April 2, 2011
TEMPE – The Arizona State University wrestling team held its annual team banquet and awards presentations on Wednesday (March 30) at Dave and Buster’s at the Tempe Marketplace where the Sun Devils gathered to celebrate two national titles, three All-America honors and a sixth-place team finish at the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships, among other things. Former Sun Devil All-American and current UFC fighter Aaron Simpson led the proceedings that included presentations from current coaches, administrators and former Sun Devil head coach Bobby Douglas.
The first honors of the night were the Letterwinner Awards, given to 15 individuals that earned a varsity letter this past season. Those individuals, who had their awards presented to them by Senior Associate Athletic Director Don Bocchi, included four-time honoree Anthony Robles; three-time honorees Kyle DeBerry, Te Edwards, Eric Starks, Jake Meredith, David Prado and Michael Swigart; two-time honoree Michael Hawkins and first-time honorees Josh Sandoval, Carlos Castro, Kalin Goodsite, Tai Fukumoto, Bubba Jenkins, Luke Macchiaroli and Levi Cooper.
Volunteer coach Raymond Jordan presented Bobby Bowman with the Newcomer of the Year Award. Bowman competed in every open tournament he could this season, winning one and placing third at the Fullerton Open after winning seven matches in a row in the consolation rounds. Bowman redshirted this season as a true freshman and will be redshirt freshman next season.
Meredith was selected as the Lion Heart Award recipient, which was handed out by assistant coach Ben Askren. The 2011 Pac-10 Champion at 184 pounds and an NCAA qualifier, Meredith was honored with the award because of his scrappiness and fighter spirit, giving it his all every time on the mat.
Head coach Shawn Charles presented the next award, which was the Most Improved Award that was received by Cooper. At heavyweight, Cooper went from 11-15 as a freshman at Portland State two years ago and finishing seventh in the Pac-10 to finishing third in the Pac-10 this year, qualifying for his first NCAA appearance and finishing eighth nationally for his first All-America honor.
Starks was honored with the Granite Award, given to him by assistant coach Brian Stith. The Granite Award is given to a wrestler that displays toughness and grit throughout the season with a strong determination to succeed and Starks did just that. After sustaining a knee injury in mid-January and needing surgery, Starks recovered in time to compete at the Pac-10 Championships, where he finished third. He advanced to the NCAA Championships for the first time in his career as well.
Sports Performance coach Josh Storms presented the next award, which was the Lifter of the Year Award. Castro was selected for the honor after exhibiting the qualities Storms looks for in the weight room, including hard work and improvement throughout the season.
The Most Outstanding Wrestler Award was shared this season by Robles and Jenkins after both won national titles. A pair of former Sun Devils presented the awards to each wrestler, including Tom Daniels and Glenn McMinn Sr., who presented the honors to Jenkins and Robles, respectively. Robles went 36-0 on the year at 125 pounds and advanced to the NCAA Championships as the No. 1 seed. In the tournament, he scored five wins in a row and capped his collegiate career as the 125-pound national champion. Following the tournament, he was selected as the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the NCAA Championships.
Jenkins, in his only season with the Sun Devils after transferring in from Penn State, backed up his words as the No. 4 national seed also won five matches in a row, including a dramatic pin of No. 2 David Taylor (Penn State) in the championship final, to win the first national title of his career in two finals appearances. A senior co-captain, Jenkins took second in the Pac-10 to qualify for his fourth NCAA appearance where he secured the second All-America honor of his career. Cooper earned his second award of the night by being selected as the recipient of the Steven Blackford Award, which is given annually to the Sun Devil that personified perseverance and a competitive nature throughout the season.
Both Robles and Jenkins gave their closing remarks and reflections on their season and careers before the night was closed by Sun Devil legend Bobby Douglas. The man that guided ASU to the 1988 NCAA Championship (the only title won in Division I wrestling by a team west of Oklahoma) spoke of the importance of wrestling in our nation’s history and future and the importance of ASU’s program continuing to thrive and return to prominence as the team did this year with its sixth-place finish.
2010-11 Arizona State Wrestling Awards
Newcomer of the Year • Bobby Bowman
Lion Heart Award • Jake Meredith
Most Improved • Levi Cooper
Granite Award • Eric Starks
Lifter of the Year • Carlos Castro
Most Outstanding • Anthony Robles & Bubba Jenkins
Steven Blackford Award • Levi Cooper
ASU Wrestling Appreciation Award • Alex Ryan (sports information)