WPIAL Alum Q&A – Josh Shields
Monday, February 27, 2017 | 10:23 PM
For many years, Western Pennsylvania has been a hotbed for high-school wrestling. In particular, the Franklin Regional Panthers produced a few historic seasons recently. Josh Shields was one of the key components of the Panthers success, and now he’s achieved similar success on the mat at Arizona State. Shields, who on Sunday claimed both individual and team gold, is this week’s feature for the WPIAL Alum Q&A.
Shields was a special competitor from the moment he stepped on the mat at Franklin Regional, as he compiled a record of 37-7 as a freshman in 2011-12. The Panthers failed to make it out of the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA tournament that season, but individually, Shields reached the finals in the 132-pound bracket, finishing second. He also placed sixth in the PIAA tournament.
As a sophomore, Shields improved his record to 44-6, and Franklin Regional reached the team finals. The Panthers came up short to Canon-McMillan, 31-26, however, and also fell to Central Dauphin in the PIAA semifinals. Shields bumped up to the 145-pound class, and again came in second in the WPIAL individual tournament. He improved in the state bracket, though, coming in third.
In 2013-14, Shields and the Panthers both got over the hump. Franklin Regional earned the top seed in the WPIAL team tournament, and cruised to the title, culminating with a 42-19 victory against Greater Latrobe. The Panthers and Wildcats met again in the PIAA championship, and Franklin Regional prevailed once more, 37-23. Similarly, Shields finally captured individual gold that season, as he took first place in the WPIAL Class AAA tournament in the 152-pound bracket. In the states, Shields finished second in his class, concluding his season with a mark of 41-5.
Shields finished his high-school career with perfection in 2014-15. First, the Panthers repeated as WPIAL and PIAA champs, defeating Belle Vernon Area and Cumberland Valley, respectively. Individually, Shields compiled a record of 41-0, capturing the WPIAL and PIAA championships at 160 pounds.
Following the conclusion of his incredible prep career, Shields continued his wrestling and academic pursuits at Arizona State University, along with his Franklin Regional teammate Josh Maruca. Shields redshirted last season, as he did not officially compete as a member of the Sun Devils.
This campaign has marked the first for Shields wrestling for Arizona State, and he’s already made history. He boasts a mark of 32-7, including a pair of wins yesterday to claim the Pac 12 Championship at 157 pounds. In the finals, he defeated Cal Poly’s Colt Shorts 10-5. Additionally, Arizona State, aided by Shields’ performance, captured the Pac 12 Championship, edging Stanford 127-122.5. It’s the first time in 11 years that the Sun Devils have taken the team gold.
Just prior to the event, Josh took time to answer questions about his team’s goals, the biggest adjustments to living in Arizona, and the best advice he has ever received.
Q: What has been the biggest key to your success this season?
A: The biggest key to my success has been trusting in my coaches. I believe that they know what’s best for me, and that however and why they want me to do something is going to win me an NCAA title.
Q: How did you improve during your redshirt campaign last year?
A: I improved in a lot of ways throughout my redshirt year. I’ve matured in knowing that it’s going to be a battle, and I’ve also learned how to deal with adversity in wrestling and life. My arsenal of offense has increased since I first got to Arizona as well.
Q: How would you describe your style on the mat?
A: I would describe my style as offensive and persistent.
Q: Did you expect to wrestle in the 157-pound class in college, and how do you work to maintain that weight?
A: Yeah I did. I thought I was going to wrestle either 157 or 165 in college. But it’s really not that hard once you make that first weight cut. After the first weight cut, it’s just maintaining your weight and not ballooning up to 15 pounds over.
Q: What are the team goals for the Sun Devils this season?
A: Heading into the postseason, we want to win PAC-12’s in dominant fashion, which I believe we will do. And we want to send all 10 guys to NCAA’s, but once we do that we want all 10 wrestlers to place. As a team, I think that’s our goal.
Q: What made you decide on Arizona State?
A: The coaches and other wrestlers committing to ASU is what helped me decide ASU over other top-tier wrestling schools. I believe that we have the best coaching staff in the country.
Q: What is the biggest adjustment to living in Tempe?
A: The heat was unbearable at first, but that’s only because I moved in the middle of summer when the heat is at its peak. But after I adjusted to the heat, I would say the culture and environment. I moved from a small town in Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh to the largest university in the nation. You see every type of person at ASU. We get it all down here.
Q: What is your major and expected future profession?
A: My major is Sports and Media Studies and I hope to be an athletic director. Those are the plans that I have.
Q: Franklin Regional enjoyed some incredible seasons during your time in high school. What was your fondest memory?
A: Oh man. I really do not know. I had so much fun at Franklin Regional, it’s almost impossible to pick one. It’s hard… but I think my fondest memories were the trips to the state tournament each year with my teammates. The team state tournament was by far my most favorite trip because it was the whole team that got to spend 4-5 days competing and having fun. We were a huge group of brothers who all loved each other and were as close as family. I also love the running inside jokes between our coaches and us. What I miss most is in between all the wrestling, like the bus trips and the inside jokes I mentioned earlier.
Q: How important was it to have a high-school teammate, Josh Maruca, join you at ASU?
A: That was awesome. I still think that I would have came to ASU, but having Maruca here with me makes it even better. I think we’ve been wrestling together for about 15 years which is incredible. When Zeke first came out to Pennsylvania to recruit, he told us that he wanted all three of us (me, Maruca, and Michael Kemmerer). Leaving with two out of the three is still pretty good.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to wrestle in college, or did you prefer another sport when you were younger?
A: No, from the first time I stepped on the mat, I knew I wanted to be a Division I NCAA champ. In my mind, I knew it was going to happen, I just didn’t know where I would go. If you had told me ASU, I probably would have thought you were crazy. I love other sports but wrestling is just for me.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: That right there is a great question. My favorite type of food is dessert, because it’s so satisfying and delicious. I think ice cream with add-ins might be my favorite because it has the sweetness that everyone loves, and you get to indulge in an amazing concoction that can actually melt in your mouth, but at the same time chew! You can’t beat it. But if it wasn’t ice cream, it would have to be Yiovarelakia. It’s a Greek dish that the saints on my mom’s side of the family can make. In short, they’re basically meatballs with rice in them, and avgolemono sauce poured over top of them.
Q: If you woke up with $1 million tomorrow, what is the first thing you’d buy?
A: I would go to the mall and bring some of my friends so they can help buy me a new wardrobe, because I have close to zero fashion sense.
Q: Do you have any superstitions for your matches?
A: Not really… I like to pray before my matches to help keep my focus on God and to not get consumed in winning, but that’s about it.
Q: What is the best advice you ever received?
A: That is difficult, because I think the best advice I’ve ever received will change based on where I am in my life. Something that has stuck with me since being at Arizona State is something that Coach Pritts said when we hiked to the top of the incline at the Olympic Training Center. He said, “You either go until your heart explodes or you cross the finish line. It’s a race against time.” And I think the reason why I love that quote so much is because it’s applicable for all of life. Our life is limited and we only have so much time to squeeze every ounce of life out of it, so why not run the race 175 percent.