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When the Sun Devil wrestlers hit the mats in the 1950’s at ASU, they knew their blood, sweat, and sacrifices would put in motion the powerful legacy that is “Sun Devil Wrestling". With one NCAA National Championship, 11 individual championships, and over 100 All-Americans, wrestlers know they can build a special career at Arizona State. The mats at ASU have held recent champions like Zahid Valencia, Anthony Robles and Bubba Jenkins and historical greats like Cain Velasquez, Eric Larkin and Dan St. John. This is strength. This is success. This is Sun Devil Wrestling.
At the start of the 2005-06 season, the Arizona State University wrestling program moved into the new Riches Wrestling Complex. The 9,600 square foot complex affords the Sun Devil wrestlers a spacious setting in which to prepare for the best Division I athletes in the nation. The wrestling program equipped its new home with three full size (40 x 40) competition mats spread out over 7,200 square feet of usable mat space. The remaining 24,000 square feet house 40 lockers along with showers and restrooms.
The ASU Wrestling program is ultra-competitive on the mats and in the classroom. The student-athletes work closely with the Office of Student-Athlete Development to ensure that they hold the student-first mindset and have repeatedly held outstanding team GPAs. In 2014, ASU’s own Chace Eskam was named the Pac-12 Wrestling Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Through the years, the Sun Devils have earned 58 Pac-12 All-Academic nods and 28 of those have come within the last decade. Of those 58 selections, 31 of them have been first-team honorees.
The Pac-12 Conference is highly competitive featuring CSU Bakersfield, Stanford, Oregon State, and Cal Poly along with ASU. In 2016, the Sun Devils hosted the event in Tempe, the fourth time since 1995 and the second time since 2004 and the championships will return to Tempe once again in 2019.
Since joining the Pac-12 wrestling ranks for the 1978-79 season, the Sun Devils have won 18 of 40 Pac-10/12 Championships that have been contested and trail only Oregon State (22) for most in Pac-12 history. Through the years, ASU has had 86 different athletes win 147 individual conference championships. The Sun Devils are also the only team out of the league to win an NCAA Championship. Of the 36 NCAA Individual Championships won by Pac-12 Conference student-athletes, 11 have come from ASU.
The powerhouse that is Sun Devil Wrestling boasts one National Championship, 11 individual NCAA Championships, 20 Conference Titles (18 Pac-10/12 and two WAC) and over 100 All-Americans. The Sun Devils are the only program west of the Rockies to ever win an NCAA team championship, doing so in 1988.
They also have sent eight wrestlers to the Olympics over the course of six Summer Games, with head coach Zeke Jones and Townsend Saunders each earning silver medals on the grandest stage. Jones would go on to be an assistant coach for the U.S. national team for several Olympiads before taking over as the head U.S. Freestyle Coach for the 2012 London Games. Zeke returned to his alma mater in 2014 as head coach.
Additionally, many ASU wrestlers have become MMA stars including Cain Velasquez and Ryan Bader. ASU Wrestling also is proud to have been the school of two NCAA Champions in 2011 alone, Anthony Robles and Bubba Jenkins.
Arizona State Wrestling has fostered many multiple-time All-Americans over the years.
The Sun Devil wrestling program has established itself as a hotbed for Mixed Martial Arts talent, with numerous former-student athletes going on to long and lucrative careers in the assorted divisions of MMA. Current UFC fans will recognize the faces of Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader, CB Dollaway and John Moraga while the more seasoned fan will relate to the like of Dan Severn and Dan Henderson.
The Sun Devils have produced nearly 20 wrestlers out of the program that have gone on to utilize their skills professionally and perhaps none more so in recent memory than Velasquez, who is a two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion and Ryan Bader who won the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship in 2017.
The Sun Devils’ success can only be a positive reflection of the coaching staff. Zeke Jones, member of the 1988 NCAA Championship team, was hired in April of 2014 to take over the program. ASU’s seventh head coach in program history, Jones was the USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach. Joining Jones are his two assistant coaches, 20+ year coaching veteran Lee Pritts, and two-time NCAA Champion from Oklahoma State, Chris Pendleton.