WRESTLING JOURNAL #5: This Week in ASU Wrestling with Aaron Simpson

Jan. 5, 2006

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1/4/05 (Close Competition in Minnesota)
We just returned from our winter vacation in beautiful Minnesota. Well, it wasn't quite a vacation and it definitely wasn't beautiful! Minnesota in January is dreary, gray and cold. I am sure the summers are great (minus the bird sized mosquitoes), but as wrestlers, we always get to travel to exciting places like Ames, Iowa, and Bethlehem, Pa. Just once, it would be nice to go to the Cancun Open or the Hawaii Classic! Just not in the script I guess.

Before I get into the fun we had on and off the mat, I would first like to announce that each time a journal entry is placed on the web site, we will name a Wrestler of the Match. This week, we have selected two wrestlers to earn this honor and they are Alex Pavlenko at 174 and C.B. Dollaway at 184. Both earned upset victories at Minnesota Wednesday night and you can read more about their victories below. Congratulations to Alex and C.B. on their great victories! To view all the Wrestler of the Match honorees this season, click here.

Anyway, back to Minnesota. We departed Tempe January 2 right before kickoff of the final Fiesta Bowl held in Sun Devil Stadium. We got in late, found out our travel company booked us seven rooms with one bed per room at the Days Inn for 15 people. Not exactly what we had in mind. We talked the guy into getting us seven doubles, but wouldn't you know they only had smoking rooms (definitely not what we had in mind). We moved into our rooms and fought through the stench of smoke that lingered in the air. The next day, we had an early morning workout in Minnesota's wrestling room. It is always nice to see what we are recruiting against as far as facilities are concerned and, after seeing their room, I can honestly say that we are well ahead with our new complex.

In the room sat some boxing gloves and boxing headgear. In a moment of stupidity, I decided to call Cain Velasquez out and challenge him to a box off. Of course he agreed. Some of the other guys had already started jogging to get warmed up, Coach Ortiz gave me some words of advice and Cain and I started. At that point, I finally realized I was joking around and Cain was not. I got punched in the nose (boxing headgear DOES NOT PROTECT the nose!), punched in the lip, I tried to double leg out of survival, I was punched in the back of the head and ended up on the ground in the fetal position wishing that Ryan Bader or somebody would jump Cain for me. Then I remembered I had forgotten to lay down the rules like 'no punching the coach'. Needless to say, like everything, Cain goes 100% all the time! I won't make the mistake of boxing Cain again. If I ever do, I'll bring a weapon and some back up of some sort. I finally gained my composure and tried to play it off like it was a lucky punch. Cain just stood there like he completely enjoyed the beating. Glad he is on our team!

On to the dual with Minnesota:

The place started to draw a nice little crowd. They announced 1,500 in attendance, but I counted 1,723. The evening started in traditional weight class order with Jeremy Mendoza wrestling a fellow California kid, Andrew Dominguez. Mendoza had some unfinished business with Dominguez that dated back to the California High School State Tournament, where Dominguez beat Mendoza. Both took different paths and walked-on to two top programs. Now it was Mendoza's turn to even the score. Jeremy got the first takedown and never looked back. He added some back points and riding time to major and revenge his high school loss. Jeremy is wrestling with extreme confidence and looks tough in all positions. We were pinned at 133, lost by decision at 141 and absorbed a technical fall at 149. I can imagine Minnesota was feeling pretty good about its chances at this time.

We had originally thought that Stith would wrestle C.P. Schlatter, one of their stars, but I guess Schlatter was sidelined with an injury. Stith defeated Schlatter last year at the NCAA's to become an All-American. Brian wrestled a back up, got the first takedown and a quick pin to get it going for us. We knew we would forfeit 165 due to an injury to Patrick Pitsch and injuries to our back-ups. Minnesota was a little surprised as their 165 pounder ran out on the mat ready to wrestle, only to be told that he would receive a forfeit.

Next was 174 and Alex Pavlenko was waiting in the wings. Minnesota brought out their ranked wrestler and we brought out Alex. As you may know, Alex has taken his lumps as a freshman, so we weren't quite sure who was going to show up. Well, Alex knew he had something to prove. He wrestled tough. He scored a takedown on the edge of the mat to go up 2-1. Then, he ended up scoring two more takedowns with one earning near fall for a huge upset victory. Because of Alex's stunning win, we found life. You never know when someone is going to step up and get that needed win. We will now look for more from Alex and I know he will be asking more from himself.

Heading into 184, C.B. Dollaway was getting his first start since March of last season. He was to wrestle highly ranked Roger Kish who beat C.B. in the dual last year. C.B. wrestled a very smart match. He did not make mistakes, which, in the past, would cost him in the big matches. C.B. looked tough in this low scoring win. I can say one thing about C.B.; he is focused on one thing: winning the NCAA tournament.

This put the team score 16-20 with Minnesota leading by four going into the final two matches. We told Bader to just go out and get the win. A pin was not going to seal the team victory; Cain was going to have to win regardless. Bader wrestled in control, which is exactly where we want him. He scored in positions that he should score; he got riding time and escaped off bottom quickly. That was Ryan Bader's 100th win as a Sun Devil. There will be many more before this season is over. His win put us within one point of upsetting the undefeated and No. 2 team in the country in their house.

Next came Velasquez and Cole Konrad. Remember, Konrad defeated Steve Mocco (Oklahoma State) in the all-star match in November and is unofficially ranked #1. Cain and Konrad split last year with Konrad winning when it counted at the NCAAs. Cain is a different wrestler from last season. He is bigger and is much better technically yet he still has the same limitless gas tank. Konrad scored early with a throw by and rode Cain out in the first period. Up 2-0, Konrad chose down in the second and proceeded to lay on his stomach for the entire period. Cain rode him out the whole second period. Going into the third, Cain was down 2-0 and was maybe 1 ½ minutes from earning riding time. Cain scored a takedown to tie the score 2-2 with 90 seconds remaining in the match. The big Konrad look tired and Cain did not. We decided to cut Konrad and work for the winning takedown instead of trying to ride Konrad out for the win by earning riding time. Cain proceeds to get in on four more shots while Konrad stalemated each shot. Konrad dug in underhooks from time to time to make it look like he wasn't stalling. He did a good job of making it look good, but Cain did not stop. When the final buzzer ended, you could see it in Cain's eyes. He knows he can beat these guys he has lost to. He has now lost to the three guys that are ranked ahead of him. He may not get another chance until the NCAAs to wrestle any of them.

All in all, we competed very well. I've been saying it all year; we are still not at our full line up and that is okay right now. Other guys are getting some needed experience while others are getting rested and healed up. We will be there in February and March when it counts. The only other thing I can say is some of the guys who are not winning and not competing hard need to ask themselves why they are here. What is it that they want to accomplish as a Sun Devil? How do they want to be remembered? What do they need to change? What is it that makes Cain, Bader, Stith, Mendoza and Dollaway successful? Learn from others and go hard.

We have No. 7 Iowa State and UC Davis at home on Sunday. Those two meet at 11:00 a.m. before we take on UC Davis at 12:30 p.m. and the Cyclones at 2 p.m. We are also having a grand opening for the wrestling and gymnastics facility on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Please show up and brings some friends! We need your support!

From the entire wrestling family, Happy New Year and Go Devils!

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