No. 9 Nebraska escapes major wrestling upset by ASU

The Nebraska Cornhuskers seem to have a grip on Shawn Charles that is becoming increasingly difficult to shake.

Charles, the head wrestling coach at Arizona State, will undoubtedly have many memories to carry with him after his coaching career at ASU is through – but the two most vivid right now undoubtedly involve the Huskers.

Last year Charles was in just the third season at the helm of the Sun Devil program when the Huskers handed him the worst loss of his short career in Tempe – and also one of the worst setbacks in program history.  Nebraska, undefeated at the time, blanked the Devils, 42-0 – just the fifth time there has been a shut-out in the history of the program.  The 42 points tied for the most scored against a Sun Devil team.

A couple additional elements added to the embarrassment of the lopsided loss.  First, it was in front of a home crowd at Wells Fargo Arena.  And second, it was to Charles’ former team.

Following an outstanding college career at ASU where he was a four-time All-American and twice an individual national runner-up, Charles has been all over the country as he worked his way up the coaching ladder, and had been on staff at schools in four different conferences: Big 12, Mid-American Conference, Ivy League, and the Western Athletic Conference.

One of those stops was at Nebraska, where he served as the head assistant coach from 2001 – 2005.  He helped that school to two top-10 national finishes.

ASU and Nebraska met again over the weekend – and created another memorable moment in Charles’ career.  This one became an enjoyable memory, despite the outcome.

The Sun Devils, competing on the road in Lincoln, gave the No. 9-ranked Cornhuskers all they could handle as the match went to the wire and wasn’t decided until the final match when the Huskers’ Robert Kokesh, ranked eighth in the country, met up with No. 11 Blake Stauffer.

An 8-3 Kokesh win was the only thing that kept ASU from an upset that would have become a signature win for Charles – and the entire Sun Devil program.

Nebraska started the match Saturday with a win to go up 3-0, but the Sun Devils came back with three straight victories by Jake Meredith (197), Levi Cooper (HWT), and Dalton Miller (125).

Cooper, the only returning All-American on this year’s squad, avenged an overtime loss last year to Nebraska’s No. 10-ranked Tucker Lane, just the sixth loss of that season for the redshirt junior who wrestled in two different programs before coming to ASU.

This year Cooper is having a break-out year on a squad that is enjoying its best start in dual competitions since the 2007-08 season.  He and Meredith are the only upperclassmen on the roster; both are redshirt seniors.

It’s a young team this year, with 26 underclassmen that include a fair share of freshmen, that entered the season un-ranked.  But the squad is 5-2 through the first four weeks of the season, and 1-0 in the Pac-12.  The Devils will play host to the Pac-12 Championships this year.

There will be plenty of time to re-group after the heartbreak loss to Nebraska.  The team is off the mats until Jan. 1 when the Sun Devils take part in the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tenn.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)