College wrestling: Arizona State captures first Pac-12 title in 11 years
PALO ALTO, Calif. – For the first time in 11 years, Arizona State wrestling will be bringing a conference championship trophy home to Tempe after winning the 2017 Pac-12 Wrestling Championship by a 4.5-point margin over the host Stanford Cardinal, 127-122.5. CSU Bakersfield (92) finished third, Oregon State fourth (91.5), Boise State fifth (79) and Cal Poly sixth (78).
ASU's 19th all-time conference championship and 17th in the Pac-12 comes also thanks to five individual champions for the Sun Devils: Josh Maruca (149), Josh Shields (157), Anthony Valencia (165), Zahid Valencia (174), and Tanner Hall (HWT). Five marks the most title winners the Sun Devils have had since 2003 when ASU had six champions.
"It means a lot to have all our administrators here and it always starts with leadership," said head coach Zeke Jones. "All of our guys put their all into making this weekend all that it was, whether it's on the mat or in the back room as practice partners. It takes a lot of us to get it done. We have a very young team and we're not done yet but it's a good start. These guys are going to be a part of the leadership of our team for a very long time."
ASU also led all teams with seven individuals advancing to Sunday evening's championship finals as Josh Kramer (125) and Jacen Petersen (184) also pulled off upsets en route to a pair of second place finishes.
Sophomore Tanner Hall credited the entire team effort that contributed to the title saying that "many times the champions are the ones that get all the publicity but I think it's important to recognize everyone, especially Jacen Petersen and Josh Kramer who did more than was expected of them and without them, we couldn't have won."
Zahid Valencia, who remains undefeated (33-0) on his freshman campaign, was named Most Outstanding Wrestler for the Pac-12 tournament, also receiving the award for most falls in the tournament.
Valencia's Most Outstanding award was a first for ASU since 2009 when Anthony Robles, one of the commentators on the call for the Pac-12 Network broadcast, won the same award and was just the Sun Devils' 11th all-time.
Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson, as well as multiple administrators and support staff, were in attendance and the championship was especially meaningful for him, as his first Pac-12 champion as athletics director.
"This is a great place to start," said Anderson, "but we have a long, illustrious road ahead. Thank you to all the student-athletes and their families. President Crow texted his hearty congratulations and as a former wrestler, he understands everything that goes into successes like this. Thank you to Zeke, Art Martori, and all the supporters – we're just getting started."
The five Pac-12 champions will now prepare for next month's NCAA championships in St. Louis, Mo. March 16-18.