Wrestling set for NCAA Championships
The Arizona State University wrestling team will send four individuals to compete at the NCAA National Championships this weekend in St. Louis, Mo., from March 15-17 at the Scottrade Center. The Sun Devils will be represented by Shane McGough (133), Nathan Hoffer (141), Kevin Radford (184) and Levi Cooper. McGough, Hoffer and Radford are all redshirt freshmen and will be experiencing their first-ever NCAA Championship experience while Cooper is advancing to the NCAA Championships for the second conscutive season after earning All-America honors in 2011.
• ASU's victory over CSU Bakersfield was the first road win for ASU in over a year and the first Pac-12 road victory since the 2009-10 season.
• Levi Cooper leads the team with 22 victories on the season and has placed in each of the team's tournaments this year
• Nathan Hoffer was the first member of the team to reach double digit is dual wins, earnng his 10th against Oklahoma State. His 12 dual wins on the season were tops of the team, despite being a freshman
• Levi Cooper upset the top-ranked returning NCAA Champion in Zach Rey of Lehigh at the Northeast Duals
• The Sun Devils took fourth at the Pac-12 Championships in Boise
• Redshirt freshman Shane McGough has logged 13 of his 18 victories this year with bonus points (8 falls, 4 majors, one tech fall)
• The Sun Devils return one All-American this season in heavyweight Levi Cooper • Cooper (HWT) is the only Sun Devil ranked by all of the major ranking services • Seventeen Sun Devils have experienced their first collegiate action this season, representing the overwhelming majority of competitors
IN THE RANKINGS - TEAM
The Sun Devils entered the season unranked for the first time since the 2008-09 season. This comes despite finishing sixth at the NCAA Championships last year, though the loss of national champions Anthony Robles and Bubba Jenkins and the very young team the Sun Devils will be fielding are likely to blame for their omittance. The team did not receive any votes in the most recent NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll.
The competition will be streamed live on espn.go.com with cameras set up on each mat. The first session will begin opn Thursday at 12 p.m. EST and continuing with a night session at 7 p.m. EST. Events will continue on Friday with broadcasts scheduled at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. EST and the final day have broadcasts at 11 a.m and 7:30 p.m. MST. Former Sun Devil national champion and multiple-time All-American Anthony Robles will serve as a guest analyst during the later rounds.
IN THE RANKINGS - INDIVIDUAL
Returning All-American Levi Cooper is the only Sun Devil consistently ranked by all of the major ranking services, and did himself a huge favor in upsetting former No. 1 Zach Rey at the Northeast Duals. The victory rocketed Cooper from the mid-teens in most rankings to the top-10 across the board, peaking at No. 4 by The Open Mat. Cooper got back into the win category after getting swept in Oklahoma with a pin against Bakersfield's Frankie Hurtado and finished the season with with an overtime victory over Stanford's Dan Scherer before taking second the Oregon State's Clayton Jack at the Pac-12 Championships.
A LOOK BACK: 2011 NCAA Championships
2011 marked one of the most successful season in Arizona State wrestling history. The Sun Devils posted two national champions and three All-Americans combined on their way to a sixth-place finish at the competition. Anthony Robles earned his third All-American award and first career National Championship at 125 pounds on his way to being named the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler for the performance. Teammate Bubba Jenkins won his own national title at 157 pounds, defeating Penn State' David Taylor by pin at 4:41. Notable about the performance was the fact that Jenkins once competed at for Penn State and Taylor was the student-athlete that replaced Jenkins at 157 pounds on the Nittany Lions roster after Jenkins transferred. Levi Cooper earned his first All-America honor at the heavyweight division with an eighth-place finish overall.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Levi Cooper was the only Sun Devils that didn't have to sweat out the week-and-a-half between the Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA at-large announcement. Cooper earned one of two automatic bids awarded to the Pac-12 in the heavyweight division with his runner-up finish at the Pac-12 Championships. Hoffer, McGough and Radford did not earn automatic bids and had to wait until the NCAA released its championship field last week to know their fates. All three freshmen earned an at-large bid at their weight class - one of only four available at each of the weight classes to advance to this weekend.
HANGING WITH MR. COOPER
After Levi Cooper's surprise falter in his second match of the season against Eastern Michigan's Wes Schroeder, the redshirt junior ripped off 13 consecutive victories in a streak that included an upset of top-ranked returning champion Zach Rey of Lehigh at the Northeast Duals. The streak came to an end in Las Vegas but Cooper has still established himself as one of the top heavyweights in the nation and will look to return to his All-America status attained last year. Cooper earned his 50th career victory in a decision over #18 Kyle Frey in Las Vegas. Cooper has also placed in all four tournaments the team has competed in this season after his runner-up finish in Boise. Cooper will face Michigan State's Steve Andrus in the opening round this weekend. Cooper defeated Andrus 7-4 in the team's season opener at the Eastern Michigan Open back in early November.
Shane McGough has begun to rise as the most exciting of ASU's young wrestlers this season, winning 13 of his 18 victories this season with bonus points - two of those coming at the Pac-12 Championships. Head coach Shawn Charles has praised the redshirt freshman as being that fire that gets people up and cheering on the bench and has gotten the crowd into the home matches this season. His 18 victories on the season rank him third on the team in a tie with Kevin Radford. His 84 points scored on the year, though, ranks him second on the squad behind only Levi Cooper's 92. McGough will take on the tournament's ninth-seeded Cashe Quiroga in the first round.
DON'T MESS WITH THE HOFF
Another Sun Devil on a hot streak is redshirt freshman Nathan Hoffer. After a fourth-place finish at the Eastern Michigan Open to start the season, Hoffer reeled off victories in six straight duals. The youngster had an up-and-down Decmeber and January but looks to be getting back on pace in winning five of his last seven duals, including an upset of #12 Josh Kindig against Oklahoma State. Hoffer became the first member of the team to reach double digits in dual meets and currently has 12 dual wins and 20 overall victories, second most on the team and most among the freshman. His 12 duals victories led the team and he had a solid showing in Boise on his way to a third-place finish. The Anchorage, Alaska, native didn't catch the easiest of draws though and will take on the No. 2 seed Kendrick Maple of Oklahoma. Maple defeated Hoffer 12-0 earlier this season in ASU's dual in Norman and was ranked No. 1 at the time.
PRETTY RAD, DUDE
Kevin Radford began making a case for being one of the top freshman on the team with an early-season upset upset of #18 Max Thomusseit before staying competitive with top- ranked Robert Hamlin. His consolation quarterfinal apperance at the Las Vegas Invitational showed his ability to bounce back from an early loss and Radford followed that up by post- ing a 4-2 record at the Reno Tournament of Champions tht saw him defeat No. 20 Matt Ryan of West Virginia and top-ranked NJCAA competitor Austin Morehead of Clackamas. Radford was the standout of the past weekend as the only Sun Devil to sweep his two duals, including an upset of #20 Erich Schmidtke of Oklahoma to improve to 13-10 on the season. His 18 wins rank him third on the team in a tie with Shane McGough. Radford finished 18-12 and will face Penn's Erich Smith, who Radford defeated earlier this season in a 5-2 decision. With a victory, Radford would likely face the top-seeded Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming in the second round.