Wrestling Closes Dual Season Hosting Cal Poly

Feb. 16, 2005

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The 2004-05 dual season comes to a close this weekend as the No. 20 Arizona State University wrestling team (10-6-1, 7-0-0 Pac-10) plays host to Cal Poly (5-11-0, 1-4-0 Pac-10) Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena.

The start time of the dual between Arizona State University and Cal Poly is set for 8:30 a.m. Grab some coffee and wear gold to the dual Saturday.

The dual with the Mustangs not only is the last dual of the season for the Sun Devils, it also marks the final dual in the careers of a pair of seniors, Patrick Williams and Clifford Starks. Both men have competed for the Sun Devils for two years following their transfers into the program from Neosho (Kan.) College and Mesa Community College, respectively. Williams, ranked as high as No. 14 in the national rankings with an 18-7 overall record this year, is currently ranked second in the conference following his runner-up finish a year ago.

Starks has built a 6-3 record this season in limited action behind starter Cain Velasquez. Starks, who filled in for Velasquez the last half of the 2003-04 season, finished third at the Pac-10 Championships to earn a berth into the NCAA Championships, his first appearance in either championship event.

Both Williams and Starks will be recognized at the conclusion of the dual Saturday morning.

The Mustangs enter the dual with a 5-11 overall record and are 1-4 against Pac-10 foes. Seven of their wrestlers are ranked among the Top 6 in the Pac-10 rankings, sitting the team in second behind ASU. Vic Moreno (125) and Ryan Halsey (184) lead the team this season.

Following its 46-4 dismantling of Portland State last weekend, the Sun Devils improved to 7-0-0 in Pac-10 duals with one 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.

After falling in both of its contests at the NWCA National Duals four weeks ago, the Sun Devils have posted a perfect 5-0 record in duals with all five victories coming against Pac-10 opponents (Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UC Davis and Portland State). The five-dual 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.

Cain Velasquez holds a 16-1 record this year in duals and, if he is victorious Saturday, 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 48 career victories and three more this season would push him over the 50-win plateau. The same goes for Brian Stith, who sits at 49 victories in his career. Ryan Bader has collected 83 victories in his three years and, though it likely will not happen this season, he needs 17 more to become just the 21st Sun Devil to reach 100 wins in a career.

Six of the bouts this weekend could pit two Top 6 wrestlers against one another, according to the Feb. 14 Pac-10 individual rankings. The marquee bout comes at 184 where No. 2 C.B. Dollaway faces No. 1 Ryan Halsey. Other bouts include No. 4 Jeremy Mendoza vs. No. 1 Vic Moreno at 125; No. 2 Patrick Williams vs. No. 3 Jeff Owens at 149; No. 6 Patrick Pitsch vs. No. 4 Brody Barrios; No. 2 Ryan Bader vs. No. 3 Ralph Garcia; and No. 1 Cain Velasquez vs. Arturo Basulto at 285.

Three Sun Devils and their Mustang opponents have already met this season with ASU holding a 4-1 advantage. At 149, Patrick Williams is 2-0 against Jeff Owens, securing wins of 13-6 in the finals of the Fullerton Open and 3-2 in the consolation semifinals at Reno while Ryan Bader (197) pinned Ralph Garcia at 2:15 in the consolation quarterfinals of Reno.

At 184, C.B. Dollaway and Ryan Halsey have met twice with the Mustang winning the last bout with a fall at 1:45 in the finals of the Reno tournament. At the start of the season, the duo met in the finals of the Fullerton Open with Dollaway claiming the crown with a 10-0 major decision.

Cain Velasquez (285), Jeremy Mendoza (125) and C.B. Dollaway (184) have been on a tear of late, each holding solid winning streaks. Velasquez leads the way as a winner in 14 straight while both Mendoza and Dollaway have captured victories in eight in row.

285 + 2005 = PERFECTION
Since the ball dropped in Times Square on Jan. 1, Cain Velasquez has been nearly unstoppable. Velasquez, who is 28-3 on the season, has won 14 in a row with all bouts being contested in 2005. Going back into 2004, Velasquez has been victorious in 20 of this last 21 bouts with the lone loss coming in the finals of the Reno Tournament, a 6-1 setback to undefeated and No. 1 Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State.

In his first season with the Sun Devils, C.B. Dollaway has made quite an impression, posting a 25-6 record. Victorious in 13 of his last 14 bouts, including eight in a row, Dollaway leads the team with nine via fall, including his latest win, a pin in 1:45. Of the 13 victories Dollaway has secured recently, seven have come by fall.

Brian Stith has been on a tear ever since the New Year, building a 9-2 record in the month of January and is 2-1 in February. Of those nine victories, seven have come by major decision with two falls 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 79-14 overall with a total of 21 wins by major decision, eight by technical fall and another 14 victories by fall. The trio are currently ranked No. 11, No. 7 and No. 4 in the nation, respectively, following a 3-0 weekend. Each of the three picked up a bonus-point win over the weekend with Velasquez taking the major, Bader the tech fall and Dollaway the fall.

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. 15 USA Today/NWCA National Top 25 has Arizona State holding onto the No. 20 position for the third week in a row. Cal Poly is not ranked in the poll.

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.

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 (realprowrestling.com).

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 championship season gets underway next weekend as the Sun Devils head to San Luis Obispo, Calif., for the 2005 Pac-10 Championships. The tournament, being hosted by Cal Poly, will take place at Mott Gymnasium Sunday and Monday, Feb. 27-28.

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