Arizona State wrestling looks to measure their new lineup on Saturday against PAC-12 rival Little Rock. Despite being heavy favorites, the Sun Devils have a few question marks coming into the 2020-2021 season.
First of all, ASU wrestling will not have fans. Last season, the Sun Devil crowd became apparent when ASU upset No. 1 Penn State. However, head coach Zeke Jones is not worried about the home crowd effect.
“It’s certainly unfortunate that we won’t have the Sun Devil crowd this weekend. They’re truly the difference-maker,” Jones said. “We’re going to miss them but wrestling is wrestling, nothing changes inside that 40-foot circle. Whether there’s a million people or nobody when the whistle blows, we put our foot on the line and we get ready to wrestle.”
ASU wrestling will see some new faces on the mat too. With Zahid Valencia gone and Anthony Valencia dropping to 165 pounds, the Sun Devils had to fill the 174 and 184-pound gaps. Freshman Trey Munoz plans to take the 174-pound class by storm while senior Cade Belshay looks to upset the 184-pound world.
Jones’ confidence in Munoz and Belshay provide certainty that the two can rack up points for the Devils.
“Cade and Trey represent youth and experience and I feel confident that 174 and 184 will be strong,” Jones said. “We certainly never can fill the shoes of a Zahid Valencia, but we’re excited about them.”
Belshay is coming off a top four finish in the U23 Nationals and Munoz reached the semi finals in the Greco Nationals. The duo also combined for a 3-0 record at the Maroon vs. Gold scrimmage.
Besides Belshay and Munoz stepping into the heavier weights, Valencia is tackling the role of the captain. The well-polished Valencia steps in as a top-five wrestler. Jones and the squad will look to Valencia to add bonus points nearly every match.
Valencia took the challenge on this offseason. According to Jones, Valencia worked with assistant coach Frank Molinaro during the offseason. Valencia’s bottom has improved while his riding has near flawless.
Besides boosting his skills, Valencia is leading a youthful team. The young roster will feature a handful of underclassmen cracking the starting lineup. Yet, Jones is eager for two new faces in the lineup.
“I’m excited to watch them all compete,” Jones said. “I certainly want to see Cohlton Schultz wrestle. He’s gonna have a fantastic career. Also, Michael McGee is another one I’m really excited about. He was having a fantastic season last year until it got cut short.”
Schultz’s national campaign begins. The former number one pound-for-pound recruit will fill the shoes of heavyweight Tanner Hall. Schultz matchup against Little Rock’s Gabreil Beyer will be the one of the matches of the night.
Beyer previously committed to ASU before going on a mission a couple of years ago. Beyer decommitted and later joined Little Rock. Schultz, on the other hand, has a target on his back. He has already earned a spot at Olympic Trials and is considered a future top wrestler in the heavyweight class.
McGee is a transfer from Old Dominion. Despite being outside the top five in the 133-pound class, McGee was one of the hottest wrestlers heading into NCAAs last season. If he continues to roll, McGee can be an exciting wrestler on Saturday and into the latter part of the season.
ASU wrestling will top off their starting lineup on Saturday with some familiar faces as well. Jacori Teemer, Kordell Norfleet, and Brandon Courtney will also headline the roster against Little Rock.
The Sun Devils’ first match will start at 12 p.m. MST on PAC-12 plus.