship in the last five years. Going into this season, head coach Zeke Jones is feeling good about his squad. 

"This is the best team we've had in a long time," Jones said. "We are really excited about the opportunity we have this year and I think you better watch out for everybody on the team — collectively they're motivated, hungry and they have a high goal."

According to assistant coach Frank Molinaro, redshirt freshman Kyle Parco is a wrestler to watch this season. 

"I'd like to see Parco; he just came over and joined us from Fresno State," Molinaro said. "We're excited to see him debut in the ASU singlet."

Parco and redshirt freshman Cohlton Schultz will look to help push the Sun Devils toward another national title this season.

Parco was the No. 17 seed at the 2021 NCAA Division I Championships and placed sixth, finishing with a 19-4 overall record. He was an NCAA All-American last season at 149 pounds and became the 23rd All-American in Fresno State program history. 

"The goal with ASU is always national champion, not just individual, but also helping our team get to the top," Schultz said. "I think we are some real candidates for being team champions."

Parco will join Sun Devil All-Americans redshirt sophomore Jacori Teemer, redshirt junior Michael McGee, Schultz, redshirt juniors Brandon Courtney and Kordell Norfleet and redshirt senior Anthony Valencia

"We have six returning All-Americans, a couple of newcomers, they're excited to get their chance to wrestle for Arizona State," said volunteer assistant coach Eric Thompson. "I think this whole team as a whole, every single match is must-watch TV. A lot of competitors and the guys are ready to scrap."

This year, the focus for ASU is to enjoy the moment and have fun.

"Be grateful for the opportunity," Jones said. "Some mount this pressure on themselves, but we don't. We're just excited to be here and have this opportunity because it may never come again, just enjoy the moment while you're here."

The Sun Devils will begin their 2021-22 season on Nov. 5 with the annual Maroon and Gold Intrasquad meet, a chance for the athletes to compete against each other before facing opponents.

"We're battle-tested. Let's put our hands on each other, let's get physical, let's get ready to fight and let's find out where we're at," Jones said. "We'll find out our strength, our conditioning, our endurance, our intensity, speed and how our technique is." 

The Sun Devils will compete in front of the inferno for the first time since the 2019-20 season. 

This year, the goal for the Sun Devils is a national title. ASU had eight members travel to St. Louis for the NCAA Championships in March and finished fourth overall in the team results. 

"I'm trying to win a national title, and I want my team to win a national team — we placed fourth last year at the NCAA Championships and everyone on the team felt like they underperformed," McGee said. "I got genuine faith in every single weight class, we just gotta trust the process."

No. 3 ASU wrestling will open up the 2021-22 season competing at the Mountaineer Open on Nov. 14 in Boone, North Carolina.

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Aayush Gupta

sports reporter

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