- Written by Mollie Hanke Mollie Hanke
- Published: 20 April 2018 20 April 2018
Paradise Valley, Arizona - o celebrate a historic 2017-18 season, coaches, staff, student-athletes, and supporters from Arizona State wrestling gathered at Paradise Valley Country Club tonight.
Several awards were given out as well as several speeches from members of the coaching staff, administrative staff, and team.
For the first time, academic coach Denzel Burrell awarded two Sun Devil wrestlers the award for Academic Wrestler of the Year – Andy Gandara, who boasts a 4.0 GPA as a computer science major, and Cade Belshay, an agricultural business major who joined Barrett, the Honors College, in spring 2018 as a freshman.
As a team, Burrell noted that a 3.11 cumulative team GPA for wrestling in fall 2017 marked the third-highest for a male team at ASU, "leaps and bounds above where we've been in the past."
Strength coach Rich Wenner presented Josh Shields the Sun Devil Strong Award, noting it was a "no brainer" for the redshirt sophomore All-American.
Pac-12 champion and one of just 16 true freshmen to compete at the 2018 NCAA Championships, Kordell Norfleet earned the Wrestling Newcomer of the Year Award as announced by assistant coach Lee Pritts.
Fellow assistant coach Chris Pendleton bestowed upon Shields his second award of the evening as he took home the award for Most Improved, rising from an NCAA qualifier to an All-American between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Head coach Zeke Jones also announced that Pritts would be coaching the USA Cadet Freestyle World Team this summer while Pendleton would be coaching the Pan-American Championships in Peru.
Alongside the coaching and support staff, hosts Joo and David Cantor and senior associate athletics directors Scottie Graham and Don Bocchi also gave remarks throughout the evening.
The final award, Outstanding Wrestler of the Year, was given for the second straight season to 2018 national champion Zahid Valencia.
"I look at all our All-Americans and you could call any of those outstanding," said Jones. "There were a lot of outstanding performances this year up and down the lineup. We're all witnessing greatness this year."
"I'm just really excited for what the future holds," said Valencia. "We have a lot of newcomers and recruits coming in and I'm just looking forward to getting better and eventually being on top of that podium with our team."
Valencia was also honored for his national championship at 174 lbs, becoming just the 11th all-time Sun Devil to complete that feat, while Shields and Jason Tsirtsis were honored for earning All-American status in 2018.
The senior class – Ali Naser, Anthony Anderson, Oliver Pierce, Christian Pagdilao, Jason Tsirtsis, and Michael Fujimori – as well as the 2018 Pac-12 championship team was also recognized.
To close the evening, the former and current Sun Devil wrestlers in attendance were asked to gather for a group picture, which shockingly comprised the majority of the banquet and showed the support of former student-athletes in the current wrestling community and family.
Academic Wrestler(s) of the Year – Andy Gandara and Cade Belshay
Sun Devil Strong Award – Josh Shields
Wrestling Newcomer of the Year – Kordell Norfleet
Most Improved – Josh Shields
Outstanding Wrestler of the Year – Zahid Valencia