ASU sits up top in PAC-12 wrestling preview

The East Coast runs the wrestling culture compared to the West Coast. However, the Conference of Champions tries to compete with the Big 10, Big 12, and ACC.

Arizona State places the PAC-12 in the race with the big boys in the East. However, the other four teams have a few wrestlers that are ready to compete for a national championship.

Looking at the PAC-12, what wrestlers look to take the throne in each weight class and which team will rule over the West.

125 pounds

  1. #55 Gabe Townsell – Stanford
  2. #34 Brandon Courtney – ASU
  3. #99 Brandon Kaylor – Oregon St.
  4. Ben Martinez – Cal Poly
  5. Beni Banduenga- CSU Bakersfield

Although Courtney sits higher in the rankings, he has limited experience in Folkstyle as a sophomore and will be sharing time with Freshman Nick Raimo. Gabe Townsell is coming off a 2nd place finish in the 2019 PAC-12 Championships to Oregon State’s alum Ronnie Bresser. With Bresser graduated, it should be the first place to finish his collegiate career.

Kaylor ends the top-3 podium even with the limited time on the mat. After training with Bresser, Kaylor hides in the top-100 ranking and will turn heads early and often.

Martinez jumps over Banduenga after finishing fourth in the PAC-12 Championships. Neither one of these guys will be a definite spot in either roster.

133 Pounds

  1. #52 Devan Turner – Oregon St.
  2. #35 Josiah Kline – ASU
  3. #17 Chance Rich – CSU Bakersfield
  4. #59 Dalton Young – Stanford
  5. Trae Vasquez – Cal Poly

Devan Turner headlines the 133-pound class after defeating Kline once and Rich twice last season. Turner is ranked far behind but will jump higher coming into conference play. Kline jumps over Rich temporarily after a decently strong performance last season. After arriving in third to powerhouses Sean Nickell and Mason Pengilly, Kline is inches away from leaping into the number one spot.

Rich comes in with the best seed, but with an 8-4 record and coming in as a redshirt freshman, he will be bullied early until he finds his rhythm. Young is close in the rankings to Turner but will not live up to the ranking. Vasquez is blown out of the water after sneaking in the top-150 rankings.

141 Pounds

  1. #31 Grant Willits – Oregon St.
  2. #99 Corey Crooks – ASU
  3. #10 Real Woods
  4. #68 Angelo Martinoni- CSU Bakersfield
  5. Jake Ryan – Cal Poly

It’s hard to dispute the top-2 when they faced off in the PAC-12 Championships against one another. The two also made decent runs in the NCAA Championships before falling before medal rounds. Real Woods is ranked tenth but will not be able to withstand the speed and intelligence of Crooks and the speed and strength of Grant Willits.

Martinoni falls fourth ahead of Ryan, who is nowhere close to the rest of the competition.

149 Pounds

  1. #14 Requir van der Merwe – Stanford
  2. #22 Josh Maruca – ASU
  3. #29 Russell Rohlfing – CSU Bakersfield
  4. #17 Lane Stigall/ #20 Daxton Gordon- Oregon St.
  5. Joshua Cortez – Cal Poly

The gold, silver, and bronze all return and fall back in order. After Requir van der Merwe defeated Maruca and Rohlfing in the duals and PAC-12 Championships, he sits atop alone until beaten.

Oregon St. is dealing with Stigall transferring from Wyoming. He beat Gordon in a close bout, but the starter is up in the air. Also, with these two not able to beat Rohlfing, they will sit on the outside looking in for now.

Cortez once again cannot carry Cal Poly into contention.

157 Pounds

  1. #8 Jacori Teemer – ASU
  2. #46 Hunter Willits – Oregon St.
  3. #69 Brawley Lamer – Cal Poly
  4. #43 Dominick Mandarino – Stanford
  5. #91 Wyatt Gerl – CSU Bakersfield

Willits had the opening to jumping from second in PAC-12 to first after Arizona State’s Christian Pagdilao graduated. However, coach Zeke Jones hit the power part of his lineup. Jacori Teemer not only dominates this class but will make a legitimate push for an NCAA Championship after redshirting last season.

Lamer placed fourth last season in PAC-12 and will bring back his excellent neutral skills to shut down Mandarino and Gerl. Cal Poly will be relying on Lamer tremendously this season.

165 Pounds

  1. #5 Josh Shields – ASU
  2. #10 Shane Griffith – Stanford
  3. #73 Jacob Thalin – CSU Bakersfield
  4. Aaron Olmos – Oregon St.
  5. Bernie Truax – Cal Poly

After coming off a 6th place in the 2019 NCAA Championships, Josh Shields will not only sit on the gold in PAC-12, but he will fight for at least bronze for the NCAA Championships. Griffith sits behind after defeating Thalin last season by a major decision. He also lost by a small margin (6-4 dec.) to Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph.

Although Olmos defeated Thalin last season in the PAC-12 consolation match, Thalin comes in ranked as a senior and ready to avenge the loss.

Truax and Cal Poly looks to complete the 165-pound class by fighting for a 10-win season this season.

174 Pounds

  1. #9 Anthony Valencia – ASU
  2. #45 Colt Doyle – Oregon St.
  3. #73  Jared Hill – Stanford
  4. #92 Matt Wilhelm – Cal Poly
  5. Albert Urias – CSU Bakersfield

Anthony Valencia tops the board after coming off a redshirt season. The two-time PAC-12 champion and NCAA qualifier will be looking to make a run for the medal rounds in the NCAAs this season. Sitting far behind is Doyle and Hill. These two wrestlers match up very well and can lap over each other several times as well as exceed expectations.

Wilhelm is sneaking around in the top-100 for now, but in the latter part of the season, he and Urias will be competing for the fourth and fifth spots.

184 Pounds

  1.  #1 Zahid Valencia – ASU
  2. #46 Judah Duhm – Stanford
  3. Noe Garcia -CSU Bakersfield
  4. Nathan Tausch – Cal Poly
  5. Jackson McKinney – Oregon St.

The two-time NCAA champion, Zahid Valencia, tops the 184- pound class with ease. After competing in several competitions in the offseason, including qualifying for Worlds and the Olympics, Valencia’s low-level style will be superior to his fellow PAC-12 competitors.

Valencia’s goal is to not fall in a trap match in the PAC-12 and finish the regular season with the worst option being a 2-seed. He is jumping up a weight class this season and will be facing the almighty Penn State in Tempe, Arizona, for a litmus test.

Duhm is the only other surefire option to have a decent season, but with Stanford having the second-toughest schedule in the PAC-12, he may fall down in the rankings too.

197 pounds

  1. #7 Nathan Traxler – Stanford
  2. #29 Kordell Norfleet – ASU
  3. #14 Thomas Lane – Cal Poly
  4. #36 Dom Ducharme – CSU Bakersfield
  5. #80 JJ Dixon – Oregon St.

Based on the rankings, four of the five wrestlers are placed in the top-40. This will make the 197-pound class the most exciting class to watch out for in the 2019-2020 season.

Nathan Traxler made a deep run into the NCAA Championships after annihilating the competition in the PAC-12. He currently does not look beatable by the PAC-12 opponents.

However, right behind his Arizona State’s Kordell Norfleet. The football player stature and mentality make Norfleet an intimidating factor in the country. Penn State and some top teams cannot overlook Norfleet after his previous success. Coming off a medical redshirt, he looks to compete for the PAC-12 title.

Lane sits in the third spot even though he finished second in the PAC-12 last season. Due to a loss to Norfleet earlier in his career, Norfleet lies one step ahead until the two dual it out.

Ducharme and Dixon can both be in consideration for bids in the NCAA Championships based on success in their collegiate career. Despite their success, they fail to reach over the hump and defeat the top-3 individuals in this class.

285 pounds

  1. #10 Tanner Hall – ASU
  2. #76 Jarrod Snyder- CSU Bakersfield
  3. #31 Trevor Rasmussen – Stanford
  4. #97 Jamarcus Grant – Oregon St.
  5. Nicolas Iversen – Cal Poly

Similar to Clemson football in the ACC, the heavyweight division is top-heavy. Tanner Hall took a redshirt last season as well, letting freshman Brady Daniel start, but is looking to return. He finished third in the NCAA two years ago, and with Oregon State’s brick wall heavyweight Amarveer Deshi gone, it’s wide open for Hall to add to the trophy case.

Snyder is ranked above Rasmussen due to Rasmussen’s struggle to wrestle up to his potential. Last season, he dominated anyone outside the top-50 rankings, but could not compete with the best of the best. Snyder also has a 2-0 record against Rasmussen in college.

Grant is trying to fill the shoes of Deshi but is nowhere close to being ready to face a top-50 opponent after going 0-2 in the PAC-12 Championships last year.


Four teams have two to three individual wrestlers competing for the PAC-12 and NCAA belt, but Arizona State has more.

Jones and the Sun Devils finished with the second-best recruiting class in the country. They also return Norfleet, A. Valencia, and Hall from redshirts as well as Z. Valencia and Shields making one last push for the gold.

The sun Devils have the firepower to shock the wrestling world by upsetting the Penn State dynasty and bringing an NCAA Championship to the West Coast.

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Nick Zeller-Singh

I am currently a sports journalist at Arizona State University. I write stories for ASU Volleyball and Softball. I also appear on camera as an analyst for ASU Football, Volleyball, and Softball. I have 4 radio shows that have been nominated for IBS awards (Intercollegiate Broadcasting System) for best college sports shows in the nation. I do play-by-play and color commentating for every ASU sport. I am an assistant production director at Blaze Radio (3rd best college radio station in the nation).

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