A 29-8 loss to the Arizona State University Sun Devils wasn’t the showing Grand Canyon University wrestling coaches R.C. LaHaye and Larry Wilbanks were hoping for. But the much-hyped clash drew an enthusiastic crowd of 1,000-plus and helped put the fledgling Antelope mat program at the sport’s forefront.
Entering the match Nov. 13 on the GCU campus, LaHaye and Wilbanks — both former Longhorn wrestling stars — hoped to ride a win over ASU to a top-five national ranking.
But a “W” was not to be, as Antelope wrestlers dropped several crucial showdowns.
Following the loss, LaHaye told the media, “We knew coming in today that the key for us would be winning the close matches.
“Besides Victor (Carazo), we were unable to do that. That was the difference in the outcome.”
Carazo grappled his way to a 3-2 victory over ASU’s Eric Starks in the 174-pound class.
GCU got on the scoreboard with Todd Wilcox’s 16-1 major decision victory in the 133-pound class.
Probably the most exciting match of the day was the 157-pound clash that pitted GCU’s Juan Maynes against ASU’s Bubba Jenkins, Division I’s No. 3 ranked wrestler. After falling behind 7-3, the underdog Maynes rallied to tie the match at 7-7, which had the Antelope fans on their feet and wildly cheering.
Jenkins, however, rallied for an 11-8 victory.
While both LaHaye and Wilbanks were hoping for a win over ASU, the day turned out to be a real boon for an upstart GCU program that is only in its third year.
The day opened with a wrestling clinic and continued with a barbecue before the record-setting crowd settled in to watch the match.
Among the fans, were some of LaHaye’s and Wilbank’s family and friends and former coaches.