Second chance for Tsirtsis starts at University Nationals

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | June 03, 2017, 2:44 p.m. (ET)

Photo: Jason Tsirtsis warming up at 2017 University Nationals in Akron, Ohio. Photo by Richard Immel, USA Wrestling.

Jason Tsirtsis is back.

The 2014 NCAA champion is competing at 70 kg/154 lbs. in this weekend’s University Nationals in Akron, Ohio.

With 128 competitors in his bracket alone, Tsirtsis is excited to dive right in and get back into his competitive routine.

“I just wanted to get back on the mat and get back into competition,” he said. “I had to get my mindset back into competing. It’s never good to take too much time off. I’m here to get matches in, do my best and improve my wrestling.”

For the past year, Tsirtsis has taken somewhat of a break from wrestling as he made the move from Northwestern to Arizona State.

“There were a lot of things that played into it, a lot of personal incidents that took place in my life that took me away from Northwestern,” Tsirtsis said. “I felt that Arizona State was the best fit for in that transition from Northwestern to another school. There were a lot of external factors that played in it, but ultimately, I’m glad I ended up at ASU.”

During his time at Northwestern, he won the 2014 NCAA Championship at 149 pounds as a freshman and won back-to-back Big Ten titles in 2014 and 2015.

Going through the process of transferring, Tsirtsis, who wrapped up his junior campaign in 2016, was forced to forego his fifth year of eligibility from NCAA competition; however, because of the circumstances surrounding him, the NCAA granted Tsirtsis a sixth year of eligibility for the 2017-18 season.

Although not able to strap up in an ASU singlet, he did enter the 2016 Midlands Championships, where he took fifth. It was his last competition, until Saturday morning when Tsirtsis, the No. 2 seed, opened his 2017 University Nationals tourney with a dominant 10-0 tech. fall win over Ryan Camp.

He fired off a takedown early in the match and paired it with two leg laces for a quick 6-0 lead. Two more first-period takedowns sealed the win for Tsirtsis, advancing him to the round of 64.

There he faced Kyler Rea of the Mountaineer RTC, who kept it close, limiting Tsirtsis to just two takedowns in the match. Rea earned a point halfway through the second period, when Tsirtsis was put on the shot clock and failed to score.

For the Sun Devil, this weekend’s tournament is all about growth and getting back into the grind.

“The most important thing is leaving each match with a learning point or a positive and try to improve on that for the next match. That’s my game plan going throughout this tournament,” he said. “It’s a ton of wrestling in two days that can get up upwards of nine matches. It’s just as much mental as it is physical. It’s exhausting wrestling that many matches, but at the same time, you’re doing that pre-match routine nine times and making sure that every single time, you’re doing the right things. It’s definitely a mental grind as well.”

Sitting at the top of the 70 kg bracket is 2016 NCAA finalist and three-time All-American from Iowa, Brandon Sorensen, who also wrestles the folkstyle season at 149 pounds.

The possibility of meeting up with Sorensen in the finals is one that intrigues Tsirtsis, but he remains cautious to take it one match at a time in this colossal weight class.

“It’s a 128-man bracket, so it would be silly for me to say I can’t wait to wrestle Sorensen in the finals,” he said. “I still have a lot of matches to get to that point. If tomorrow we find ourselves in the finals, then let’s battle it out.”

In order to get to the finals, Tsirtsis has identified a couple of things he needs to improve on.

“I have to be a little looser in my tie-ups and create a little bit more offensive opportunities. I was a little bit tight in my tie-ups earlier today and I was holding myself up offensively. I think getting a more movement will help with that,” he said.

As of now, Tsirtsis is in the round of 32. Session two action is set to begin at 3 p.m. ET with every match streamed live on Flowrestling.org.

Looking toward his final run on the NCAA level, Tsirtsis feels confident he will end his collegiate career the same way he started it…as an NCAA champion.

“I can’t wait” Tsirtsis said. “I’m ready to have one last run and a great senior season. I plan to finish on top of the podium.”