Beavers Ready To See How Kids Do

Nov. 10, 2003

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SATURDAY,  NOVEMBER 15Oregon State at No. 8 Nebraska; Lincoln, Neb.; 4:30 p.m. PST

The outlook for Oregon State's wrestling season?

A little bit of Pete Townshend, a little bit of Ringo Starr, and you've pretty much got it.

That's as in, 'The Kids Are Alright' and 'It Don't Come Easy.' OSU has the ability to compete, but most of the lineup is still learning how to do that at the collegiate level.

The Beavers begin their 83rd season of varsity wrestling on Saturday when OSU visits eighth-ranked Nebraska.

'We're young and we're talented, and we're real determined to make a name for ourselves,' OSU head coach Joe Wells said of the 2003-04 Beavers. 'I really feel that even though they're young, they're going to be pretty darn good. It's the experience - some days they'll surprise you and we just have to be ready for that, and not get too excited one way or the other and allow them to develop and be supportive and challenge them.

'I like this team's chances. They're working very hard and they're paying attention and they're working well together.'

A year ago, the Beavers counted four seniors in their starting lineup en route to a 10-8 dual meet record and a third-place finish in the Pacific-10 Championships. This year, OSU's only returning senior starter figures to be Jed Pennell at 174 pounds, and that's a new weight for Pennell. The Beavers do bring back six starters and 10 lettermen.

'We have some situations where we have some older guys who don't really have a lot of match experience, but we also have some young guys who are going to be fighting those older, more experienced guys for a starting spot,' said Wells, entering his 12th season at Oregon State. 'It's a nice balance. In probably seven weight classes, we're going to be battling every other week to see who it's going to be unless someone jumps right in there and demonstrates they can solidify the spot and nail things down.'

And, as Wells alluded, the men in those battles are ones he feels can compete on the conference and national level.

'We have some talented kids and we have some kids who have the right attitude - who flat-out think they can be a champion, and it's 'Tell me what I need to do and I'll do it',' Wells said. 'So that confidence, that self-assurance is there; it's just a matter of doing the work and gaining the experience and learning the techniques and how to stay focused and win matches.

'I'm really excited, as a coach, to be working with this group. They're a lot of fun, they're inspirational.'

Wells looks at the Pac-10 as being up for grabs, with the Beavers having as good a chance at the conference crown as any school.

'Cal Poly is going to be a factor this year - they redshirted quite a few kids last year. Arizona State is going to be young. And Boise State probably has the biggest nod in terms of who they have back and the rankings,' Wells said. 'But I really think it's wide-open. The conference is improving, and that's a real good sign. California-Davis will be better, Cal State-Fullerton will be much better - I just think all across the conference, it's going to be better. I think the race is going to be real tight, so we just have to keep improving and getting better and challenging ourselves. When it comes down to the tournament, hopefully we'll have everybody healthy and ready to go.'

125 POUNDS: With 2003 starter Michael Delaney having graduated, redshirt freshman Eric Stevenson and sophomore Brett Phillips are the top contenders. Phillips saw limited varsity action last season, going 1-5 overall and 0-2 in dual meets. Stevenson went 2-0 with one pin in varsity-level open tournaments.

'Eric is a warrior - he's poven,' Wells said of Stevenson, who earned All-America honors and was a three-time state champion at Newberg (Ore.) High. 'He's a kid who was a very, very good high school wrestler and I think he placed (nationally) in every age group and level ... he's a gamer; he's tough and he's excited about getting a crack at it. Brett has improved dramatically and he has some match experience, and he's excellent technically so he'll present a formidable challenge for that top spot.'

133 POUNDS: Sophomore Tim Norman is the returning starter, having gone 11-17 with one pin last season. Redshirt freshman Bobby Pfennigs was 2-0 in varsity-level open tournaments and he'll push Norman for the spot.

'Tim has some experience and a little savvy and a little match sense; Bobby is exciting and aggressive,' Wells said. 'It's going to be a battle every single day. Those four guys (Norman, Pfennigs, Stevenson and Phillips) go a lot together in the room, so there's a lot of fur flying at that end of the room. Bobby was a high school All-American as a senior; he's from a real good club and knows about being an All-American and a national champion, and that's what his goals are. The same thing with Tim - he's from Newberg, with a good program and a long tradition. He's taken a step up in the offseason. He did a lot of work this summer to rehab his shoulder and it's made him a better wrestler; he's shown a lot of growth as a competitor, he's making better decisions on the mat.'

141 POUNDS: Sophomore Mike Unger Jr. started last season and went 10-16 with one pin, placing fifth in the Pac-10. To stay in the lineup, he'll have to fend of a pair of highly-regarded true freshmen - Kyle Larson and Clint Leonard, both three-time state champions who could be redshirted or find themselves in varsity competition.

'We'll make that decision when we need to,' Wells said. 'They'll present some serious challenges to Mike; they're both well-seasoned wrestlers and high school All-Americans, so they know what it's about. It's going to be good for Mike - both these guys are good on their feet and not as good on the mat, so that's going to help Mike. Plus, Mike's been in a lot of close matches and he's learned what he's got to do early in a match to be in position to win.'

149 POUNDS: Sophomore Tony Hook had a strong season starting as a true freshman in 2003, qualifying for the NCAA Championships as he went 18-14 with four pins and placed fifth in the Pac-10. He had four wins over nationally-ranked wrestlers, including a 7-6 win over No. 13 Ty Morgan of Central Michigan. Orlando Perez, another sophomore, was 3-2 with one pin last season; junior Joel Gibson was 1-1 in varsity-level open tournaments and could be in the mix after fall term.

'Tony has improved a lot in this last year,' Wells said. 'You saw some demonstration of his improvement against some pretty salty guys that he wrestled early, then he made up the distance between November and February and did a real good job at Pac-10s. He understands what it's about and he's determined he's going to do something when he gets to NCAAs again this year. Orlando has gotten bigger and stronger, and he's very quick. They have some great knock-down, drag-outs and it's fun to watch them in the room. Then Joel's right in there - he's physical and tough to score on. It's going to be a good battle.'

157 POUNDS: With returning starter Jeremy Larson moving up to 165 pounds this season, sophomore Anthony Weber could get the spot after spending last season as an undersized backup at 165 pounds; he went 3-5 in that role. Senior Brian Duhrkoop, who was 3-7 as a reserve last season; redshirt freshman David Lorring, who was 0-2 in varsity-level open tourneys; and Gibson are other possibilities.

'Anthony hasn't earned the spot yet; he's going to have to fight it out with those guys,' Wells said. 'They're going to get after it and we'll find out who the No. 1 guy is ... they're going to be battling all season long.'

165 POUNDS: Junior Matt Ellis is the returning starter, posting an 18-11 record with one pin as he won 14 of his last 19 matches; he placed third in the Pac-10 and qualified for the NCAA Championships. Larson was 5-11 as the 157-pound starter last season, and freshman Neal Beaudry will be given a shot.

'Jeremy has improved dramatically from last year - he's much more aggressive and he understands what it's about,' Wells said. 'It's going to be great for Matt to have a couple of guys nipping at him all the time. And Matt had figured things out by the end of last season, then he carried it on into the spring and summer to get himself ready for a great season. He's put in the time and effort and done the work, and it's very noticeable. Matt has had a very positive effect on several other members of this team as well; he's kept them focused on what they need to be doing to get better.'

174 POUNDS: It's another weight where the Beavers lost a senior starter, as Jake Huffman graduated. A year ago, Jed Pennell found himself bounced from the 165 pound spot only to be inserted as the starter at 184 pounds when Danl Pitsch was injured in mid-January; Pennell responded by going 11-9 with two pins and placing second in the Pac-10. Now a senior, Pennell finds himself looking at his third weight as a starter. His competition will be senior Curt Willener, who was 2-2 at 184 pounds last season; junior Steve Grayson, who was 1-2; and senior Micah Houston, who sat out last season after being the Beavers' starter at 157 in 2002.

'There are four guys who have some match experience,' Wells said. 'Jed has the most, but those other guys have improved dramatically so Jed is really going to have to fight. Every week, somebody is going to want a crack at him so he's really going to have to stay on top of his game.'

184 POUNDS: Sophomore Dan Pitsch is back after earning the starting nod last season; he went 15-7 with one pin - including a win over sixth-ranked B.J. Padden of Nebraska - before an ankle injury in mid-January ended his season. He's fully recovered, though. Redshirt freshman Brandon Hern was 4-0 with one pin in varsity-level open tournaments last season, but he will miss this season due to a call to active military duty.

'For Dan, we may have to create some scenarios where we challenge him and get him some match situations in the practice room,' Wells said.

197 POUNDS: Sophomore Jed Lowe went 3-2 with one pin last season as a backup to graduated senior Jason Lovell. His competition is redshirt freshman Dan Johnson, who was 0-1 in varsity-level open tournaments last season at heavyweight; and junior Adam Daniel, who is attempting to move down from heavyweight.

'Jed is more experienced; he has more match time and has wrestled some varsity matches for us,' Wells said. 'He's a gifted individual; he just has to take those steps. If he realizes how much talent he has, there's no stopping him. Dan is a new guy since he lost some weight; he looks good and he's been increasing his running and he's made a difference in the room.'

HEAVYWEIGHT: With last season's starter, Andy Bowlby, having graduated, the battle is between a pair of redshirt freshmen - Jamie Rakevich and Ty Watterson. Rakevich was a two-time state champion in high school, while Watterson won both a state title and a national title. Rakevich beat Minnesota's highly-ranked Cole Konrad and Watterson beat Pac-10 champion Kellan Fluckger from Arizona State in the University Nationals last spring.

'They're capable,' Wells said. 'They're just going to make each other better. Those guys are great about expecting to do something; they both knew coming in that they'd be fighting each other all the time, and they've got a great attitude about working and helping each other.'

OREGON STATE LINEUP: Records are final 2002-03 records; national rankings are Amateur Wrestling News, InterMat preseason

125 - Eric Stevenson; fr. (Newberg, Ore./Newberg HS);2-0 with 1 pin in open tournaments during redshirt season133 - Tim Norman, jr. (Newberg, Ore./Newberg HS);11-17 with 1 pin141 - Mike Unger, so. (Turner, Ore./Cascade HS);10-16 with 1 pin149 - Tony Hook, so. (Sandpoint, Idaho/Sandpoint HS);18-14 with 4 pins157 - Brian Duhrkoop, sr.; (Milwaukie, Ore./Rex Putnam HS);3-7 record with 0 pins165 - Matt Ellis, jr. (Prosser, Wash./Prosser HS, Okla. St. U.);18-11 with 1 pin174 - Jed Pennell, sr. (Cave Junction, Ore./Illinois Vlly. HS);11-9 record with 2 pins while wrestling primarily at 184 pounds;No. 19 at 184 AWN, No. 17 at 174 IM184 - Dan Pitsch, so. (Tacoma, Wash./Spanaway Lake HS);15-7 record with 1 pin197 - Jed Lowe, so. (Hermiston, Ore./Hermiston HS);3-2 record with 1 pinHWT - Ty Watterson, fr. (Enumclaw, Wash./Enumclaw HS);1-1 record with 0 pins in open tournaments during redshirt season

OREGON STATE INTRASQUAD MEET: Oregon State decided its starting lineup at nine of 10 weights on Nov. 8 as the Beavers wrestled their annual Intrasquad Meet at Gill Coliseum.

Sweeping best-of-3 matchups to secure starting spots for the season-opener at Nebraska were redshirt freshman 125-pounder Eric Stevenson, junior 133-pounder Tim Norman, sophomore 149-pounder Tony Hook, senior 157-pounder Brian Duhrkoop, junior 165-pounder Matt Ellis, senior 174-pounder Jed Pennell, sophomore 184-pounder Dan Pitsch, sophomore 197-pounder Jed Lowe and redshirt freshman heavyweight Ty Watterson. Norman, Hook, Ellis and Pennell were starters a year ago and Pitsch was in the starting lineup until an injury ended his season.

At 141 pounds, freshman Kyle Larson swept a best-of-3 matchup against sophomore returning starter Mike Unger Jr. Unger will likely get the starting spot at Nebraska, though, as the Beavers decide whether or not to redshirt Larson this season.

'There were some good, tough matches,' OSU head coach Joe Wells said. 'There was definitely some improvement. There are going to be some great challenges for spots all season long.

'A few of our more experienced guys went out and demonstrated that they're going to win - they were aggressive, they didn't sit on a lead and they managed matches well. We also saw a couple of young guys come out and surprise folks - I was glad to see them assert themselves.' 125 - Eric Stevenson dec. Brett Phillips, 6-1; Stevenson pinned Phillips, 6:22. 133 - Tim Norman dec. Bobby Pfennigs, 7-6; Norman dec. Pfennigs, 4-3. 141 - Kyle Larson dec. Mike Unger Jr., 4-3; Larson dec. Unger, 5-2. 149 - Tony Hook dec. Orlando Perez, 3-2; Hook dec. Perez, 7-3. 157 - Brian Duhrkoop dec. Anthony Weber, 3-2; Duhrkoop, dec. Weber 8-1. 165 - Matt Ellis dec. Neal Beaudry, 8-1; Ellis major dec. Beaudry, 17-3. 174 - Jed Pennell dec. Jeremy Larson, 7-5; Pennell dec. Larson, 8-2. 184 - Dan Pitsch dec. Steve Grayson, 10-6; Pitsch major dec. Grayson 10-1. 197 - Jed Lowe major dec. Dan Johnson, 11-0; Lowe major dec. Johnson, 13-0. HWT - Ty Watterson dec. Jamie Rakevich, 5-1; Watterson dec. Rakevich 7-0. 141 - Clint Leonard dec. Mike Unger Jr., 5-2. 157 - David Lorring dec. Joel Gibson, 7-5. 174 - Curt Willener dec. David Lorring, 9-3; Curt Willener dec. Joel Gibson, 7-2. HWT - Travis Gardner dec. Adam Daniel, 6-1.

2002-03 IN REVIEW: As went the seniors, so went the Beavers. And, for the second half of the 2002-03 wrestling season, that was usually pretty good.

Led by the four seniors in its starting lineup, Oregon State put together a strong run through the final five weeks of the regular season. The Beavers won eight of their last 13 dual meets to finish 10-8 overall and 8-2 in the Pacific-10.

The roll continued with a third-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships, giving the Beavers high hopes for a strong showing at the NCAA Championships. But OSU found disappointment in Kansas City, as the Beavers were unable to advance anyone past the first round of the wrestlebacks and tied for 66th place.

That didn't dim what Oregon State accomplished from mid-January through the end of February. The effort was led by the four seniors: 125-pounder Michael Delaney, 174-pounder Jake Huffman, 197-pounder Jason Lovell and heavyweight Andy Bowlby.

'It was just as we talked about when we had our first meeting with the seniors in the latter part of August,' OSU head coach Joe Wells said. 'We talked about what we were going to do and how we were going to change things.

'We gave our seniors a heads-up and basically said, 'Hey, how you guys do is how we're going to do'. Those four seniors were going to dictate how we did as a team.'

Perhaps the highlight of the Beavers' season came in an 18-16 win over eighth-ranked Arizona State; it was the first nationally-ranked team OSU had beaten in a dual meet since topping 11th-ranked Boise State in 2001. In front of a Gill Coliseum crowd of 1,054, Oregon State got wins in the final three matches and Huffman started the comeback by pinning 13th-ranked Curtis Owen with just one second left in the second period.

The regular season was capped with a very special day, as 2,529 fans and former OSU wrestlers turned out to honor legendary former coach Dale Thomas. A banner with Thomas' name and the number 616 - signifying his all-time collegiate record number of dual meet wins - was unveiled in Gill Coliseum at halftime of a 27-13 win over Oregon.

'In our great performances - the win over Arizona State, the second meet against Oregon - three of our four seniors prevailed,' Wells said. 'In the case of Oregon, three of them had six-point wins.'

The Beavers also took 10th-ranked Central Michigan and 19th-ranked Wisconsin down to the final matches before the outcomes of those dual meets were decided.

OSU qualified six wrestlers for the NCAA Championships, but only Delaney and Pennell had previously been to the national tournament.

'I fully expected them to step up, and they did some good things,' Wells said of the Beavers. 'But it's that experience and being there and knowing what to expect; not being too awestruck in regard to who you're wrestling and how much distraction there is with wrestling on eight mats, in a big arena with 20,000 people ...

'We didn't perform at the national tournament like I expected us to. I was very disappointed about that part of it. But, having said that, overall I thought we did a pretty good job this year.'

And that comes back to those four seniors.

Bowlby led the Beavers with 105.5 team points. En route to a 26-9 record, he had 13 pins; that tied him for 23rd place on OSU's all-time list of single-season leaders. Bowlby was ranked as high as ninth nationally during the season.

Huffman wasn't far behind, scoring 69.5 team points and collecting team bonus points for a pin, technical fall or major decision in 43 percent of his matches. Huffman went 24-13 on the season.

Lovell missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships, but he earned OSU dual wins over Arizona State and California-Davis by winning the final match in both meets.

Delaney rebounded from an early-season injury to finish fourth at the Pacific-10 Championships and qualify for the NCAA meet.

'They're great kids,' Wells said of the group, whose recruiting class also included undergraduate assistant coaches Nathan Coy and Isaac Weber, and the injured Casey Horn. 'They're just a fun-loving group that got along real well, and they were pretty tight. they kind of grew up and wrestled together when they were little, and they graduated at the same time from high school. They're from different (Oregon high school) classifications - 4A, 3A, 2A - but they're all good buddies and they clicked and knew each other real well.

'My congratulations to them on some great performances throughout the season. They all graduated on time and they all look like they're going to be gainfully employed, so that's a blessing to their parents.'

Jed Pennell provided a surprise by moving up from 165 pounds to 184 in midseason; he went 8-4 and placed second in the Pac-10 at his new weight.

Several newcomers also gave Oregon State things to look forward to.

Freshman 149-pounder Tony Hook qualified for the NCAA Championships and knocked off wrestlers ranked 13th and 20th in the nation. Sophomore transfer 165-pounder Matt Ellis also qualified for the NCAAs and scored an upset of the nation's ninth-ranked wrestler. Before being sidelined by injury in mid-January, freshman 184-pounder Dan Pitsch ran off six straight wins and had beaten a wrestler ranked sixth in the country.

OREGON STATE HEAD COACH Joe Wells: Joe Wells, who is in his 12th 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 during his time at OSU.

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 125-77-1 for a winning percentage of .618.

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, 17 All-Americans and 21 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 was 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 are second in all-time dual meet wins among Division I schools and fourth in all-time dual meet winning percentage going into the 2003-04 season. OSU has an all-time dual meet record of 859-269-24 and a .756 winning percentage.

OREGON STATE'S DUAL MEET SCHEDULE: OSU faces one of the nation's toughest dual meet schedules. The Beavers meet 6 teams ranked in the preseason National Wrestling Coaches Association poll: No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Lehigh at the Hawai'i Duals, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 22 Arizona State, No. 23 Boise State and No. 24 Fresno State.

OREGON STATE IN GILL COLISEUM: Oregon State has one of the finest homes in college wrestling, 10,400-seat Gill Coliseum. In 47 seasons in Gill Coliseum, the Beavers have a home dual meet record of 357-68-5 in the arena for a winning percentage of .836. Last season, OSU was 5-3 at home with all 3 losses coming to nationally-ranked teams.

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.

OREGON STATE WRESTLING HOMECOMING: Oregon State will celebrate its annual OSU Wrestling Homecoming on Dec. 13 when the Beavers play host to Oregon.

Last season, nearly 100 former wrestlers returned to Gill Coliseum for the event. They were part of a crowd of 2,529 that saw the Beavers beat arch-rival Oregon 27-13 on the day when legendary former coach Dale Thomas was honored at halftime. The OSU wrestlers returning for the homecoming festivities accounted for 46 individual conference championships, 29 All-America finishes and 5 NCAA titles during their careers.

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 AssociationPre	NRJed Pennell, 174Am.Wr.News		InterMatPre	(184) 18th	Pre	17th
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