Sports are my passion: Football, hockey, racing, and baseball are all exciting and heart-pumping. However, wrestling is number one in my heart. The sport captivated me when I was merely 7 years old and inspired me until I attended Arizona State University. A wrestler requires extreme dedication, emotional strength, and the grit for physical challenges. 2016 wouldn’t have been complete without heading over to Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) to watch my alma mater ASU Sun Devils compete at the 54th Annual Ken Kraft Midland Championships during final days of December (28-29). The Midlands showcases 400 wrestlers from over 39 teams!

After one day of competition, three ASU Sun Devils remained in contention for a title in their respective weight classes. Excited for day 2, I couldn’t wait to see how Zahid Valencia and Tanner Hall would finish. Both wrestlers won a pair of individual championships en route to a third-place finish at Midlands 54, the Devils’ best team placing at the prestigious tournament since 1989. Watching this tournament took me back to the 1985 ASU team led by Eddie Urbano. He won as an individual champion that year. Arizona State won the National Championship in 1986 with their combined points and not one single individual champion.

Proud of the impressive Sun Devils as this marked ASU’s first top-10 finish since 2001, first top-5 finish since 1997 and best finish since winning the tournament in 1989.

Zahid Valencia has been wrestling throughout high school and now as a Redshirt freshman has remained undefeated. Afterwards, The team went to 2017 Virginia Duals on 1/13-1/14 where Valencia was named Most Outstanding Wrestler of the 2017 Virginia Duals as voted upon by the coaches in attendance. Tanner Hall, ASU sophomore, also champions a highly respectable record in the heavyweight division. Wrestling since high school, he took third place over Benjamin Tynan (North Dakota State) 4-1.

Takedowns, cradles, duck under, penetration shot…the list of wrestling moves are endless. As a coach for 11 years for middle schools and high schools, wrestling requires stamina, speed, flexibility, and intense muscle conditioning. ASU Sun Devils coach Zeke Jones absolutely has these men on track to be a National Powerhouse….Watch them against Illinois in Tempe, AZ on 1/29/17.

Frank G Karkazis - Northbrook Patch