Wrestling Plays Host to Intrastate Rival ERAU Sunday

Nov. 29, 2008

Mat Notes (pdf) | Save ASU Wrestling

TEMPE, Ariz. - After a tough road trip through the state of Iowa that saw the team fall to the Top 2 ranked teams in the nation, the Arizona State University wrestling team returns home this weekend as the Sun Devils are set to play host to No. 13 (NAIA) Embry-Riddle at 2 p.m. Sunday inside Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The Sun Devils stands 2-2 overall (2-0 Pac-10) after dropping a 41-0 decision at No. 1 Iowa and a 24-11 decision at No. 2 Iowa State over the weekend.

When the Sun Devils take on the Eagles this Sunday, it will mark the first of two-consecutive duals against teams from the State of Arizona, although the team also will compete in three tournaments in between the two duals. After taking on Embry-Riddle this weekend and heading to the Las Vegas Invitational (Dec. 5-6), the Reno Tournament of Champions (Dec. 18) and the Midlands Championships (Dec. 29-30), the Sun Devils will travel to Phoenix for a dual with Grand Canyon University on January 3 at 5 p.m.

With the addition of wrestling to the athletic department at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, the Sun Devils now have a second competitor hailing from the state of Arizona, joining Embry-Riddle (Prescott). With duals against both ERAU and GCU this year, the Sun Devils will face two instate rivals in the same season for the first time since 1981 when Arizona and Northern Arizona each had teams. On February 18, 1981, the Sun Devils won, 34-12, at Arizona in what would be the final meeting in the series that ASU won, 28-8-0. Two days later, ASU hosted NAU and won, 43-6, inside Wells Fargo Arena. The Lumberjacks' program was discontinued in 1988 with ASU leading the all-time series, 17-1-0. Including the Sun Devils' 8-0-0 record against ERAU (after winning, 35-9, on November 25), ASU holds an all-time mark of 53-9-0 against teams from the Grand Canyon State.

The Sun Devils lost their first two duals of the season, falling at No. 1 Iowa, 41-0, and at No. 2 Iowa State, 24-11, over the weekend. One week removed from winning all 10 bouts against Portland State at home, the Sun Devils unfortunately were on the wrong side of a similar ending as the top-ranked and defending NCAA champion Hawkeyes swept all 10 bouts in Iowa City. ASU was close to victory in three bouts as No. 8 Anthony Robles (125) lost, 2-1, to No. 3 Charlie Falck, No. 8 Chris Drouin (141) lost to No. 7 Alex Tsirtsis, 3-2, and heavyweight Erik Nye lost, 7-6, to Dan Erekson. Two days later, the Sun Devils won three bouts, but it was not enough against the Cyclones. Drouin and Nye both won by major decision while Vicente Varela (149) won a 10-3 decision for his road victory as a collegiate competitor.

Three members of the Sun Devil team traveled to Fullerton, Calif., for the Fullerton Open on Sunday (November 23) and competed in the event unattached from the ASU team. Freshman Te Edwards went 4-1 in the 157 tournament and finished third in his first collegiate tournament, falling only to the eventual champion in an 11-3 major decision in the semifinals. Edwards defeated CS Bakersfield's Trevor Hall, 6-2, in the third place bout. The two other competitors, David Prado at 125 and Travis Forster at 141, each went 2-2 in the tournament and did not place.

While the team was on the road competing in Iowa, assistant coaches Brian Stith and Ben Zwaschka traveled to New York and competed in the NYAC International Tournament with Stith returning home with a runner-up finish. Stith, a former All-American for the Sun Devils, entered the 66kg freestyle division and placed second after recording a 3-1 record, including an upset of Doug Schwab (more below). Zwaschka went 1-2 overall in the tournament at 60kg and did not place in the event.

Brian Stith's run at the NYAC event was impressive indeed. After winning 3-0, 7-0 in the opener against Chris Madonia (unattached), Stith downed former Minnesota standout Manuel Rivera (MN Storm), 2-0, 1-0 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, scored a 1-5, 1-0, 2-0 defeat of Doug Schwab (Gator WC) before later falling in the finals, 1-0, 1-1, to Haislan Garcia (BBWC), who was ranked as high as No. 19 internationally this year. Stith, who had not competed in the past year while working as coach with the Sun Devils, not only placed second in a highly-competitive tournament, he also knocked off a 2008 U.S. Olympian in Schwab, who also won the 2008 U.S. Nationals and was ranked as high as No. 9 internationally before placing 14th in Beijing Summer Games in August.

For the third dual in a row, the Sun Devils will be facing a nationally ranked team. After dropping duals at No. 1 Iowa (NCAA Division I) and No. 2 Iowa State (NCAA Division I), the Sun Devils will now face No. 13 Embry-Riddle (NAIA) this week.

While Arizona State opened the year 2-0 for the 26th time in program history before falling at No. 1 Iowa, another fast start is still in tact heading into the weekend as the Sun Devils will look to remain perfect at home this year after winning their first two duals of the year. After defeating UC Davis (26-12) and Portland State (40-0) to open the year, the Sun Devils will look to remain perfect against Embry-Riddle (currently 8-0-0 all-time against the Eagles) while starting the home season 3-0. With a win, team would open a home campaign with a 3-0 record or better for the 17th time overall and the second in a row after opening the season with a 4-1 home mark last year (L, 27-14, Oregon State). In the program's history, eight teams have gone undefeated at home with the last time coming in the 1992-93 season (8-0-0).

With their 40-0 win over Portland State, the Sun Devils not only recorded their 12th victory in a row over the Vikings (12-1-0 all-time in the series), they also posted the 25th shut out victory in program history. The last time ASU shut out an opponent came in a 46-0 defeat of intrastate rival Embry-Riddle on December 5, 2002, in Tempe. Conversely, the last time the Sun Devils were shut out came the last time ASU faced Iowa State in Ames. The Sun Devils, who face No. 2 Iowa State in Ames this weekend, dropped a 40-0 decision to the Cyclones in 2006 (Nov. 26).

The Eagles are 0-2 on the year after dropping duals to both UC Davis (39-6) and Cal Baptist (30-18). Embry-Riddle, led by third-year head coach Ken Ramsey, had four individuals place among the Top 4 at the Fullerton Open last week, including Tyler Chang taking place at 149, and two other wrestlers finishing third in their respective weight classes. Three individuals are ranked in the Top 8 nationally according to the November 18 NAIA rankings, including No. 3 Travis DeGroat (184), No. 5 Frankie Villaescusa (133) and No. 8 Eli Arismendez (165). So far this season, the Eagles have used seven true freshman and one redshirt freshman.

Arizona State and Embry-Riddle have met on the mats eight times with the Sun Devils winning all eight. The first meeting in the series came in 1999 with ASU taking a 40-6 decision at home and won the last meeting as well, 35-9, one year ago. ASU also has recorded one its 25 all-time shutouts against the Eagles, winning 46-0 in 2003.

So far this season, Anthony Robles has not had the easiest time on the mats as he has built a 2-2 record with all three times he has been on the mat, he has taken on a ranked foe (the only time he did not was a win by forfeit). Robles has recorded a win over No. 11 Marcus Orozco (UC Davis) with a fall before dropping contests to No. 3 Charlie Falck (Iowa) and No. 11 Tyler Clark (Iowa State) on the road last weekend.

Chris Drouin is leading the team in victories this season as he holds a 3-1 record so far. With one more victory, he will record the 25th win of his career as he stands at 24-17 overall in his over one year of competition for the Sun Devil program.

Although he is only a freshman, Eric Starks hasn't let that effect him on the mat as the rookie is not only 2-2 on the season, but both of his losses have come in close fashion to a pair of Top 10 nationally ranked foes. The weekend opened with the Sun Devil freshman facing Iowa's No. 2 Jay Borschell, who won by fall early in the second period. Despite the loss by fall, the unranked freshman was down only 5-4 after the first period and even recorded a takedown of his own over one of the favorites for the national crown. In his final bout of the weekend, Starks also kept it close with No. 9 Dave Burk, falling in an 8-4 decision.

In the dual with Iowa State, true freshman Jake Meredith made his collegiate debut for the Sun Devils and nearly pulled out the victory. The rookie from Temecula, Calif., was leading 3-0 and then again at 4-2 before his opponent, Jerome Ward, recorded a takedown with 21 seconds remaining in the bout to force overtime. In the sudden victory session, Ward again scored a takedown for the 6-4 victory. Meredith is the sixth different wrestler to make his Sun Devil debut this season.

Heavyweight Erik Nye is currently 2-2 overall on the year with both of his losses being by the closest of margins and the wins producing bonus points. In his two loses, Nye has suffered set-backs of 2-1 and 7-6, while his victories have come by injury default (was leading 7-2) and major decision (8-0).

Both Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141) remained highly ranked again this week as both currently stand No. 8 in their respective weight classes according to the November 18 rankings released by InterMat/NWCA (those rankings will updated again following action this weekend). Amateur Wrestling News and Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine also released their rankings Tuesday with both Sun Devils highly regarded. Robles is ranked No. 7 on both lists while Drouin is ranked No. 13 by AWN and No. 7 by WIN.

While a pair of Sun Devils enter the dual ranked nationally in the Top 10 this weekend, the Eagles also boast nationally ranked individuals as three hold positions in the Top 8 of the most recent NAIA rankings. Ranked for ERAU include No. 3 Travous DeGroat (184), No. 5 Frankie Villaescusa (133) and No. 8 Eli Arismendez (165).

Against UC Davis, both Kyle DeBerry (165) and Eric Starks (174) secured the first victories of their collegiate careers. Last week, against Portland State, newcomers Vicente Varela (141) and Erik Nye (285) each picked up victories after dropping their debuts against UC Davis in the season opener.

According to the InterMat rankings for teams (ASU is unranked), the Sun Devils will face five teams currently ranked in the national Top 20 in dual competition while also facing opponents from most of the other Top 25 teams at several individual tournaments during the season, including the Las Vegas Invitational, the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Midlands Championships (all of which are in December). On the schedule this year, the Sun Devils will travel to No. 1 Iowa and No. 2 Iowa State in the same weekend (November 21 and 23) and also will host No. 20 Oklahoma (January 18) and No. 12 Minnesota (January 23). Along with always tough conference duals, the Sun Devils will also play host to Embry-Riddle, who is currently ranked No. 5 in the NAIA rankings.

Last season, the Sun Devils, at various points, had up to seven redshirt freshmen in their starting 10 with two or three seniors. This year, the team will continue to be young as 27 of the 36 athletes on the roster are freshmen or sophomores, including 12 redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen. Also, the team has two seniors (Kelsey Campbell and Preston Pruett) along with seven juniors. Of the probable 10 starters this week against UC Davis, the Sun Devils will send out four freshmen (one true freshman), three sophomores and three juniors. Three weight classes list another possible starter, and those include two sophomores and one true freshman.

Kelsey Campbell, one of the two seniors on the squad this year, is set to defend the two U.S. Women's College Wrestling National Championships that she has won in 2007 (63kg) and 2008 (59kg). The No. 1 college wrestler in the nation at 59kg last year, Campbell competed in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials over the summer and has placed among the Top 4 in several national events throughout the past year.

During the month of September, two former Sun Devils competed on the international stage and returned with bronze medals. First up was the 2008 World Beach Championships in Durres, Albania, on September 21 with Jeff Funicello winning a bronze medal in the Under 85kg/187.25 classification for the second year in a row. Funicello also competed in the World Grappling Championships one day earlier and earned a bronze medal at the same weight class. Then, on September 26 in Perm, Russia, John Hughes competed in the 2008 Veteran World Championships and captured the bronze medal in Division E (56 years +) freestyle at 69kg/152.

In the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), the Sun Devil wrestling program has produced some top talent both now and then. While former Sun Devils have held championship belts in the past, including UFC Heavyweight Champion Dan 'The Beast' Severn and Pride Welterweight and Middleweight (at the same time) Champion 'Dangerous' Dan Henderson, the current crop of talent is already turning heads. That trio (all of which were All-Americans in 2006) include up-and-coming UFC heavyweight Cain Velasquez, TUF Season 7 runner-up (middleweight) C.B. 'The Doberman' Dollaway and current TUF Season 8 light heavyweight contestant Ryan 'Darth' Bader.

The team will be led by a trio of captains this season, including junior Thor Moen (197) and sophomores Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141).

On Saturday, January 7, 2006, the Sun Devils dedicated their new training facility in a joint celebration with the gymnastic team. The Riches Wrestling Complex, the John Spini Women's Gymnastics Training Center and the Cavanagh/Dickey Olympic Sports Plaza were dedicated and showcased as fans and over 200 supporters toured two of the premier training centers in the nation while both teams showcased their teams by holding practices. The facilities are located off Sixth Street behind the Kajikawa Football Practice Fields and beyond the outfield wall at Farrington Softball Stadium. Since the opening, the facility has hosted numerous practices for the Sun Devils and Sunkist and was a two-week training home for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Freestyle Team before it headed to Beijing. One of the wrestlers that trained at the facility along side the Sun Devils was Henry Cejudo, who won Olympic Gold this summer.

Since becoming a varsity program in 1962, Arizona State has competed in the NCAA Championships all 46 years and scored at least one point in 41 of those tournaments, including each of the last 34 in a row. During this time, the Sun Devils have had 60 different student-athletes secure a combined total of 102 All-America honors while helping the team place in the Top 10 on 18 occasions and in the Top 5 seven times, including a NCAA title in 1988 and runner-up finishes in both 1989 and 1990.

ASU will travel north to the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational on December 5-6 with several top teams in the nation set to compete in one of the tougher regular season tournaments in the nation.

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