Three Duals Await Sun Devil Wrestling This Week

Jan. 1, 2006

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TEMPE, Ariz. - Following action in a pair of tournaments, the No. 19 Arizona State University wrestling team (3-2, 1-0 Pac-10) returns to dual competition this week with a trio of tough contests as the Sun Devils head to Minneapolis, Minn., to face No. 2 Minnesota before returning home to play host to the Sun Devil Duals with No. 7 Iowa State (3-2, 0-0 Big XII) and UC Davis (2-0, 1-0 Pac-10) visiting Tempe. The week opens with the Sun Devils and Golden Gophers meeting in Minneapolis on Jan. 3 for a 7 p.m. CST dual and then concludes with Sun Devil Duals on Jan. 8 starting at 11 a.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena. The Cyclones and Aggies open the day with an 11 a.m. dual before the Sun Devils meet UCD in a Pac-10 dual at 12:30 p.m. The Duals conclude when ASU meets ISU and former Sun Devil coach Bobby Douglas at 2 p.m.

Each week throughout the 2005-06 season, Sun Devil Assistant Coach Aaron Simpson will provide an inside look at the team as he submits journal entries to Visit the wrestling page on the official athletic web site of Arizona State Athletics to see what Coach Simpson has to say about a previous meet, the team's preparations and other interesting facts and stories about the Sun Devils.

MR. 100
Heading into his senior season, Ryan Bader stood 88-34 in his career with the Sun Devils. So far this season, Bader has compiled an 11-2 record to bring his career mark to 99-36, leaving him one victory shy of 100 career wins. He will have three chances to break the 100-win plateau this week with three duals scheduled. The last ASU wrestler to reach the milestone mark of 100 victories was current assistant coach Eric Larkin, who finished his career with 123 victories, tying him for the sixth-most wins in school history.

Ryan Bader's chase for 100 victories is not the only place in the record books he is nearing in on. Following the first five duals of the season, Bader is 4-1 and has improved his career dual record to 41-19 overall. His win total ties him for the 19th-most in program history with John Ginther, who went 41-10-3 from 1985-89. With at least 13 duals remaining on the schedule in 2006, Bader could reach the Top 10 in dual victories, needing just 10 more wins to tie for 10th overall. Joining him in this chase is another senior, Jeremy Mendoza. After going 5-0 in duals so far this season, Mendoza improved to 31-15 overall in his dual meet career and will need 10 more on the season to crack into the Top 20.

Jeremy Mendoza, a senior walk-on starter from Temecula, Calif., has made the most of his senior season so far as he has climbed to No. 6 in the national rankings with a 17-1 record and the championship title at the 2005 Reno Tournament of Champions. Mendoza also has built a 5-0 record in dual competition this season and his lone loss came in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational to Cornell's Troy Nickerson, currently ranked No. 5 in the nation. Mendoza entered the season with a career mark of 52-39 and is now 69-40 in his career.

Before the turn of the New Year last season, Cain Velasquez had built a 14-3 overall record with two of his losses coming to Greg Wagner of Michigan at the Las Vegas Invitational and Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State in the final of the Reno Tournament. After that loss to Mocco, Velasquez would run off 18 victories in a row to win the Pac-10 title before finishing fourth at the NCAA Championships. This season, Velasquez holds an 18-2 record with his losses coming at the hands of Wagner in Las Vegas and Mocco in the finals of the Reno event. If the Sun Devil big man has as much success this year as he did last year, he will be on his way to yet another All-America accolade and conference crown.

When ASU and UC Davis meet Sunday, four bouts will feature a pair of wrestlers ranked among the Top 6 in the latest conference rankings (supplied by Stanford on Dec. 26). No. 1 Jeremy Mendoza and No. 5 Marcos Orozco are slated to meet at 125 while No. 1 Brian Stith and No. 6 Dustin Noack will square off at 157. No. 2 Patrick Pitsch and No. 3 Frank Richmond comprise the closest ranking battle at 165 while No. 1 Ryan Bader and No. 5 Elliott Kelly should meet at 197. The rankings, which are updated throughout the season, are used to determine the seedings for the 2005 Pac-10 Championship tournament.

The Sun Devils finished seventh overall with two champions and one addition finalist in their last time on the mats as ASU took part in the Reno Tournament of Champions (Dec. 18). Overall, Jeremy Mendoza (125) and Brian Stith (157) captured individual crowns in the one-day tournament while heavyweight Cain Velasquez fell in the finals for the second year in a row to close out the events slated for 2005.

Jeremy Mendoza (125) and Brian Stith (157) won the second and third, respectively, individual crowns this season for the Sun Devils by taking first place at the Reno Tournament of Champions. The duo joins Cain Velasquez (285) as the only individual champions on the year after the Sun Devil big man won the season-opening East Stroudsburg Open.

So far this season, six different Sun Devils have recorded double-digit victory totals with four of those wrestlers losing no more than two times on the season. Cain Velasquez leads the way with an 18-2 mark at heavyweight while Jeremy Mendoza is just behind him at 125 with a 17-1 record. Brian Stith (157) is 10-1 while Ryan Bader (197) rounds out those four with an 11-2 record overall. Pat Payne (149) and Patrick Pitsch (165) also are in the double-digit win total column with 11-6 and 14-3 records, respectively.

With his nearly undefeated record, Brian Stith (157) is recovering nicely from a knee injury sustained last year and stands 10-1 this season. The 2005 Pac-10 Champion at 157 and All-American (fifth-place finisher), Stith will look to add another crown and All-America honor to his resume this season as he currently is ranked No. 7 in the nation.

The Golden Gophers enter the weekend ranked No. 2 in the latest NWCA/USA Today poll and carry a 7-0 overall record (0-0 Big Ten) after winning the Southern Scuffle on the strength of three individual champions. In its most recent dual, UM defeated Iowa State, 21-13, to remain perfect on the season. Head Coach J Robinson guides the program and stands 285-101-3 in his coaching career.

Although Minnesota won the dual last year in Tempe, 22-16, the Sun Devils still remain on top of the series standings with a 9-7-0 advantage all-time.

The ASU-UM dual will feature four bouts pitting two Top 16 opponents against one another. The biggest of the four fittingly comes at the heavyweight class where No. 4 Cain Velasquez will meet No. 2 Cole Konrad. Velasquez won in the dual in Tempe last year, 4-3. The three other Top 20 meetings are No. 6 Jeremy Mendoza vs. No. 16 Andrew Domingues at 125; No. 7 Brian Stith vs. No. 11 C.P. Schlatter at 157; and No. 10 Patrick Pitsch vs. No. 13 Matt Nagel at 165.

The dual between Arizona State and Iowa State will mark the fifth meeting of pupil and teacher as Sun Devil Head Coach Thom Ortiz squares off with his former collegiate coach, as well as the man he served under as an assistant coach, Bobby Douglas, who was the ASU coach for 18 years (1974-1992). A three-time All-American and three-time Pac-10 Champion under Douglas, Ortiz' Sun Devils are 1-4 against the Cyclones with a 1-1 home record, a 1-1 away record and an 0-1 mark in neutral competition.

The Aggies enter the weekend unranked in the latest national polls and stand 2-1 overall and 1-0 in Pac-10 action following a 25-9 defeat of Cal State Fullerton earlier in the season. The Aggies most recently finished ninth in the Reno Tournament of Champions where the Sun Devils took seventh overall. Head Coach Lennie Zalesky is in his fifth year with the program and holds a career record of 30-30-1.

Arizona State won the first meeting between the two programs last year as it secured a 22-14 decision on the road in Davis to take a 1-0-0 lead in the all-time series.

The second and third-ranked Pac-10 wrestlers at 165 will square off this weekend as No. 2 Patrick Pitsch and No. 3 Frank Richmond are slated to meet. Pitsch lost, 4-3, in the dual meeting one year ago in Davis, Calif., but exacted some revenge as he defeated Richmond, 8-2, in the Pac-10 tournament on his way to finishing third overall.

The Cyclones stand 3-2 overall (0-0 Big XII) this season and are currently ranked No. 7 in the nation following a fifth-place showing at the prestigious Midlands Tournament in Evanston, Ill., last week. In meetings with common opponents to ASU this season, ISU is 1-2 with a victory over Cal Poly and losses to Minnesota and Iowa. Bobby Douglas, the former head coach of the Sun Devils' 1988 NCAA Championship team, returns with his Cyclones and a career record of 420-163-0.

Two years ago at the Sun Devil Duals, Arizona State handed then undefeated Iowa State its first loss of the season. Last year in Ames, Iowa, the Cyclones struck back for a 22-16 decision and improved their overall record in the series to 19-5-0.

Only two bouts will feature Top 20 foes meeting on the mats, but according to the rankings, they should be two tremendous bouts. The first will be 157 where No. 7 Brian Stith is slated to meet No. 4 Trent Paulson of ISU. One bout later will see No. 10 Patrick Pitsch taking on No. 7 Travis Paulson at 165.

Of the 30 bouts contested at the Portland State Duals, 17 victories recorded by ASU wrestlers earned bonus points in the team race. Combined, the Sun Devils won five bouts by fall (six points), three by technical fall (five points), seven by major decision (four points) and two by injury default or forfeit (six points). Conversely, only two bouts were won in a dual with No. 8 Lehigh with one victory ending in a major decision for Cain Velasquez.

Last year, Patrick Pitsch went 24-15 in his first season of action for the Sun Devils. In those 39 bouts, Pitsch did not pin an opponent. In his first match of the 2005-06 season, Pitsch collected his first pin as he defeated Marshall Cook with the fall at 5:42. His pin was one of five recorded by ASU wrestlers at the PSU Duals the first weekend of the season.

Patrick Pitsch may have recorded the first fall of his collegiate career earlier this season, but several Sun Devils have made pinning their opponents a habit this season. So far, 16 falls have been recorded by Arizona State grapplers with six coming from Cain Velasquez (285) and another sour from the opposite end of the weight class spectrum, Jeremy Mendoza (125).

Stanford, the host of the 2006 Pac-10 Championships, released updated rankings for the conference December 26 with six Sun Devils holding positions in the Top 6 and the team sitting second in the team rankings behind Cal Poly. Jeremy Mendoza (125), Brian Stith (157), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285) are each ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes while Pat Payne (149) and Patrick Pitsch (165) each sit second. This week's rankings mark the first time this season Payne has been in the Top 6 as well as the first time both John Espinoza (133) and C.B. Dollaway (184) have not been ranked. Both unranked wrestlers are expected back in the line up in January.

Arizona State won the 2005 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships to not only capture its second crown in three years, but also the 15th in the history of the program. Brian Stith (157) upset Matt Gentry of Stanford, the defending Pac-10 and NCAA champion, to win his weight class and earn Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships. Cain Velasquez (heavyweight) also secured a title, the first of his career, before being named as the Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year. C.B. Dollaway (184) and Ryan Bader (197) each advanced to the finals of their respective weight classes before placing second. Thom Ortiz was selected Coach of the Year after leading the team to its 15th Pac-10 title.

Arizona State has three All-Americans returning to its lineup this season, including a pair of first-time honorees from a year ago. Last year, Brian Stith earned his first national accolade by placing sixth at 157 pounds while Cain Velasquez took fifth in the heavyweight division to earn his first honor. Ryan Bader is the Sun Devils' third All-American returning after earning the acclaim in his sophomore campaign of 2003-04.

Thom Ortiz returns for his fifth season as the head coach of the Sun Devils and has compiled a 46-28-1 overall record at Arizona State and stands 26-2-0 in Pac-10 duals. The 2003 and 2005 Pac-10 Coach of the Year will be assisted by Aaron Simpson and Eric Larkin. Simpson is starting his eighth season while Larkin is set to begin his second. All three members of the staff also wrestled for the Sun Devils at one time with Ortiz competing on the 1988 NCAA Championship team and Larkin winning the 2003 NCAA 149 championship. Combined, the trio won nine All-America honors and nine Pac-10 individual crowns.

Wells Fargo Arena, which opened in 1974, is a 14,198-seat facility that plays host to Sun Devil wrestling and other ASU varsity teams, including men's and women's basketball, gymnastics and volleyball. In the time the wrestling program has called WFA home, the team has captured one national title, two runner-up finishes and 16 conference crowns, including 15 as members of the Pac-10. Individually, five Sun Devils earned national titles while 55 different athletes captured 103 conference crowns and 66 individuals combined to secure 94 All-America honors.

The Sun Devils traveled to the Reno Tournament of Champions and finished seventh overall despite several starters sitting out of the meet. Jeremy Mendoza (125), Brian Stith (157) and Cain Velasquez (285) each advanced to the finals with Mendoza and Stith each securing individual titles for the team. Also competing in the event were Adam Hickey (133), Jason Robbins (141), Mark LeBeau (149), Brandon Schad (149), Kevin Gaughan (157), Alex Pavlenko (174) and Jamie Robbins (174).

The Sun Devils tough dual meet schedule continues next weekend as the team travels to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa for the 2005 National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) National Duals on January 14-15 at the UNI Dome. ASU's first round foe and time of bout will be determined the week of the tournament based on each team's national ranking.

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