Little Rock knocks off #24 Arizona State, program's first win over a ranked team

by Little Rock Athletics

LIttle Rock athlete celebrates win over Arizona State
(Photo by Photo by Mark Wagner, Little Rock Athletics)

LITTLE ROCK – The Little Rock wrestling team has just knocked off its first ranked opponent in program history, and what better way to do it than in front of over 1,000 fans at home for their conference opener against Arizona State.

After notching historic moment after historic moment over the last year – over the last five years since the Trojans first stepped onto the mat for the first time, really – Little Rock has now proved itself one of the top teams in the country.

"What was not to celebrate?" asked head coach Neil Erisman following the match. "It was our first big-time win for our program. How about Arkansas wrestling – doing things that weren't imaginable even 10 years ago, and now we've got wrestling at every level. What a night."

The night certainly ended on a high note, yet Arizona State started off with the upper hand, taking four of the first five bouts. Although Nasir Bailey claimed his match by decision over a ranked Sun Devil, the visitors had 13 team points to Little Rock's 3.

The tide turned after the teams returned from intermission and Joseph Bianchi stepped up for his bout at 165 pounds. Despite trailing 6-1 going into the final two minutes, the older of the two Bianchis on the roster went into work mode, pushing the match to sudden victory overtime and collecting the final takedown to win 11-8.

The Trojans took the next two: Tyler Brennan by decision and Triston Wills by major decision to tie the dual 13-13. That string of victories was even more notable since the three – Bianchi, Brennan, and Wills – are all redshirt seniors set to be honored on Senior Day in two weeks.

"It was the guys that have been here from the beginning that got the ball rolling," said Coach Erisman. "It was a great moment, looking at Joey and Tyler and Triston and going, I remember when that went the other way. I'm so thankful for those guys and that they stayed the course."

But what sealed the deal for Little Rock was Stephen Little's dominant 25-10 technical fall to give the Trojans a lead that they wouldn't relinquish. Despite starting off slower than usual, the redshirt freshman did what he needed to do to reach the 15-point gap in full time, stringing together a series of cuts and takedowns to earn the biggest bonus points of the night.

With Little Rock up 18-13 now, all heavyweight Josiah Hill had to do was not get pinned or tech falled himself. He did his job, holding the number five wrestler in the country to a 5-2 decision as the home crowd erupted in the final seconds.

In the end, staying cool and staying true to themselves was the key, as Coach Erisman explained, "We really have focused on scoring points as soon as that whistle blows, in every situation. It's given the guys a lot of freedom and takes the pressure off them instead of just focusing on winning or losing. Focusing on the process of winning has paid dividends for us."

The Trojans now hold 10 team wins under their belt, more than double the total that the team had in program history going into this season. With six more duals left on the slate, there's still more firsts to be had.

Little Rock continues conference competition next weekend at Oregon State and Stanford before returning home for Senior Day on Saturday, February 3 at noon. Their final home dual of the season is set for Sunday, February 11 at noon.

Little Rock 18, #24 Arizona State 15

125: #11 Richard Figueroa (ASU) MD Jeremiah Reno, 18-5

133: #13 Nasir Bailey DEC #24 Julian Chlebove (ASU), 7-2

141: Cody Foote (ASU) DEC Brennan Van Hoecke, 5-4

149: #4 Kyle Parco (ASU) DEC Kyle Dutton, 4-0

157: #5 Jacori Teemer (ASU) DEC #27 Matty Bianchi, 10-4

165: #27 Joseph Bianchi DEC Chance McLane (ASU), 11-8 SV-1

174: #16 Tyler Brennan DEC Cael Valencia (ASU), 6-0

184: Triston Wills MD Shay Addison (ASU), 13-5

197: #11 Stephen Little TF Jacob Meissner (ASU), 25-10 (7:00)

285: #5 Cohlton Schultz (ASU) DEC Josiah Hill, 5-2

*Arizona State was deducted one team point following the heavyweight bout after a control of mat ruling

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