No. 22 ASU Wrestling Heads to Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational

Nov. 30, 2004

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State University wrestling team (0-2/0-0 Pac-10) returns to tournament action this weekend as the Sun Devils head north to Sin City for the 23rd Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational to be held Friday and Saturday at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas, Nev. Both individual and team scoring will be kept. Upon their return to Tempe, ASU will play host to No. 7 Minnesota Tuesday in a 7 p.m. dual inside Wells Fargo Arena.

The 23rd Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational will feature 45 collegiate teams with 11 of those squads holding positions in the Top 25 national rankings. Those teams include Michigan (5), Nebraska (6), Hofstra (10), West Virginia (11), Cornell (12), Missouri (13), Wisconsin (17), Edinboro (19), Purdue (20) and CS Bakersfield (24).

Last year, the Sun Devils finished fifth in the 43-team field with 102.5 points. Overall, seven Sun Devils placed in the tournament, led by runner-up Ryan Bader at 197. Also placing for Arizona State were Patrick Williams and Cain Velasquez, both fourth at 149 and HWT, respectively, and Brian Stith, seventh at 157. Also placing for ASU, though no longer competing for the team, were Christian Staylor (6th/125), Ron Renzi (6th/174) and Nick Frost (7th/184).

Sun Devil wrestling fans will have the opportunity to follow the action of the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational this weekend from comfort of their own computers. will provide live result updates throughout the tournament while will carry live commentary of selected bouts.

On September 3, 2004, former Sun Devil All-American Steve Blackford lost his life in a tragic automobile accident. A beloved son, brother, nephew and friend, Blackford will be sorely missed by all that were fortunate enough to have met him and especially those who hold a special place in their hearts for him. On the Sun Devils' Dec. 7 dual with Minnesota (7 p.m.), the team will hold a moment of silence in honor of Steve.

The Sun Devils opened their 2004-05 dual meet schedule over the weekend, dropping both the highly ranked teams from the state of Iowa on the road. Arizona State, ranked No. 22, opened the weekend with a 29-10 loss at No. 9 Iowa before concluding the road swing with a 22-16 defeat at the hands of No. 3 Iowa State.

Jeremy Mendoza is off to solid start this year, building a 7-0 record and winning the season-opening Fullerton Open at 125 pounds. His most recent win came in the form of a convincing 11-5 decision over No. 13 Grant Nakamura of Iowa State in a dual in Ames, Iowa. Mendoza also is the lone starter with a perfect record on the year.

A journeyman of sorts for the Sun Devils, Mendoza is back to competing at 125 pounds following a year a 141. He holds a career record of 33-31.

A pair of Sun Devils scored upset victories in dual action over the weekend with the two wins coming in back-to-back bouts. Heavyweight Cain Velasquez got the ball rolling as the eighth-ranked Sun Devil big man scored a 4-1 decision over Iowa State's fifth-ranked Scott Coleman. One bout later, unranked Jeremy Mendoza scored an 11-5 decision over previously undefeated and 13th-ranked Grant Nakamura of ISU.

C.B. Dollaway wrestled the first two duals of his Division I career and unfortunately ran into two highly ranked competitors. Although he lost both bouts, Dollaway showed he has the talent to compete with the best as he took Iowa's No. 2 Paul Bradley to overtime before falling, 9-7, one day before dropping a tough 9-4 decision to No. 4 Kurt Backes of Iowa State.

The wrestling program will soon have a new training facility on campus to use as a joint effort between the Sunkist Kids and ASU. Ground was broken in early August with the 9,600 square foot building scheduled for completion in December. With 7,200 square feet of usable mat space, the facility will hold three full-size competition mats (40x40) and afford a much larger practice area for the Sun Devils, and Sunkist Kids, to utilize.

All wrestling media/publications have released their preseason rankings with the Sun Devils entering the 2004-05 campaign projected as a Top 25 team. The Wrestling Mall has the Sun Devils ranked No. 20 heading into the season with NWCA/Intermat selecting ASU for the No. 22 spot.

Individually, five wrestlers have been selected as Top 20 competitors with four earning rankings from all four publications. According to the NWCA/Intermat Coaches' Poll, Ryan Bader (197) leads the way at No. 4 with Cain Velasquez (HWT) and Patrick Williams (149) earning Top 10 rankings at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively. Brian Stith (157) sits 16th and C.B. Dollaway (184) is 18th. The ranks for Stith, Dollaway and Bader are the best for each across the board with the Amateur Wrestling News ranking Velasquez at No. 6 and Williams at No. 8.

Cal Poly, the host of the 2005 Pac-10 Championships, released the conference's preseason individual rankings Oct. 26 with four Sun Devils earning a place in the Top 6. Both Patrick Williams (149) and Ryan Bader (197) are No. 1 in their respective weight classes while Cain Velasquez (HWT) and Brian Stith (157) sit third and Jeremy Mendoza (125) ranks sixth. Look for other Sun Devils to make their way into the Top 6 during the year as the conference does not rank true freshmen and redshirt freshmen in the preseason (ASU has three redshirts among the starters).

The Golden Gophers have turned in three strong tournament performances for head coach J Robinson this year as they head into their first duals of the season by hosting No. 1 Oklahoma State and traveling to No. 22 ASU. So far this season, the Gophers have won 13 individual titles in three tournaments and one team title. No. 2 Cole Konrad (HWT) leads the way for UM with a perfect 12-0 record on the year.

Although ASU has lost three in a row to UM, the Sun Devils still hold a 9-6-0 advantage in the all-time series. The Gophers won the last meeting, a 20-15 decision on New Year's Day in Rochester, Minn. ASU holds a 6-2-0 lead in the series when the dual is conducted in Tempe.

A consensus Top 4 pick in this season's preseason individual rankings, Ryan Bader returns for his junior season with hopes of not only adding his third Pac-10 championship title at 197 pounds, but also adding his second All-America honors following a fourth-place finish at the national meet a year ago. Bader has compiled a career record of 57-26 following a stellar 33-8 mark last year on his way to earning a spot among the nation's elite wrestlers and winning tournament titles at the Missouri Open, Reno Tournament of Champions and the Pac-10 Championships.

Ryan Bader's All-America honor attained last year may have been his first, but it is certainly not the first for the program. Bader's accolade was the 100th award in the history of the program and also continued a streak of 30 years in a row that the Sun Devil program has produced at least one All-American wrestler.

All four members of the Arizona State coaching staff obtained their degrees from ASU while also competing for the Sun Devils during their careers in Tempe. Head Coach Thom Ortiz graduated in 1990 and was a member of the 1988 national championship team. Aaron Simpson was a two-time All-American prior to earning his degree in 1996 and coaching the team for the past seven seasons. Eric Larkin and Kellan Fluckiger both completed their degree work in 2003 following successful campaigns with the maroon and gold. Larkin was the 2003 NCAA champion at 149 and a four-time All-American and conference champion while Fluckiger was an All-American in his senior season while taking home two conference gold medals.

Thom Ortiz enters his fourth year at the helm of the Sun Devil wrestling program with a 32-20 record as the head coach. Ortiz led the Sun Devils to the 2003 Pac-10 Championship title on the strength of six individual champions and seven total finalists while also guiding current assistant coach Eric Larkin to the NCAA title at 149 pounds in his senior campaign. A graduate of ASU in 1990, Ortiz was a two-time All-American and was a member of the 1988 NCAA Championship Sun Devil team. A three-time Pac-10 champion, Ortiz also was a part of three conference team championships in his time with ASU.

Real Pro Wrestling (RPW) was created in 2002 and held its first show taping Oct. 8-9 in Los Angeles. Eric Larkin, Aaron Simpson, Kellan Fluckiger and Danny Felix all competed for the shows that will begin airing on PAX TV February 13. Teams, results and other information will be released as part of the one-hour shows that will air for 14 weeks in a row with the 15th showing being a two-hour special that features all seven of the championship bouts that pit Olympic caliber freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers against one another (

Wells Fargo Arena, located adjacent to Sun Devil Stadium, is the home of several of Arizona State's athletic teams, including wrestling, basketball, gymnastics and volleyball. The building has a capacity of 14,198 and has been the host of numerous conference and national events, most recently the 2004 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships. In 2005, the NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite Eight for women's basketball will be contested on Ned Wulk Court with the winner heading to the final four.

The Sun Devils took to the road for a pair a duals in the Hawkeye State last weekend, dropping decisions to No. 9 Iowa (29-10) and No. 3 Iowa State (22-16). The Hawkeyes moved to 1-0 on the year while the Cyclones improved to 6-0.

In Iowa City, Iowa, a pair of Sun Devils collected wins, but it was not enough as UI won 8-of-10 bouts for the team win. No. 4 Ryan Bader scored a win via fall while Jeremy Mendoza rolled to a 14-0 major decision at 125 pounds for the lone victories. No. 18 C.B. Dollaway nearly pulled off an upset, taking No. 2 Paul Bradley to overtime and falling to the higher ranked Hawkeye, 9-7 sv.

In the final dual of the road swing, the Sun Devils hung close and nearly upset the Cyclones, but it was not enough, even though ASU won 5-of-10 bouts. Cain Velasquez (8th at HWT) and Mendoza (unranked at 125) each upset ranked foes in No. 5 Scott Coleman and No. 13 Grant Nakamura, respectively, to pace ASU.

Sandwiched between classroom finals and the winter holiday break is the Sun Devils' final individual tournament until the end of the season as ASU heads to the Reno Tournament of Champions, Dec. 19. From there, the Sun Devils do not return to competition until heading to Fresno State for a Jan. 4 dual and then hosting the Sun Devil Duals Jan. 10 inside Wells Fargo Arena starting at 4 p.m.

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