WRESTLING JOURNAL #7: This Week in ASU Wrestling with Aaron Simpson

Jan. 17, 2006

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1

/17/05 (National Duals Recap and Heading into the Pac-10 Season)
This past weekend, we headed to the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Team Duals. We had a short flight into Denver on the Ted; then took a miniature jet that seated about 50 people into Cedar Rapids. We traveled with 16 individuals: 12 wrestlers, three coaches and a trainer. Not too bad, although the thought of going into single digit weather was not the most exciting thing in the world. For some reason, a certain someone (Thom Ortiz) schedules the earliest flight in the morning, so we are usually a very grumpy bunch just hurrying around, then waiting, then hurrying, then waiting. So goes life!

Just as we do each week, it is time to announce the Wrestler of the Match for the National Duals. I think most of you would agree with this week's choice being Ryan Bader. Bader went 3-1 on the weekend, upset a Top 10 opponent in commanding fashion (6-0 over No. 10 Matt Delguyd of Northwestern) and pinned his foe from Missouri on the final day to keep our chances of defeating the Tigers two days in a row alive. Bader now has 105 wins in his career and will look to keep climbing the wins list.

DAY ONE
Round #1 - #8 seed Missouri

We were unseeded and drew the #8 seed, Missouri. All our guys were pretty focused and ready to take it to Missouri. We have been the underdogs all season and were definitely looking to prove we belong. Missouri had some very tough individuals, so we knew it was going to be close and that bonus points were crucial. Jeremy Mendoza started us off with a major decision over nationally ranked Austin Devoe (#18). We had a tough match at 133 only losing by decision. Jason Robbins (fighting the flu) battled hard, but still lost a tough match. A critical point in the dual came at 149 lbs. when Pat Payne, fresh off knee surgery, was dominating the 17th ranked wrestler in the nation. He was up 4-1 with riding time and was going for near fall points when he was reversed, caught on his back and pinned. We went from possibly getting a major to losing by pin. Now, we had to really pick it up. Brian Stith wrestled tough at 157; Pat Pitsch lost to returning All-American #4 Matt Pell in a tough match at 165; we gave up a pin at 174 and then, going into 184, we needed at least a major in the final three matches. C.B. Dollaway wrestled a tough freshman throwing him to his back in the final seconds to secure a major. Ryan Bader continued to dominate by also securing a major. This put us within three points to tie. Cain Velasquez took to the mat and eventually pinned the Missouri heavyweight, winning us the dual. We needed that win to get us going and give us a shot at #1 Oklahoma State.

Quarterfinals - #1 seed Oklahoma State
Mendoza wrestled Coleman Scott and looked very flat in the match. He was not doing the things that needed to be done to beat a tough opponent like Scott. Mendoza gave up two takedowns and was ridden for a while. He needed to wrestle with a little chip on his shoulder, but luckily, we still have some season left and will continue to work. We lost at 133 and 141 and forfeited 149. Next up was Stith, with a repeat match from the Reno finals. The match went double overtime with Stith suffering a questionable takedown to lose the match. It was a tough loss because we think Stith is capable of winning it all this year. He still has so much room for improvement, yet he is right there. Being a month and a half out from Pac-10s, we still have time. At 165, Pitsch had another tough match in defending national champ Johnny Hendricks. Pitsch battled hard, but technique and fatigue proved to be the difference in the match. Pitsch is still trying to figure his style out. We love his brawling, relentless style, but he needs to be able to set people up more and score. It is not always about brawling. We lost at 174 and were heading towards the ole goose egg until Dollaway defeated Rusty Blackmon at 184. Ryan Bader lost a good match to two-time national champion Jake Rosholt. I think Bader needed to wrestle that match now and see he is capable of beating Rosholt. He just needs to stick to the game plan and keep the match at his pace. Once again, Velasquez was able to wrestle Steve Mocco and, once again, left it all on the mat. But, the problem was Velasquez gave up two takedowns being the aggressor. How do you tell a kid to not attack? I don't think you do. It is all he knows. He is go-go-go for seven minutes straight. We just need to be smarter in the attacks. We lost some close matches in our dual against OSU, but came away with a lot to work on. As long we learn from our mistakes, we will continue to improve.

Wrestle-backs - Northwestern
Next was a good match against up and coming Northwestern. They have put together some good recruiting classes and are now looking tough in the Big Ten and nationally. Mendoza started us off with another win over John Velez. At 133, Adam Hickey lost a very close match. We just need to get him a win. Hickey tries so hard, has such a great attitude and is so willing to be coached you just hate to see him lose. Jason Robbins put together a good win for us at 141. He really sucked it up when it got tough and got his hand raised. I've got to believe that once Jason believes he is good enough to win, he will turn that corner. He shows flashes of greatness and has a unique ability to scramble and find his balance in tough situations. He has great speed and athleticism, pulled off a tough match for his team this dual and I believe he hasn't even come close to reaching his potential as a college wrestler and as a Sun Devil! Payne got back in the win column at 149 and looked very good, almost getting a major. Stith rebounded from his loss to Oklahoma State with a nice win with Pitsch continuing to battle. He then competed against highly ranked Virginia transfer Wil Durkee. These two put on an exciting match that ended in Pitsch losing in overtime. We lost against a tough 174 pound wrestler next. Dolloway scored a big win against a tough kid at 184 and at 197, Bader dominated Matt Delguyd, 6-0, amassing over four minutes of riding time (Delguyd was ranked ahead of Bader). We forfeited at heavyweight knowing we would possibly have a shot at Michigan's heavyweight and third ranked Greg Wagner in the next round. All in all, it was a great performance and kept us in the tournament while other top teams were being knocked out.

Wrestle-backs - #4 seed Michigan
In our final match of the night we wrestled Michigan. This was to see who would go for fifth/sixth or seventh/eighth. We thought we had a chance knocking these guys off. It was a long day so far, but our guys were responding pretty well. Mendoza got us a pin to get it going early. Hickey lost another one, but did not give up a major. Jason Robbins lost to returning All-American Josh Churella at 141 in a good match. Payne wrestled All-American Eric Tannenbaum to a close 4-0 loss and I was really impressed with his ability to stay composed in tough situations. Payne will be just fine. A big win for us came at 157 where Stith had two nice takedowns to defeat Las Vegas champion Steve Luke. That is the way you want your guys to respond from an early tough loss: come back and beat someone ranked ahead of you. Pitsh ran into another tough opponent, losing to top-ranked Ryan Churella. After that match, Pat had wrestled the number one, two and three ranked wrestlers in his weight...all on the same day! For a kid who wants to eventually win the NCAAs, you couldn't ask for a better learning experience. Pat never put his head down. He stepped up and battled and his face shows it. He is bruised, busted and swollen. He was happy to call it a night. Jamie Robbins put together three good periods in a loss to Nick Roy and really held his own out there giving up only a decision. We thought we still had a chance going into 184 when Dollaway lost to a tough freshman. Dollaway's body was just not responding in its fourth match of the day. He was out there trying, but just could not get moving. The loss put the match out of reach. Bader went out and secured a win setting up the heavyweight showdown. Michigan's heavyweight last beat Velasquez in the finals of Las Vegas. Velasquez needed a win here, but it did not happen. The match went 0-0 after the first period. In the second period, Wagner chose down and caught Velasquez in a roll for a reversal and back points. Velasquez was upset and knew he made a mistake that was going to be hard to make up for. At heavyweight, a five point lead is tough to come back from. He continued to go hard, but still came up short. This loss dropped us into the seventh/eighth place bout. We were to have a re-match with Missouri as they handed Iowa State a loss, sending the Cyclones down the road to Ames.

DAY TWO
Seventh/Eighth Place Bout - #8 seed Missouri

Once again, we knew this would be a tough one. We did not want to finish eighth. We said, 'Missouri was seeded eighth, not us. Let them place there'. Austin DeVoe wrestled very defensively against Mendoza this time around. Jeremy pulled out the win in a tight match. We lost at 133 and were pinned at 141. We had to sit Jason Robbins due to an injury suffered against Michigan. Payne got the win at 149, but it was not against the kid who pinned him in the first dual. Stith won in a good match at 157. Once again, Pitsch wrestled fourth-ranked Pell and stayed in the match, but still did not get his hand raised. It was a tough weekend for Pitsch, but I would not count him out. We were pinned at 174 by two-time NCAA runner-up Ben Askren. At this point, we needed three wins to tie the score at 18 each. Then, Dollaway lost. Not quite sure what went wrong, but we will fix it. We have to! This put Missouri at 21 points and left us with nine points going into the finals two matches. If you did the math, you realized that we needed two pins to tie. 'Two' pins two tie! Bader is not exactly a pinning machine. A 'winning machine'? Yes. A 'pinning machine'? No. Bader went after it. He knew exactly what he had to do. He worked for the entire time trying to turn a kid that did not want to get pinned. Then, wouldn't you know it, Bader turned him and pinned him with one second left in the second period! We still had life. Bader kept us in it. Next was Velasquez. Now, remember, Cain pinned this kid in the first dual. We knew he could do it again, but the Missouri kid also knew the scenario. Don't get pinned and win the dual for the team. My money was on Cain. He tried and tried and tried. The kid laid there earning three stalling calls on the verge of getting stalled out. Cain just went for it and caught the kid on his back from an ankle pick. When the referee slapped the mat we all jumped like school children just released for recess! Bader said he hoped that nobody saw his leaping spin which resembled a Kristie Yamaguchi triple axel! We tied them. It came down to criteria. I don't think we really cared at that point. We were just excited with two back-to-back pins. It is like throwing a Hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock for the game-winning touchdown. It actually came down to the seventh criteria, most near fall points. Bader's near fall points put us over. We won. We came in unseeded, ranked 18th in some polls and placed seventh!

All in all, there were some exciting duals outside of ours. You saw traditional powers like Iowa and Iowa State falling. You saw other teams really step up and wrestle hard. I really like the national dual format. It is too bad that it is not televised like basketball. It is a great weekend with great wrestling. It is college wrestling at its finest. Outside of the NCAA Championships, the NWCA National Duals is a great time. There was a great crowd, but I am really surprised more fans do not show up for it. I imagine the finals alone with Minnesota knocking off Oklahoma State in a dual that came down to the heavyweights in which two-time NCAA champion Steve Mocco is pinned by Cole Konrad was worth the price of flights, hotels and admission for most! If you are truly a fan of wrestling, you have to take in the national duals sometime in the future.

Well, this was a long one, but it was a long weekend. We start our Pac-10 schedule this weekend as we take on Oregon State and Oregon in what looks to be some exciting match-ups. Bader will wrestle Pitsch's brother Dan from Oregon State on Friday. These two may be in the finals of the Pac-10 Championships in late February. Against Oregon on Sunday, Pitsch will wrestle defending Pac-10 champion and sixth-ranked Joey Bracamonte while Dollaway will wrestle defending Pac-10 Champ and former All-American Shane Webster. Come out and support us and bring some friends! The more packed we can get the arena the better it is for us and the better it is for wrestling in the state of Arizona!

See you this weekend and GO DEVILS!

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