Pair of Duals in Oregon Await Sun Devil Wrestlers This Weekend

Jan. 26, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. - After dropping a pair of tough duals at the NWCA National Duals one week ago, the No. 16 Arizona State University wrestling team (5-6-1, 2-0-0 Pac-10) returns to the mat this weekend with a pair of conference tests on the road. The Sun Devils head to Corvallis, Ore., Saturday afternoon to face Oregon State (9-4, 4-0 Pac-10) before concluding the road swing with a 2 p.m. dual with Oregon (4-5, 1-3 Pac-10) in Eugene, Ore., Sunday.

Arizona State University enters the weekend following a pair of losses at the 2005 NWCA National Duals, Jan. 22-23, in Cleveland, Ohio. The Sun Devils dropped a 24-16 decision to No. 3-seed Michigan in the championship first round before Central Michigan bounced ASU from the event with a close, 20-19 decision.

C.B. Dollaway produced a solid performance for his hometown fans over the weekend, going 2-0 in his return to Northern Ohio. A native of Mt. Gilead, Ohio (100 miles south of Cleveland), Dollaway won his first bout with a 9-7 decision over Josh Weitzel of Michigan before capping his return with a 15-7 major decision over No. 17 Alex Lammers of Central Michigan. Ranked No. 10 in the latest national rankings, Dollaway stands 20-6 in his first season in Tempe.

Although they will not face each other on the mats this weekend, a pair of brothers will see their two teams meet in conference action. Arizona State's Patrick Pitsch will start at 165 pounds while older sibling Dan will start at 184 pounds for the host Oregon State Beavers.

The Pac-10 Conference has conducted 42 championship tournaments, dating back to the 1963 season. Overall, Arizona State and Oregon State have combined to win 30 of those titles with the Beavers collection 16 and the Sun Devils adding 14.

Arizona State holds a 16-11-0 advantage over Oregon State in the all-time series and won the last meeting, a 20-19 decision in Tempe Jan. 16, 2004. The Sun Devils are 4-5-0 in duals conducted in Corvallis, Ore., and lost the last meeting inside Gill Coliseum with the hosts taking an 18-16 decision Jan. 31, 2003.

Six of the 10 bouts with Oregon State Saturday afternoon could be battles of Top 6 wrestlers in the latest Pac-10 Individual Rankings. Two bouts to watch will be heavyweight and 157. In the match-up of big men, No. 1 Cain Velasquez will meet No. 2 Ty Watterson while at 157, No. 2 Brian Stith will face No. 3 Tony Hook.

The Sun Devils have dominated their series with the Ducks, winning 19 duals in a row to take a 19-2-0 advantage in the series. Arizona State is 8-1-0 in duals conducted in Eugene, Ore., and has won seven in a row at McArthur Court. In the last meeting overall, ASU recorded a 24-11 decision in Tempe Feb. 1, 2004. The Sun Devils downed UO, 21-20, on Feb. 2, 2003, to win the last road dual.

The bout everyone is waiting to witness comes at 197 pounds where No. 2 Ryan Bader, the two-time defending Pac-10 Champion, will face No. 1 Scott Barker, a senior transfer from Missouri. The battle for the top position in the conference is not the only ranking up for grabs as both men are ranked in the Top 10 nationally with Barker sitting fifth and Bader seventh. Six total bouts will feature two Top 6 foes with all six including either the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked wrestlers.

Here is an update on several former Sun Devils: Current assistant coach Eric Larkin, a member of the USA Wrestling freestyle team, will travel to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, and represent the United States in the Ivan Yarygin Memorial International on January 30 ... 2003 graduate Curtis Owen, currently an assistant coach for football and wrestling locally with Chandler High School, was recently named the December Play It Smart academic coach of the month. He was chosen from more than 120 academic coaches nationwide ... former All-American and assistant coach Zeke Jones, now an assistant coach with West Virginia, was recently selected to enter the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame. Jones was enshrined into the Arizona State Hall of Fame in September, following his coaching duties as a member of the USA Wrestling Freestyle team at the Athens Olympics.

The tie with Fresno State on Jan. 4 was the first tied finish for the Sun Devils since ASU and Cal State Bakersfield ended their Jan. 31, 1999, dual in Tempe knotted at 18 apiece. The last time ASU was involved in a tied dual was last year at the Virginia Duals when Purdue won on criteria in a 20-20 in the consolation semifinals of the national event.

Prior to the National Duals, Brian Stith (157) had been on a tear as of late, going 5-1 in his last six bouts. But the more interesting part is how he has built that near perfect record. All five of his wins, including the last four in a row, have come via major decision. He also has won 11 of his last 13 bouts with both losses going down as 2-1 decisions in tie-breakers.

The three heaviest weights in the Sun Devil lineup have provided the largest impact for the team this year. Arizona State's three starters of C.B. Dollaway (184), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285) are a combined 65-13 overall with a total of 15 wins by major decision, six by technical fall and another 11 victories by fall. The trio are currently ranked No. 11, No. 7 and No. 4 in the nation, respectively.

In the latest conference rankings, the Sun Devils are ranked first as a team with Oregon State sitting second and Oregon tied for third (based upon individual rankings). On an individual basis, eight Sun Devils hold rankings with Cain Velasquez (285) leading the way at No. 1. Four wrestlers are ranked No. 2, including Patrick Williams (149), Brian Stith (157), C.B. Dollaway (184) and Ryan Bader (197). Rick Renzi (174) sits fourth while both Patrick Pitsch (165) and Jeremy Mendoza (125) each are fifth.

The Jan. 25 USA Today/NWCA National Top 25 has Arizona State holding onto the No. 16 position for the second week in a row.

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.

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.

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 March 31. 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 final two road duals of the season are on deck for the Sun Devils next weekend as ASU travels to the Bay Area for a pair of Pac-10 contests. On Saturday, Feb. 5, ASU will meet Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., before heading over to Davis, Calif., for a 7 p.m. contest with UC Davis.

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