There’s almost three weeks between the end of the Pac-12 Conference wrestling tournament and the start of the NCAA Division I Championships on March 18.
The tournament is over and the Arizona State Sun Devils just pocketed their fourth Pac-12 Conference title in the last five years. Now there’s a lot of time to think about the biggest event of the season that lies ahead.
And for five ASU wrestlers, a chance to soak in the successes they’ve enjoyed so far this season.
All five — Brandon Courtney, Jacori Teemer, Anthony Valencia, Kordell Norfleet, and Cohlton Schultz — went through the regular season undefeated. And then each added an individual title at the conference tournament to their list of accomplishments for the 2020-21 season.
Those five NCAA qualifiers are now getting ready to compete at the NCAA Championships that will run March 18-20 at St. Louis, Mo.
They will move forward with the momentum that comes with dominating their opponents at the Pac-12 tournament. Courtney won a 7-2 decision over Stanford’s Jackson DiSario in a re-visit of last year’s championship match at 125 pounds, Teemer jumped out to a quick lead over Hunter Willits at 157 with a takedown and then proceeded to a 9-4 decision over the Oregon State wrestler, Norfleet took down OSU’s J.J. Dixon in a 16-4 win at 197, and Schultz won his match against Stanford’s Nathan Traxler in a 3-1 decision..
But it was Valencia who drew the most attention. The senior, seeded No. 4, dominated in his 8-1 victory in the semifinals, and then used three takedowns to defeat the No. 1 seed, Stanford’s Shane Griffith, for the title at 165.
For his efforts, Valencia was named the 2021 Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships.
Valencia also became just the third Sun Devil wrestler to win a fourth conference title.
This was the 22nd conference championship in the history of the ASU program, and the 20th during the Pac-10/12 era. The Devils won going away with 138 total team points.
The ASU program has returned to the national power it had been back in the ’90s, and it all began with the hire of head coach Zeke Jones in April of 2014 to begin the rebuilding process. The only time in the last five years that the Devils failed to win the conference title, they finished runner-up.
Now, seven years after the Jones hire, the ASU program is showing the winning consistency that marks a legitimate national contender — not just success for a season or two, but continued excellence, year after year.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)