Feb. 24, 2012
TEMPE - The Arizona State University wrestling team will compete for conference bragging rights this weekend as the squad heads north for the Pac-12 Conference Wrestling Championships on Sunday, Feb. 26 in Boise, Idaho. The Sun Devils will compete for 19 automatic bids to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis in addition to battling for individual and team conference titles. This is the 50th annual edition of the Pac-12 event and will take place at Taco Bell Arena. The event will be divided into two sessions beginning at 11 a.m. MST with the second start at 4 p.m. MST and culminating with the finals session at 5:30 p.m. MST.
• ASU remains unranked on the season
• ASU victory over CSU Bakersfield was the first road win for ASU in over a year and the first Pac-12 road victory since the 2009-10 season.
• Levi Cooper leads the team with 22 victories on the season and has placed in each of the team’s tournaments this year
• Nathan Hoffer was the first member of the team to reach double digit is dual wins, earnng his 10th against Oklahoma State. His 12 dual wins on the season were tops of the team, despite being a freshman
• Levi Cooper upset the top-ranked returning NCAA Champion in Zach Rey of Lehigh at the Northeast Duals
• Head Coach Shawn Charles is in his third season as head coach
• Redshirt freshman Shane McGough has logged 11 of his 16 victories this year with bonus points (7 falls, 3 majors, one tech fall)
• The Sun Devils will start eight freshman (7 redshirt, 1 true) at the Pac-12 Championships this weekend
• The Sun Devils return one All-American this season in heavyweight Levi Cooper • Cooper (HWT) is the only Sun Devil ranked by all of the major ranking services • Seventeen Sun Devils have experienced their first collegiate action this season, representing the overwhelming majority of competitors thus far
IN THE RANKINGS - TEAM
The Sun Devils entered the season unranked for the first time since the 2008-09 season. This comes despite finishing sixth at the NCAA Championships last year, though the loss of national champions Anthony Robles and Bubba Jenkins and the very young team the Sun Devils will be fielding are likely to blame for their omittance. The team did not receive any votes in the most recent NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Live bracket updates and video of event will be available at broncosports.com The live stream will also be available at Pac-12.org on the conference’s wrestling championship page.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Seven opponents on ASU’s 2011-12 schedule can be found within the NWCA/ USA Today Coaches Poll that was released earlier this week, with the Sun Devils losing all seven. The team fell to #3 Oklahoma State and #10 Oklahoma last month and lost to #15 Lehigh, #21 Binghamtom, #8 Nebraska and #16 Oregon State and #24 Old Dominion earlier this season, though they did beat Penn who, while unranked now, was #20 at the time.
IN THE RANKINGS - INDIVIDUAL
Returning All-American Levi Cooper is the only Sun Devil consistently ranked by all of the major ranking services, and did himself a huge favor in upsetting former No. 1 Zach Rey at the Northeast Duals. The victory rocketed Cooper from the mid-teens in most rankings to the top-10 across the board, peaking at No. 4 by The Open Mat. Cooper got back into the win category after getting swept in Oklahoma with a pin against Bakersfield’s Frankie Hurtado and finished the season with with an overtime victory over Stanford’s Dan Scherer. Cooper is currently ranked ninth in the InterMat Top 20 rankings and is one of three top-10 heavyweights in the conference.
SCOUTING THE COMPETITION: Pac-12 Championships
The Pac-12 Conference Championships will feature six teams, including three traditional Pac-12 institutions and four others. The teams headed to Corvallis this weekend include Pac-12 members Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford along with Boise State, Cal Poly and CSU Bakersfield. The Sun Devils were 3-2 in Pac-12 competition this years with victories over Boise State, CSU Bakersfield and Stanford. Oregon State leads the Pac-12 all-time with 18 titles and Arizona State is right behind with 16. Since 2000, Boise State and ASU have dominated the mat at the competition, winning 10 of the last 12 conference titles. Boise State has won three of the past four conference crowns.
The individual championships for each of the 10 weight classes isn’t the only thing at stake on Sunday as wrestlers are also fighting for bids to the NCAA Championships held March 15-17 in St. Louis, Mo. The NCAA announced how many wrestlers per weight class will automatically qualify from the Pac-12 and the breakdown looks like this: 125-2, 133-2, 141-2, 149-1, 157-2, 165-1, 174-2, 197-3 and HWT-2. The Sun Devils can still qualify without finishing in those positions this weekend as the NCAA will take 40 at-large qualifiers, which will be announced on March 7.
HANGING WITH MR. COOPER
After Levi Cooper’s surprise falter in his second match of the season against Eastern Michigan’s Wes Schroeder, the redshirt junior ripped off 13 consecutive victories in a streak that included an upset of top-ranked returning champion Zach Rey of Lehigh at the Northeast Duals. The streak came to an end in Las Vegas but Cooper has still established himself as one of the top heavyweights in the nation and will look to return to his All-America status attained last year. Cooper earned his 50th career victory in a decision over #18 Kyle Frey in Las Vegas. Cooper has also placed in all three tournaments the team has competed in this season after his fourth-place run in Reno.
Shane McGough has begun to rise as the most exciting of ASU’s young wrestlers this season, winning 11 of his 16 victories this season with bonus points. Head coach Shawn Charles has praised the redshirt freshman as being that fire that gets people up and cheering on the bench and has gotten the crowd into the home matches this season. His 16 victories on the season rank him third on the team in a tie with Kevin Radford. His 74 points scored on the year, though, ranks him second on the squad behind only Levi Cooper’s 85.
DON’T MESS WITH THE HOFF
Another Sun Devil on a hot streak is redshirt freshman Nathan Hoffer. After a fourth-place finish at the Eastern Michigan Open to start the season, Hoffer reeled off victories in six straight duals. The youngster had an up-and-down Decmeber and January but looks to be getting back on pace in winning five of his last seven duals, including an upset of #12 Josh Kindig against Oklahoma State. Hoffer became the first member of the team to reach double digits in dual meets and currently has 12 dual wins and 17 overall victories, second most on the team and most among the freshman. His 12 duals victories leads the team.
PRETTY RAD, DUDE
Kevin Radford began making a case for being one of the top freshman on the team with an early-season upset upset of #18 Max Thomusseit before staying competitive with top- ranked Robert Hamlin. His consolation quarterfinal apperance at the Las Vegas Invitational showed his ability to bounce back from an early loss and Radford followed that up by post- ing a 4-2 record at the Reno Tournament of Champions tht saw him defeat No. 20 Matt Ryan of West Virginia and top-ranked NJCAA competitor Austin Morehead of Clackamas. Radford was the standout of the past weekend as the only Sun Devil to sweep his two duals, including an upset of #20 Erich Schmidtke of Oklahoma to improve to 13-10 on the season. He improved his winning streak to five against Stanford and his 16 wins ranks him third on the team in a tie with Shane McGough.
Eric Starks is one of the rarities on the team in that he brings NCAA Championship experi- ence and is one of few seniors on the team and his return to the mat after a long absence due to injury will look to spark the Sun Devils heading into the conference championships. Starks earned on of just two Sun Devil victories against Oklahoma this past weekend in a major decision of Nolan McBryde. Starks is one of two Sun Devils who will be celebrating Senior Day on Sunday. Starks earned his 50th career win early this season against Army’s Collin Wittmeyer and is the only competing Sun Devil with NCAA Championships experi- ence.