ASU will send five to the NCAA Wrestling Championships

The good news for ASU wrestling is they will be able to send five of this year’s squad to compete at the NCAA Championships this weekend, more than double last year’s number.

The better news is that the Devils will lose only one of those to graduation.

Erik Nye, wrestling in the heavyweight division, is the senior.  He made the field by receiving an at-large berth after placing sixth at the Pac-10 Championships. He will be joined in Nebraska by teammates Anthony Robles (125 lbs), Ben Ashmore (133), Chris Drouin (141), and Te Edwards (157).  Edwards is a sophomore and the other three are juniors.

Robles is a local product, well known to Arizona wrestling fans during his high school career at Mesa HS, where he went 48-0 during matches his last two years.  He’s now the defending Pac-10 champion at 125 and entered this season ranked as the No. 3 wrestler in the nation at that weight category.

Robles, who has received a lot of press for his abilities as a one-legged athlete, will be the No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.  He is a returning All-American, thanks to his fourth-place finish in 2009.  His record this year is 28-2 and he’s on a 14-match winning streak.

Robles and Drouin have both been ranked throughout the season by Amateur Wrestling News in the Top 20 for their respective weight classes, with Robles at No. 3, where he’s been for most of the year, and Drouin at No. 16.

Drouin’s record this year is 20-11, but all of those 11 losses have been to national qualifiers.  Perhaps his biggest achievement this year was his win over Reese Humphrey of Ohio State.  Humphrey was the top-ranked wrestler in the nation at 141 and was undefeated until running into Drouin, who won in overtime, 3-1.

In addition to returning the four NCAA participants next year, the ASU program had a strong recruiting class, considered by many analysts as one of the best in the nation, as high as No. 10, following the early signing period.

Another local product, Shane McGough,  is included in the 2010 recruiting class.   McGough, from Scottsdale, is one of the best wrestlers in the state at 130 lbs. and is ranked No. 9 nationally.

The competition begins tomorrow at the NCAA Championships in Omaha and runs through Saturday night, when 10 individual national champions are crowned.  There will also be a team champion named and 80 All-America honors given out.  Individuals must win five matches to become a national champion, while the top eight wrestlers in each weight class will earn the All-America distinction.

ASU has had 64 different wrestlers earn 108 All-America distinctions, beginning in 1965.  Since becoming a varsity program in the 1962-63 year, the Devils have had at least one wrestler represent the program at 45 of the possible 48 NCAA championships.

This year, Anthony Robles will have his own personal challenges to confront.

He will likely get a chance to avenge his only losses this season, against Eric Morrill, who defeated him at the Reno Tournament of Champions in a 4-3 decision, and Angel Escobedo, the tournament’s No. 1 seed.

And he and Drouin, the only wrestlers who competed for ASU at last year’s Championships, hope to move beyond the semi-finals this year.

But Morrill and Escobedo undoubtedly have something else in mind in the  125 class.

(Robles Photo: Alex Ryan/ASU Athletics)