No. 20 Wrestling Plays Host to Portland State Sunday

Feb. 9, 2005

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TEMPE, Ariz. - Two duals remain on the schedule for the No. 20 Arizona State University wrestling team (9-6-1, 6-0-0 Pac-10) this season with both being contested at home. The first of those duals will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena as the Sun Devils put their season-high four-dual winning streak on the line when Portland State (1-14-0, 0-6-0 Pac-10) visits Tempe.

The Vikings enter the weekend with a 1-14 record on the year with a 0-6 mark in the Pac-10. Portland State will face Simon Frasier and Boise State, both at home, Friday and Saturday, respectively, before heading to Tempe for their meeting with the Sun Devils.

At the midway point in the Sunday battle between Arizona State and Portland State, the Sun Devil wrestling program will honor two special groups. The first will be all alumni in attendance that day while the second will honor the 1980 team. More information follows:

All former members of the Arizona State University wrestling program are invited to attend the dual Sunday and be recognized by the fans for their contributions to the Sun Devils. Those former wrestlers wishing to attend the dual should contact assistant coach Eric Larkin at (480) 965-1464 to make arrangements.

The program also will recognize the members of the 1980 Sun Devil team in attendance for their accomplishments 25 years ago. That season, then-coach Bobby Douglas guided his team to a fifth-place at the NCAA Championships. That finish was the best in program history at the time and the first time an ASU wrestling team had finished in the Top 5 at nationals.

The 1980 Sun Devils also secured the program's first Pac-10 Conference championship title, paving the way to the second-most team titles in conference history with 14. All-Americans Dan Severn (2nd at 190), Bill Cripps (3rd at 142), Eddie Ortiz (4th at 126) and Dave Severn (8th at 177) led the charge to the top of the standings.

On the strength of wins at Stanford and at UC Davis over the weekend, the Sun Devils improved to 6-0-0 in Pac-10 duals with two remaining to be contested. The last time ASU went perfect in the conference was the 2001-02 season that ended with the Sun Devils sitting 6-0 in the league.

With their sweep of Stanford and UC Davis last weekend, the Sun Devils claimed their third and fourth victories in a row. That winning streak is the longest in dual competition since last season when ASU took five in a row, including two wins at the Virginia Duals and an upset of then-No. 2 and undefeated Iowa State.

Two duals remain on the schedule for the Sun Devils this year prior to heading to the Pac-10 and NCAA Championships. Following the Sunday dual with Portland State, Arizona State will play host to Cal Poly at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19

The final dual of the season will be an early start as the Sun Devils will meet Cal Poly at 9 a.m. Saturday Feb. 19. The early morning start time was needed in order to allow the arena to be readied for the ASU men's basketball game later that day.

Cain Velasquez holds a 15-1 record this year in duals and, if he is victorious in the final two duals of the season, could reach 17 victories to tie him for 20th on the all-time single-season list.

Three other Sun Devils are nearing significant milestones of their own, though one will more than likely have to wait until next season to eclipse the mark. Jeremy Mendoza has 47 career victories and three more this season would push him to the 50-win plateau. The same goes for Brian Stith, who sits at 48 victories in his career. Ryan Bader has collected 82 victories in his three years and, though it likely will not happen this season, he needs 18 more to become just the 21st Sun Devil to reach 100 wins in a career.

Only one bout this weekend will pit two Top 6 Pac-10 wrestlers against one another. That bout will be at 157 when No. 2 Brian Stith meets No. 6 Kainoa Casco.

Here is an update on several former Sun Devils: Current assistant coach Eric Larkin, a member of the USA Wrestling freestyle team, traveled to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, and represented the United States in the Ivan Yarygin Memorial International on January 30. Unfortunately for Larkin, he suffered a 2-0 defeat in the first round and was eliminated. Larkin also recently fell in the second round of the Dave Shultz Invitational in Colorado Springs, Colo. ... 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.

Brian Stith has been on a tear ever since the New Year, building an 8-2 record in the month of January and is 1-1 in February. Of those nine victories, seven have come by major decision with one fall and one decision victory. His first two losses both were in the tiebreaker period and decided by one point.

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 76-14 overall with a total of 20 wins by major decision, seven by technical fall and another 13 victories by fall. The trio are currently ranked No. 11, No. 7 and No. 4 in the nation, respectively, following a 6-0 weekend. Of those six wins, Bader recorded two major decisions and Velasquez one major and one technical fall victory.

In the latest conference rankings, the Sun Devils are ranked first as a team (based upon individual rankings). On an individual basis, eight Sun Devils are ranked in the Top 6 with Cain Velasquez leading the way at No. 1 in the 285 division. Ryan Bader (197), C.B. Dollaway (184), Brian Stith (157) and Patrick Williams (149) are each ranked No. 2 while Jeremy Mendoza (125) is No. 4. Both Patrick Pitsch (165) and Rick Renzi (174) sit sixth in their weights.

The Feb. 8 USA Today/NWCA National Top 25 has Arizona State holding onto the No. 20 position following its sweep of Stanford and UC Davis last weekend.

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.

ASU will close out the dual season with a 9 a.m. home dual with Cal Poly (Feb. 19) next weekend. From there, the Pac-10 and NCAA Championships await the Sun Devils as the 2004-05 season nears an end.

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