2021 NCAA Champion Shane Griffith (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarrior.com)
InterMat has released its preseason All-Pac-12 first and second teams, along with preseason conference Wrestler of the Year, preseason Newcomer of the Year, and preseason team favorite. We've used the term "Newcomer" since there is the possibility of wrestlers that competed at the national tournament in 2021, being called "freshmen."
First-Team Preseason All-Pac-12
125 lbs - Brandon Courtney (Arizona State) 2021 NCAA Runner-Up, 2x Pac-12 Champ
133 lbs - Michael McGee (Arizona State) 2021 NCAA 6th Place, 2x MAC Champ (Old Dominion)
141 lbs - Real Woods (Stanford) 2021 NCAA Round of 12 Finisher, 2020 Pac-12 Champ
149 lbs - Jaden Abas (Stanford) 2021 NCAA 7th Place, 2021 Pac-12 Champ
157 lbs - Jacori Teemer (Arizona State) 2021 NCAA 4th Place, 2x Pac-12 Champ
165 lbs - Shane Griffith (Stanford) 2021 NCAA Champ, 2021 Pac-12 Champ
174 lbs - Trey Munoz (Oregon State) 2021 NCAA Qualifier, 2021 Pac-12 Runner-Up
184 lbs - Bernie Truax (Cal Poly) 2021 NCAA 4th, 2021 Pac-12 Champ
197 lbs - Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State) 2021 NCAA Round of 12, 3x Pac-12 Champ
285 lbs - Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State) 2021 NCAA 4th, 2021 Pac-12 Champ
Second-Team Preseason All-Pac-12
125 lbs - Jackson DiSario (Stanford)
133 lbs - Devan Turner (Oregon State)
141 lbs - Grant Willits (Oregon State)
149 lbs - Kyle Parco (Arizona State)
157 lbs - Hunter Willits (Oregon State)
165 lbs - Evan Wick (Cal Poly)
174 lbs - Tyler Eischens (Stanford)
184 lbs - Tanner Harvey (Oregon State)
197 lbs - JJ Dixon (Oregon State)
285 lbs - Gary Traub (Oregon State)
Preseason Pac-12 Wrestler of the Year: Shane Griffith (Stanford)
In 2021, Shane Griffith helped "Save Stanford Wrestling." What will he do for an encore in 2021-22? Griffith defied the odds and persevered through adverse circumstances, including his program facing possible elimination, some of the most stringent Covid measures in the nation, and an extremely limited competition schedule, among other things. Through all of this, Griffith managed to key his eyes on the prize, even suffering his first official collegiate loss to Anthony Valencia (Arizona State) in the Pac-12 finals.
At the 2021 NCAA Championships, Griffith navigated through a difficult bracket that saw him take out the #1 Alex Marinelli (Iowa), #2 Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh), and #5 Zach Hartman (Bucknell) seeds, during his title run. In one of the tournament's more memorable moments, Griffith took out the undefeated Marinelli in sudden victory to secure All-American honors and a spot in the semifinals.
Griffith's NCAA title is only the second in the history of Stanford wrestling. Through two years of competition, he is 40-1 with the Pac-12 setback to Valencia as the only blemish on his record. Griffith was named an NWCA first-team All-American in 2020 after he was the undefeated #3 seed at the national tournament that was canceled due to Covid. During that year, he racked up bonus points in more than 60% of his matches.
Griffith starts the 2021-22 campaign as the top-ranked 165 lber in the nation.
Preseason Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year: Cael Valencia (Arizona State)
With the extra year of eligibility across the board in the conference and nationally, there are fewer freshmen/newcomers as projected starters than normal. That rings true in the Pac-12, as well. One freshman we could see emerge as the starter is Cael Valencia at 174 lbs. The Sun Devils are locked and loaded with superstars, ready for another NCAA trophy run. Right now, 174 lbs looks like an uncertainty. It may be difficult for head coach Zeke Jones to redshirt a blue-chip recruit like Valencia with another high finish in sight.
Valencia is a two-time California state runner-up that has plenty of national credentials behind his name. He placed three times in Fargo. As a Cadet, Valencia was top-three in both styles, while competing at 145 lbs in 2018. A year later, he was fifth in Junior Greco and had a deep run in a loaded freestyle bracket. Before his junior year of high school, Valencia won the prestigious Super 32.
Once Cael takes the mat for ASU, he'll be the third Valencia brother to wrestle for the Sun Devils. With Anthony as a super-senior, it would be fun to see the two, back-to-back in the ASU lineup.
Preseason Pac-12 Team Favorite: Arizona State
You can make an argument that the entire Pac-12 is on the upswing on some level. Even with each of the six programs showing some form of improvement, ASU is a distinct favorite, barring something unforeseen. Arizona State is loaded with five returning NCAA All-Americans and five wrestlers on the Pac-12 first team. The scary thing is that Arizona State could be better in 2021-22. In addition to their returning All-Americans, another one joined, as Kyle Parco transferred after Fresno State dropped their program. Also, 197 lber Kordell Norfleet was seeded third in St. Louis, but fell in the Round of 12.
The Sun Devils could get tested in dual competition with an upstart Oregon State squad that returns six national qualifiers and added four transfers with past NCAA experience. As of now, OSU does not appear to have the big tournament firepower needed to hang with ASU at nationals, but a dual or even the conference meet could be very interesting.