College wrestling: Arizona State wins its first Virginia Duals championship vs. UNI, Virginia Tech
HAMPTON, Va. – No. 10 Arizona State wrestling earned a historic set of victories on the final day of the Virginia Duals, defeating No. 11 Northern Iowa, 24-16, and No. 9 Virginia Tech, 21-15, en route to their first-ever Virginia Duals championship at the 38th annual tournament.
"The overall effort was great and we've made some tremendous improvement over the last two weeks and it showed in the tournament," said head coach Zeke Jones. "It was a collective effort in every dual by our willingness to do it the hard way, fight for every point, and give nothing away for free.
"We wrestled like it mattered, like we cared, like it was important to us. We'll enjoy the tournament win tonight and get back to work tomorrow.
In the title match vs. the reigning champions, the Sun Devils once again took an early lead, 7-0, and earned a 13-3 lead at the halfway point.
Following a Virginia Tech major decision at 165, Zahid Valencia earned a tech fall, 21-6, to put the Sun Devils back up by double digits, 18-7. The Hokies would pull within three, 18-15, on back-to-back major decisions before Tanner Hall ensured the victory with a decision.
"The 'game ball' goes to Tanner for getting the final win in the last two matches to seal the dual meet victories for us. Ali knocked off a couple of top-12 guys, including No. 3, over the weekend while Josh Kramer and Ryan Millhof took out a couple top-12's plus everyone else doing their part to get the team's hand raised."
In the semifinal vs. No. 11 Northern Iowa, Millhof and Ali Naser took an early 6-0 lead for the Sun Devils on back-to-back decisions but UNI tied it up in the following two bouts.
ASU regained the lead at 157 with a Josh Shields decision and jumped out to their biggest lead of the dual, 18-6, with back-to-back bonus point victories from Anthony Valencia (165) on a tech fall and Z. Valencia (174) on a major decision.
The Panthers pulled within two, 18-16, on a major decision at 184 and a fall at 197 but Hall came through for the Sun Devils with a fall of his own at heavyweight in 4:12.
Zahid Valencia won his second consecutive Outstanding Wrestler Award of the VA Duals.
This was some kind of display of scrambling, mat awareness and mettle by Zahid Valencia, even though the pin got waved off. The @ASUWrestling 174-pounder wound up winning by tech in Arizona State's win over Virginia Tech in the Virginia Duals. pic.twitter.com/RUgmprGXRy— Trackwrestling (@trackwrestling) January 14, 2018
"Zahid continues to show the nation why he's in the discussion as one of the best wrestlers there is."
The Sun Devils return home after being on the road for competitions since late November to open their Pac-12 schedule vs. Stanford (Jan. 19/8 pm MT) and Oregon State (Jan. 20/1:30 pm MT).
On Friday, ASU wrestling will honor MMA stars and on Saturday, the 1988 NCAA Championship team returns to Tempe.