ASU finished seventh at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma last weekend with four wrestlers earning all-American honors and two wrestlers finishing top three in their respective weight classes.
Seniors Brandon Courtney and Michael McGee placed third at 125 pounds and 133 pounds respectively, while sophomore Kyle Parco finished fourth at 149 pounds and redshirt sophomore heavyweight Cohlton Schultz finished seventh. Redshirt freshman Cael Valencia did not find the podium in his first NCAA tournament experience.
Head coach Zeke Jones called the underclassmen trio of Parco, Shultz and Valencia, "the future of the program" and expressed positivity about their performances.
"The leadership Cohlton and Kyle provide will be instrumental as we make our run for a team championship," Jones said. "Cohlton, Kyle and Cael give us a tremendous future."
Courtney and McGee's third-place finishes marked the first time since 2017 that the Sun Devils have had two wrestlers finish inside the top three on the podium at the year's biggest tournament.
Jones praised the leadership he got this season from the likes of McGee, Courtney and injured senior Kordell Norfleet.
"Guys like McGee and Courtney really define the program," Jones said. "They make the standard and really show what it means to be the best in the country and really the best in the world. They will go down as all-time Sun Devil greats."
Courtney advanced to the quarterfinals following a pair of decision victories over graduate students Jake Ferri of Kent State and Jack Wagner of UNC. He then lost to No. 2 seed senior Patrick Glory of Princeton for the second time this year by an 8-4 decision. Courtney advanced to the third-place match after a triad of decision victories where he bested Lock Haven University redshirt sophomore Anthony Noto with a takedown in the first sudden-death period.
McGee went one step further than Courtney in the championship bracket, picking up a major decision win over Columbia University junior Angelo Rini in the first round; followed by a pair of decision wins in the following rounds over Ohio State freshman Jesse Mendez and redshirt sophomore Kai Orine of NC State. McGee lost in a semifinal match against No. 1 seed senior Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State.
"I think we got the firepower, we got some guys that we know could do some damage and we're well coached," McGee said on March 1.
McGee battled hard but his championship aspirations would be dashed by a single-leg takedown early in the extra session.
McGee was able to right the ship however and beat Mendez again in the consolation semifinals by a narrow 3-2 decision before finishing third in the nation after a narrow decision victory over Oklahoma State redshirt senior Dalton Fix.
In the 149-pound weight class, Parco gained a major decision victory over Air Force senior Dylan Martinez and then decision victories over Wisconsin redshirt senior Austin Gomez and Missouri redshirt junior Brock Mauller in subsequent rounds to earn his spot in the semifinals where he was on the wrong end of a major decision over redshirt senior Sammy Sasso of Ohio State.
Parco then finished fourth following a loss in the consolation final to Penn State redshirt freshman Shayne Van Ness.
Heavyweight Schultz put on a clinic in his first two rounds before being upset by Iowa senior Tony Cassioppi in the quarterfinals, whom Schultz beat in the NCAA Tournament last year. Schultz defeated Bucknell junior Dorian Crosby by a 13-0 major decision and pinned Southern Illinois University Edwardsville senior Colton McKiernan before losing to No. 4 seed Cassioppi in overtime.
Schultz’s season was riddled with injuries but Jones expressed confidence in his heavyweight moving forward.
"Cohlton had a great year, a tough one in some spots, but just a very long season for him," Jones said, referencing Schultz's commitment to the US National Team in Greco-Roman wrestling as well as ASU. "The main thing Cohlton needs to focus on is getting some rest and letting his body heal up, I think if he does that he will be ready to make some strides."
It was the fourth straight season at least four all-Americans are Sun Devils.
The seventh-place finish means that ASU has now finished top 10 in the nation 21 times, with four of those coming under head coach Zeke Jones since 2015.
Edited by Kathryn Field, Reagan Priest and Anusha Natarajan.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @ZacharyGrover77 on Twitter.
Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.