ASU’s wrestlers have had this week circled on their calendars for quite some time. Their national ranking will, indeed, be tested over the next six days.
The No. 24 Sun Devils will close out 2010 with one of the toughest events in college wrestling and then begin 2011 by facing the No. 2 team in the nation.
Arizona State will send four individuals attached to the school, and five unattached, to the prestigious Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill. Those representing ASU include Josh Sandoval (125), David Prado (133), Luke Macchiaroli (197), and Michael Hawkins (285).
Macchiaroli is a local product and one of the bright new stars on the horizon for ASU. The redshirt freshman graduated from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe before spending a semester at Penn State and then transferring in to ASU. He was a three-time state champion at Corona and finished his prep career with a 179-9 record.
The event runs Wednesday and Thursday and will include some of the top individual wrestlers and teams from across the country, competing at the Welsh-Ryan Arena, which is home to the Northwestern University program.
Then on Sunday the Sun Devils will be back home to host No. 2 Oklahoma State (3-0), which has already defeated two top 10 teams this season, No. 3 Minnesota and No. 8 Oklahoma.
Eight wrestlers from the Cowboys squad are ranked in the Top 20, including No. 1 Jordan Oliver at 133 lbs. and No. 5 Clayton Foster at 197. OSU has won the last 14 meetings between the two schools and has lost just four out of the 40 times they’ve met.
But ASU is coming into the week on a roll, following an impressive fourth-place finish at the Reno Tournament of Champions, where four Sun Devils placed among the Top 6 at the event.
Anthony Robles (125) and Levi Cooper (Heavyweight) both won titles, Eric Starks placed third at 174, and Bubba Jenkins added a sixth-place finish at 157.
Robles, who won five times on the day via four tech fouls and one decision, recorded his 100th victory of his career at ASU. The senior from Mesa High School became the 23rd different Sun Devil to reach the 100 plateau.
This was the second time Cooper reached a tournament final and he started the ball rolling with a pin in 2:49 of his first match. He went on to become the only unseeded wrestler in the event to reach the final of a weight class, and also the only champion that was not seeded either No. 1 or No. 2.
Starks didn’t win a title, but his third-place finish was made all the more impressive by the fact that he was pinned in his first match and then, coming up through the consolation bracket, had to reel off seven wins in a row to place.
ASU’s performance in Reno kept them in the Top 25 nationally, and Boise State (No. 7) and Oregon State (No. 13) are the only other Pac-10 programs now ranked ahead of the Devils.
(Photo: ASU Athletics/Alex Ryan)