No. 19 ASU Heads to Pac-10 Wrestling Championships

Feb. 23, 2005

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The championship season gets under way for the Arizona State University wrestling team this weekend as the Sun Devils (11-6-1, 8-0 Pac-10) travel to San Luis Obispo, Calif., for the 2005 Pac-10 Championships. Bouts will be held Sunday and Monday at Mott Gym on the campus of Cal Poly.

  The Pac-10 Championships will run two days and crown 11 champions, including one at each of the 10 weight classes as well as a team champion. Not only are conference crowns on the line, but 40 berths into the 2005 NCAA Championships (March 17-19) in St. Louis next month. The conference coaches will meet prior to the meet to determine how wrestlers will gain entrance into the national meet, but, if it is similar to the 2004 meet, the Top 3 placers automatically earn a spot in the national event with the coaches selecting 10 `wild-card' entries for the meet.

  The Pac-10 has played host to 42 conference wrestling meets in its history with two teams winning 30 of those titles. Oregon State leads the way with 16 team crowns while the Sun Devils sit second with 14 team titles.

  Arizona State played host to the 2004 event in Tempe and finished tied with Stanford for fifth place once year after winning the title. Boise State, the previous year's host, won the team title. Two Sun Devils won conference titles with Ryan Bader winning his second at 197 and Nick Frost winning his second overall, adding the 184 crown to the 165 title he won one year prior.

  Ryan Bader (197) returns to the conference tournament for the third time in his career and will look to defend the titles he has won in the previous two seasons. As a redshirt freshman in 2003, Bader scored a 4-2 decision over K.C. Walsh (Boise State) to win the crown at the meet held in Boise, Idaho. Last year, ASU hosted the event and saw the 197 bout finished in similar fashion to the year before as Bader defeated Walsh again, this time, 3-0.
  If Bader can successfully defend his crowns this weekend, he will become just the 13th three-time conference champion and the 16th Sun Devil to win three or more in a career.

  Three Sun Devils return to the Pac-10 Championship meet this year after competing in the event held in Tempe in 2004. Jeremy Mendoza, who finished sixth at 141 a year ago, returns to the 125 weight class this season where he went 2-2 and did not place. Patrick Williams returns to the 149 division again this season after finishing as the runner-up last year while Brian Stith (157) will look to pick up his first conference tournament victory after going 0-2 last year.

  Six of the wrestlers ASU is sending to the championships this weekend will be competing in their first Pac-10 meet with two of those wrestlers holding the No. 1 ranking in their respective weight classes. Both C.B. Dollaway (184) and Cain Velasquez (285) are ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 while redshirt freshmen Patrick Pitsch (165) and Rick Renzi (174) each come in at No. 6 in their respective weight classes. Sophomores Curtis Ray (141) and John Espinoza (133) will be making their conference meet debuts as well.

  On the strength of its sixth dual victory in a row, all against conference foes, the Sun Devils capped the 2004-05 dual season with a perfect 8-0 record in the Pac-10. The last time ASU ended a season with a perfect showing in the conference standings was the 2001-02 season in which the Sun Devils went 6-0 in the league.

  Cal Poly last played host to the Pac-10 Wrestling Championships in 1994 where ASU finished third overall with a pair of individual champions. The Sun Devils' Danny Felix (118) and Marcus Mollica (158) each won their respective weight classes, but it was not enough as Oregon State won the most recent of its 16 crowns with 128.75 points. CS Bakersfield was the team runner-up with 98.25 points and ASU third at 93.50 points.

  Following the conclusion of the regular season dual schedule, the 10 starters ASU will enter into the Pac-10 Championships this weekend have built a combined 195-79 record in 2004-05 which equates to a Sun Devil winning his bout 71% of the time.

  The 10 Sun Devils set to represent ASU this weekend at Cal Poly hold a combined 25-27 record against the wrestlers ranked in the final Top 6 poll released Monday.

  Here is weight-by-weight look at the 10 starters the Sun Devils plan to enter into the Pac-10 Championships this weekend:
  Jeremy Mendoza (125) is a junior from Temecula, Calif., with a 23-5 record on the strength of a nine-bout winning streak and a 10-0 start to the season. Ranked as high as No. 9 in the nation, he needs one more win to reach 50 for his career.
  John Espinoza (133) is a sophomore from Phoenix, Ariz., and sits 10-6 on the season. He broke into the starting lineup Jan. 10 at the Sun Devil Duals and has gone 7-5 for ASU in that time. Curtis Ray (141) is a sophomore from Mesa, Ariz., with a 6-7 record, including a 3-2 mark at 141 after moving up a weight Jan. 10. He has won his last three bouts, all against conference foes, and has pinned his last two opponents.
  Patrick Williams (149) is a senior from Homestead, Fla., with a 19-7 record this season and is a returning Pac-10 finalist at this weight. Williams has placed in three tournaments this year, winning the Fullerton Open before taking 6th in Las Vegas and 7th in Reno.
  Brian Stith (157) is a sophomore from Hampton, Va., with a deceptive 26-9 record. Of his nine losses this season, three have come in the tie-breaker overtime period while all nine losses have come to higher ranked national wrestlers, including three to No. 1 Matt Gentry (Stanford).
  Patrick Pitsch (165) is a red-shirt freshman from Spanaway, Wash., with a 19-12 record in his first year as a starter. Pitsch has placed in all three tournaments this year including second at the Fullerton Open, 8th in Las Vegas and 6th in Reno.
  Rick Renzi (174) is a red-shirt freshman from Flagstaff, Ariz., and stands 11-19 on the year. Competing in his first varsity season with the Sun Devils, Renzi recently snapped an eight-bout losing streak with his 22-11 major decision over A.J. Lawrence of Portland State.
  C.B. Dollaway (184) is a junior transfer from Colby College and stands 26-6 on the year. Recently, the Mt. Gilead, Ohio, native reclaimed the top ranking in the conference by scoring a 13-2 major decision over No. 10 Ryan Halsey. Dollaway has won his last nine with four falls and 13-of-14 in 2005.
  Ryan Bader (197) is a junior from Reno, Nev., with a 27-5 record this year and is the two-time defending conference champion at 197. He has placed in three tournaments this season including second at Fullerton and Las Vegas and third in Reno.
  Cain Velasquez (Hwt.) is a junior from Yuma, Ariz., with a 28-3 record this year on the strength of 14 wins in a row. The Sun Devil big man also has won 21-of-22 and has placed in three tournaments including first at Fullerton, 2nd at Reno and 3rd at Las Vegas.

  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 nine in row.

  Head Coach Thom Ortiz certainly has his wrestlers peaking at the right time as the 10 starters for the Pac-10 Championships have combined to post a 92-35 overall record since the turn of the new year. More impressive than that is the same group is 29-6 in the month of February.

  In his first season with the Sun Devils, C.B. Dollaway has made quite an impression, posting a 26-6 record. Victorious in 14 of his last 15 bouts, including nine in a row, Dollaway leads the team with nine via fall and, of the 13 victories, seven have come by fall. Recently, Dollaway scored a 13-2 major over Ryan Halsey to close out the dual season.

  Brian Stith has been on a tear ever since the New Year, building a 8-2 record in the month of January and is 3-1 in February. Of those 11 victories, seven have come by major decision with two falls and one technical fall 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 81-14 overall with a total of 22 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 2-0 weekend (Velasquez did not wrestle to allow senior Clifford Starks tom compete on Senior Day). Dollaway was the lone `bonus point' winner as he recorded a major decision.

  In the final conference rankings heading into the Pac-10 Championships, 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 and C.B. Dollaway leading the way at No. 1 in the 285 and 184 divisions, respectively. Ryan Bader (197), 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. 23 USA Today/NWCA National Top 25 has Arizona State holding onto the No. 19 position.

  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.

  Real Pro Wrestling (RPW) was created in 2002 and held its first show taping Oct. 8-9 in Los Angeles. Several former Sun Devils competed for the shows that will begin airing on PAX TV March 31. For more information, includng biographical information on all the participants, visit the internet home of the professional league on the web at

  Five Sun Devils hold roster spots in RPW, including Eric Larkin, Aaron Simpson, Kellan Fluckiger and Danny Felix, who all compete for the Texas Shooters. Two-time NCAA Champion Marcus Mollica competes for the California Claw.

  Those Sun Devils earning berths into the NCAA Wrestling Championships will head to St. Louis, Mo., and Savvis Center for the 2005 national event being held March 17-19. A Top 8 finish at the national tournament will guarantee that wrestler All-America honors for the season.

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