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Tsirtsis regains his NCAA goals at Arizona State

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Updated: March 14, 2018

(Intermat photo)

Jason Tsirtsis may look a lot different as as Arizona State senior for the 2018 NCAAs in Cleveland, than he did in 2014 when he claimed an NCAA championship as a Northwestern freshman.

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But a lot has happened — mostly negative — for the native of Crown Point, Ind., star, whose NCAA apex was four years ago when he defeated Oklahoma State’s Josh Kindig for the 149-pound championship.

Jason Tsirtsis won the 149-pound NCAA championship as a true freshman for Northwestern in 2014.

Since then, Tsirtsis finished fifth nationally in 2015, failed to place in 2016 … and missed last season after transferring from Northwestern to Arizona State. At the same time, Tsirtsis’ sister Jillian was killed in a car accident in Chicago in September 2015. A month later, Jason’s best childhood friend died from a heart attack.

At the same time, he ran into some other problems and was forced to leave the Big Ten school.

“I had a rough year last year in a couple different areas of my life,” Tsirtsis told Intermat. “I got put on academic probation. I fell short in one of my classes, so I got released for a year, and I have to go somewhere else to finish my last year of wrestling eligibility-wise if that’s what I want to do. Pretty much that’s why I’m transferring.”

Tsirtsis eventually contacted Arizona State coach Zeke Jones about joining the Sun Devil program. But because of academic probation, he was force to sit out last year; something Jones believed Tsirtsis needed.

“I also think he needed the time,” recalled Jones, who added that Tsirtsis was at least 30 pounds over his current 149 pounds when he showed up in Tempe in September of 2016. “He was going through the process emotionally but he had to work on this and both you can’t do overnight. There was a lot of calorie burning.”

Tsirtsis first got down to 157 pounds this season and claimed fifth at the Midlands, then attacked the lighter weight class … while dealing with memories of those he lost.

“We talked a lot and he would admit he was having a rough time,” Jones said. “There were triggers that caused him problems.”

But eventually regained his place on the mat and got down to 149 pounds, where he recently won a Pac-12 championship. He is seeded No. 10 in this year’s NCAAs.

“I always ask my wrestlers, ‘What are you wrestling for?’,” Jones said. “We all want to be on top of podium but what is your purpose? Jason is wrestling for himself, but more importantly he’s wrestling for his family.”

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