Beavers Begin Competitive Campaign
Nov. 19, 2002
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23
Oregon State at Southern Oregon Open;Ashland, Ore.; all day
It'll be a competitive team - both inside and outside of practice.
As Oregon State begins the 2002-03 wrestling season at the Southern Oregon Open on Saturday, the Beavers find themselves with few weights where there are clear-cut favorites for the starting spot. But the combination of wrestlers returning to the OSU program and an influx of high-caliber recruits should mean that whoever steps on the mat each weekend will likely have the capability to help the Beavers challenge for a Pacific-10 title.
'Overall, I think we're going to have one of the most competitive teams, weight for weight, that we've had since I've been here,' said Joe Wells, now in his 11th season as OSU's head coach. 'In some cases, there's slightly a clear favorite; in others, there's no way to figure it out at this point but they'll have an opportunity to compete for that spot all year long.'
Oregon State brings back nine lettermen from last year's squad that went 12-8 in dual meets and 7-2 in the Pac-10 before placing fourth in the conference meet and tying for 31st at the NCAA Championships. Gone are three conference champs from 2002: 174-pounder Nathan Coy, 184-pounder Isaac Weber and heavyweight Jason Cooley.
But among those still available this season are four starters, including NCAA qualifiers in senior Michael Delaney at 125 pounds and senior Jason Lovell at 197; junior 165-pounder Jed Pennell reached the NCAAs in 2001 before missing out last season. Also back is sophomore 149-pounder Jordan Barich, who could wrestle at 157 this season. Senior 174-pounder Jake Huffman and senior heavyweight Andy Bowlby were also part-time starters last season and both posted impressive records.
'We do have a fair amount of match experience with our seniors, so that will be very important for us,' Wells said. 'Basically, how the seniors do will dictate how our season goes. They're the bulk of that experience and leadership that's going to be an effective tool to help those young kids feel confident and get the most out of their season.'
One blow to OSU's lineup is the loss of senior 141-pounder Casey Horn, who led the Beavers in pins last season. Horn, who suffered knee and elbow injuries in 2002, has had a slow rehabilitation and will not wrestle this season; he will petition the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility.
OSU lost another returning starter when Micah Houston, last season's 157- pounder, decided not to return for his junior season.
125 POUNDS: Delaney went 14-18 with two pins last season but placed fourth in the Pac-10 to reach the NCAAs. He'll be pushed by redshirt freshman Brett Phillips, who was a three-time Oregon state champion in high school; true freshman Eric Stevenson, who was a three-time Oregon state champ and earned double All-America honors at Junior Nationals the past two seasons; and true freshman Bobby Pfennigs, a Montana state champ last winter.
'Michael Delaney has the experience - he's been in the hunt, he made it to the nationals last year,' Wells said. 'Coming back, he should be one of the top guys in his weight class at 125, but he's going to get some real battles with Brett Phillips and Stevenson and Pfennigs, who are both nationally-ranked high school kids.'
133 POUNDS: Sophomore Tim Norman was a part-time starter last season, going 4-3. Junior Casey Anthony went 4-2 with one pin last season, and true freshman Bryan Medelez won an Oregon high school state title and regional freestyle championship.
'Tim Norman stepped in and did a representative job when Nathan Navarro was hurt last season; he knows what it's about now; he's been there, and that experience is really invaluable,' Wells said. He's done the things this summer and in the early season to be a real solid 133-pounder. Casey Anthony, pound-for-pound ... might be the strongest wrestler in the conference - he just needs a little more match experience. He's going to do a great job and he's got a great attitude. Bryan Medelez is proven, he's tough and he comes from a good program where they turn out tough kids, good workers and good competitors.'
'Mike Unger is a great competitor, a hard worker,' Wells said. 'He's tough on top; he's a pinner like Casey (Horn), and he's looking to turn you all the time and put pressure on you and to make it as uncomfortable as he can ... I think he'll do a great job. We're a little thin there, but Riley Timmins will be backing us up there and we might have to bump one of those other guys up from 133 to fill in a little bit.'
149 POUNDS: Junior Brian Duhrkoop returns after spending two years away from the mat; he was an Oregon high school state runner-up and spent a redshirt freshman season with the Beavers before concentrating on academics. Redshirt freshman Orlando Perez, an Oregon high school state champ, and true freshman Tony Hook, a three-time Idaho high school state titlist, will also battle for the spot.
'Brian Duhrkoop took a couple years off from wrestling and now he really misses it and wants to get back in, so he's going to come back and give it a shot,' Wells said. 'Orlando Perez is tough; he first started wrestling as a freshman and became a state champion as a senior. He's tough, he's tenacious, he's relentless, he's aggressive - he's a great young guy who just needs a little more experience. Tony Hook is one of the top kids in the country in his weight class; he's very explosive. He's an outstanding kid and he's fun to watch; he scores points in big bunches and he's very athletic.'
157 POUNDS: Barich was 7-13 with one pin at 149 pounds last season, and freshman Jeremy Larson was a two-time Oregon high school state champ.
'Jeremy Larson is tough and he's big for the weight class and he's very complete; he's a seasoned competitor; he's smart and he's a great student and he's tenacious and a great worker,' Wells said. 'And Jordan Barich is coming back and trying to move up to the weight class; he might not be a 157-pounder; he might have to get down to 149 and compete there. But Barich is tough, he had a couple little injuries last year that slowed him up.'
165 POUNDS: After being named the Pac-10's Outstanding Newcomer as a freshman, Pennell went 18-13 with two pins last season but missed the NCAAs, placing sixth in the Pac-10. Redshirt freshman Anthony Weber was 2-1 last season after winning Oregon state titles in high school, freestyle and Greco-Roman tournaments as a senior. Sophomore Matt Ellis transfers in from Oklahoma State, where he went 10-8 last season; he'd earned All-America honors and won two Washington state titles in high school.
'That might be one of the most hotly-contested weight classes,' Wells said. 'Jed Pennell had a great freshman year, then struggled a little last year. He really feels good about having a couple of people in that weight class that he has to compete with. Anthony Weber is very talented and very quick, very explosive. He's going to be a force to be reckoned with. Matt Ellis is very slick, very technical, a tough competitor. It's going to be a very hotly-contested weight class.'
174 POUNDS: After wrestling everywhere from 165 to 184 pounds, Huffman gets his chance this season; a year ago, he went 14-5 with one pin as a part-time starter at 174. Junior Curt Willener and redshirt freshman Blaine Vandehey are behind Huffman.
'Jake Huffman bided his time last year and got some valuable experience,' Wells said. 'He wrestled some good kids and beat some good kids, and had some great experience. He's come a long way. He's wrestling very tough; he's talented and explosive and he's just an exciting wrestler to watch. I think he's going to have a great year. Curt Willener - it's unbelievable how much progress he's made this last year. He's just a young guy and he's grown quite a bit; he may end up being a 184-pounder instead of a 174-pounder. He and Blaine Vandehey are both tall, lanky kids and they're going to give it 100 percent.'
184 POUNDS: Redshirt freshman Dan Pitsch is the frontrunner, with true freshman Brandon Hern pushing him. Pitsch and Hern were both two-time Washington prep state champs.
'Again, we're a little on the light side and that's an area we need to shore up,' Wells said. 'We'll be looking for a couple kids to come in and fight for that starting spot. Dan Pitsch has made steady improvement; he learned how to win matches and be aggressive and control his emotions a bit. He's a good student, and he makes adjustments fairly quickly. He's a good competitor, he's tough, he's a good leader. He'll have to continue to improve and make that big progress this year for us to be effective. Brandon Hern might be on the large side of it and could move up to 197; one of those 174-pounders might be on the small side of it.'
197 POUNDS: Lovell is back after going 21-13 with one pin and placing third in the Pac-10, then missing the NCAA meet due to a neck injury. Redshirt freshman Jed Lowe, an Oregon high school state champ, and Hern will back up Lovell.
'Jason Lovell is over that injury; he's talented and a very good athlete at a weight class where athleticism is very important,' Wells said. 'He's going to have to fight and compete with Jed Lowe, who is also a big, strong, physical kid and possibly Brandon Hern. So there are two big, strong kids who will give him some good experience in dealing with that horsepower he had to deal with last year in the Pac-10. He's learned a lot and made some big strides and I look for good things from Jason.'
HEAVYWEIGHT: Andy Bowlby is poised to become the next in a long line of great Oregon State heavyweights. Bowlby was behind Cooley the past three seasons, but last year went 18-3 with five pins as a part-time starter. He has earned a silver medal in the Pan-Am Freestyle Championships, won titles in both freestyle and Greco-Roman at the University Nationals and was USA Wrestling's 2001 Belt Series winner for University level wrestlers.
'It is Andy's turn, and he's more than willing to accept the challenge,' Wells said of Bowlby, who inherits an OSU heavyweight tradition that has seen four NCAA titles, 13 All-America finishes, 25 conference titles and a Beaver in each of the last six Pac-10 finals.
Behind Bowlby are junior John Winters and a pair of outstanding true freshmen - Ty Watterson, a high school nationals champion and a Washington high school state champ; and Jamie Rakevich, a two-time Washington high school state champ who placed third at the high school nationals.
'Andy Bowlby, right now is probably the most dominant in his weight class but we've got some young kids who are going to fight him and continue to improve,' Wells said. 'And they're different sizes of guys, so Andy has four heavyweights to work with. It will be real important for him to help bring those kids along.
'Jason Cooley made Andy better, and Andy made Jason Cooley better. Hopefully, that same thing occurs this year as Andy makes progress toward a conference championship and being an All-American; that he understands that and is willing to give that to those young guys.'
BEAVER INTRASQUAD MEET: Oregon State took several steps toward setting its lineup for the start of the wrestling season when the Beavers held their annual Intrasquad Meet on Nov. 9 at Gill Coliseum. Sweeping the best-of-three series at their weights were 125-pounder Eric Stevenson, 133-pounder Tim Norman, 141-pounder Mike Unger Jr., 149-pounder Tony Hook, 157-pounder Jeremy Larson, 165-pounder Matt Ellis, 174-pounder Jake Huffman, 197-pounder Jason Lovell and heavyweight Ty Watterson. At 184 pounds, Dan Pitsch defeated a pair of opponents.
'We saw some pins and we saw some aggressive wrestling,' OSU head coach Joe Wells said. 'We saw some very close matches that could have gone either way.'
Some of those winners will emerge as the Beavers starters, but challenge matches remain to be held to determine some weights. The Beavers had a number of wrestlers held out due to injuries on Saturday, including 125-pounder Michael Delaney, 149/157-pounder Jordan Barich, 157-pounders David Lorring and Brian Duhrkoop, and heavyweight Andy Bowlby.
'This pretty much sets our lineup, with a couple of exceptions, through the Las Vegas Classic,' Wells said. 'We'll still have some challenges with those guys. There's also a chance for some of our guys to face each other in open tournaments, and results from those matches could influence the lineup.'
OREGON STATE WRESTLING INTRASQUAD RESULTS
125 (Best-of-3) - Eric Stevenson dec. Bobby Pfennigs, 6-4 (OT); Stevenson dec. Pfennigs, 6-0. 125 - Bryan Medelez pinned Brett Phillips. 133 (Best-of-3) - Tim Norman dec. Casey Anthony, 10-4; Norman dec. Anthony 8-5. 141 (Best-of-3) - Mike Unger Jr. major dec. Riley Timmins, 10-7; Unger pinned Timmins. 149 (Best-of-3) - Tony Hook major dec. Orlando Perez, 11-3; Hook dec. Perez 4-3. 157 - Jeremy Larson dec. Paul Rademacher 8-1; Larson pinned Rademacher. 157 - Joel Gibson major dec. Grant Ryder, 15-3. 165 (Best-of-3) - Matt Ellis pinned Jed Pennell; Ellis dec. Pennell 7-6. 174 (Best-of-3) - Jake Huffman major dec. Steve Grayson 18-10; Huffman major dec. Grayson 16-6. 174 - Anthony Weber major dec. Blaine Vandehey, 13-4. 184 - Dan Pitsch dec. Blaine Vandehey, 16-11. 184 - Dan Pitsch dec. Brandon Hern, 6-4. 197 (Best-of-3) - Jason Lovell major dec. Jed Lowe 11-0; Lovell tech. fall Lowe. HWT (Best-of-3) - Ty Watterson dec. Jamie Rakevich, 7-0; Watterson dec. Rakevich, 6-3. HWT - John Winters major dec. Dan Johnson, 16-1.
2001-02 IN REVIEW: Oregon State had high expectations heading into the wrestling postseason, but injuries helped limit the Beavers to fourth in the Pacific-10 Championships and 31st at the NCAA Championships. OSU had gone 12-8 in dual meets against some of the nation's toughest competition, and the Beavers were 7-2 in Pacific-10 duals.
'There were some times it looked like things were coming together for us,' said Joe Wells, who wrapped up his 10th season as OSU's head coach. 'We wrestled tough against some great teams, and we were really looking forward to seeing what we were capable of in the big meets. But we had some people get hurt at the wrong times, and some others didn't wrestle up to the level we'd hoped for consistently, and the result was that we didn't finish as highly at either meet as we expect to.'
The injury bug bit hardest as Oregon State hosted the Pacific-10 Championships at Gill Coliseum.
Casey Horn, who had become one of the conference's top pinners before suffering a knee injury in late January, returned for the Pac-10 meet but suffered a dislocated elbow in the quarterfinals and was done for the tournament.
'That really cost us,' Wells said. 'Casey was seeded third in a very tough weight class, but he had the chance to place and also score us some bonus points with pins.'
The Beavers also lost 149-pounder Jordan Barich to an arm injury. Barich was unseeded, but won his preliminary-round match before being hurt; he managed to stay on the mat for the completion of his quarterfinal loss and then was unable to compete in the wrestlebacks.
'Jordan could have picked us up a few more points, especially if he'd been able to go in the wrestlebacks,' Wells said.
The Beavers did qualify five wrestlers for the NCAA Championships, as 125-pounder Michael Delaney and 197-pounder Jason Lovell joined the three conference champs. But Lovell aggravated a neck injury in practice the week before the NCAA meet and was not able to compete.
'Jason had been wrestling better as the season went on,' Wells said. 'He looked ready to reach the next level, but with the injury he had there was no way he could safely wrestle. He would have scored us some points at the NCAAs, though, if he'd been healthy.'
Despite the disappointment in the postseason, the Beavers took positive steps during the year.
Twice, Beavers knocked off wrestlers who were ranked second nationally. Horn defeated Minnesota 141-pounder Chad Erickson 6-5 in a dual meet in Minneapolis, and Weber upset Michigan 184-pounder Andy Hrovat in a 7-7 tiebreaker during a dual meet at Gill Coliseum.
Coy, Weber and Cooley all reeled off 11-match winning streaks that propelled them to Pac-10 titles. Cooley, having struggled against Arizona State's Kellan Fluckiger and Oregon's Eric Webb in 2001, defeated both en route to another conference heavyweight crown.
'We had four seniors in our lineup who will be hard to replace,' Wells said, referring to Coy, Weber, Cooley and 133-pounder Nathan Navarro. 'But the quality of the kids in our program has continued to rise, and we're seeing that pay off in the room. People are competing for places in the lineup, and they've had to get better to step on the mat on the weekends (in meets). We were able to redshirt some people this year who should be able to step in next season and be competitive right away.'
OREGON STATE HEAD COACH JOE WELLS: Joe Wells, now in his 11th season as Oregon State's head coach, has led the Beavers to a Pacific-10 title and 4 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
The Beavers' 25-10 win over then-No. 11 Boise State in 2001 was Wells' 100th dual meet win at OSU. Since taking over the Beaver program prior to the 1992-93 season, Wells is 115-69-1 for a winning percentage of .624.
The Beavers were Pacific-10 Conference champions under Wells in 1994 and he has twice been named the conference's Coach of the Year. OSU has finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships 4 times in Wells' tenure, placing second in 1995, fourth in 1994, eighth in 1996 and tying for ninth in 1998.
Under Wells, OSU has had 2 national champions, 15 All-Americans and 16 conference champions.
Wells was named the ASICS Oregon Wrestling Classic's Man of the Year for 1998 for his contributions to wrestling in the state.
Wells, who has coached numerous World Teams for the United States, is a 1972 Iowa graduate. He was a 2-time placer at the Big Ten meet and the 1976 U.S. Wrestling Federation freestyle champ. He spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach at Iowa and Michigan before coming to Oregon State.
OREGON STATE SECOND IN ALL-TIME DUAL MEET WINS: OSU rates as one of the best dual meet teams in collegiate wrestling history. The Beavers were second in all-time dual meet wins among Division I schools and fourth in all-time dual meet winning percentage going into the 2002-03 season. Going into the 2003 season, OSU has an all-time dual meet record of 849-261-24 and a .759 winning percentage.
OREGON STATE'S DUAL MEET SCHEDULE: OSU will face one of the nation's toughest dual meet schedules. The Beavers meet 5 teams ranked in the Amateur Wrestling News preseason rankings: No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 11 Arizona State and No. 20 Boise State.
OREGON STATE IN GILL COLISEUM: Oregon State has one of the finest homes in college wrestling, 10,400-seat Gill Coliseum. Now in their 47th season in Gill Coliseum, the Beavers have a home dual meet record of 352-65-5 in the arena for a winning percentage of .839. Last season, OSU was 6-3 at home and averaged 836 fans per home date.
OSU moved its home wrestling meets into Gill Coliseum in 1956-57, when Dale Thomas became head coach. Since then, the arena has hosted conference championship meets 14 times, including 2002, and it was the site of the NCAA Championships in 1961 and 1980.
BEAVERS IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: Here's where Oregon State wrestlers have been in this season's national rankings:
TEAMAm.Wr.News InterMatPre NR Pre NRNational Wrestling Coaches AssociationNov. 6 NRCASEY HORN, 141Am.Wr.News InterMatPre NR Pre 14thNov. 1 NR Nov. 9 NRJED PENNELL, 165Am.Wr.News InterMatPre NR Pre 19thNov. 1 NR Nov. 9 NRANDY BOWLBY, HWTAm.Wr.News InterMatPre 11th Pre 12thNov. 1 11th Nov. 9 11th
BEAVERS IN THE CONFERENCE RANKINGS: Here's where Oregon State wrestlers have been in this season's Pacific-10 rankings:
MICHAEL DELANEY, 125Pre 5thCASEY HORN, 141Pre 2ndJORDAN BARICH, 149Pre 5thJED PENNELL, 165Pre 4thJAKE HUFFMAN, 174Pre 5thDAN PITSCH, 184Pre 5thJASON LOVELL, 197Pre 2ndANDY BOWLBY, HWTPre 4th