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ASU wrestling aims to excel in classroom, on the mat

ASU wrestler Blake Stauffer on the mat
April 22, 2015

When the Arizona State wrestling team hits the mat next season, it will be stacked with the 2015 Pac-12 Wrestler of the Year, six national qualifiers, two Pac-12 champions and the No. 1-ranked signing class in the nation.

But athletics aren’t the only way the program – under second-year coach Zeke Jones ­– is aiming to be a powerhouse. Members of the team want to shine in the classroom, too.

“Kids that want to be successful academically, Arizona State provides them the education,” Jones said, who is also an ASU alumnus. “Those that want to be successful on the wrestling mat, we’ve been coaching and producing champions for many years. I just think the marriage is good, and that’s why we’re attracting these type of kids through recruiting.”

ASU redshirt junior wrestler Blake Stauffer, who recently won the 2015 Pac-12 Wrestler of the Year award, said the chance to be coached by a world-class coach like Jones and to take advantages of the academic resources available on the ASU campus is the best of both worlds.

“It’s hard to be good at something and just be OK at a lot of other things,” Stauffer said. “They preach to be great at everything you do, not just one specific thing. … Coaches definitely push us to have success in the classroom, and I agree with what they say.”

Two wrestlers in ASU’s signing class for the upcoming season will be enrolled in Barrett, The Honors College when both arrive for summer school and training with Jones.

Connor Small, from Liberty High School in Issaquah, Wash, is one of them.

Small said academics were always a priority when choosing a college. Enrolling in a program like Barrett was essential for him and his family, he said.

“My parents have always been very supportive, and after we got the call about wrestling for ASU we had a big talk about what ASU offered. … They helped me explore the Barrett side of it and really how it would work out financially,” Small said.

He is planning to go into business and major in economics and minor in marketing – or vice versa, depending on which classes he enjoys.

If he stays at ASU for five years due to a possible redshirt year, Small said he definitely wants to take his education a step further and earn his master’s degree.

“Knowing that Zeke Jones really pushes academics and wrestling, I’m really excited to make that balance and be at a program that lets you flourish in the wrestling room and in the academic room,” Small said.

Tanner Hall will be joining Small at Barrett.

“Obviously in wrestling I like to excel and do the best I can, and I want to do the same with my academics and I figured Barrett was the best place for that,” Hall said. “I looked at what they offer there and the organization they offer there and how much it could benefit me, and I’m that person that doesn’t want to be average at anything.”

Hall is a two-time junior world team member, three-time state champion and three-time junior national champion, holds a 4.0 GPA and just got back from a two-year mission to Uganda.

Hall, an Idaho native, is planning to major an engineering field, most likely electrical. His mother is a math teacher, and he said that helped him excel in math and science and steer him into the engineering field. He will be taking “Calculus for Engineers” and an English class this summer to lighten his workload for fall when wrestling picks up.

Getting the chance to earn an engineering degree while wrestling for a highly touted coach such as Jones is the best balance for a student-athlete, Hall said.

“Zeke Jones, he’s a great technician,” Hall said. “He’s one of the best in the game.”

Written by Samantha Pell, ASU News