No. 20 ASU Wrestling Plays Host to No. 3 Iowa Sunday

Nov. 25, 2003

Weekly Notes (pdf)

TEMPE, Ariz. - The No. 20 Arizona State wrestling team (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10) opens its dual meet portion of the season at 2 p.m. Sunday when No. 3 Iowa (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) visits Tempe. The dual will take place inside Wells Fargo Arena on the ASU campus.

Arizona State has competed on a varsity level since the 1962-63 season with this year marking the 42nd season of action for the Sun Devil grapplers. In the previous 41 years, ASU is 30-11 overall in its first dual of the season and had won four in a row dating back to the opener in the 1999-00 season, but had that streak snapped last year with a 20-19 loss at Nebraska. The Sun Devils have won their last four home openers in a row and are 27-14 overall in their first home dual of the year. When the first dual the Sun Devils compete in is at home, they are 15-7 and have won three in a row.

Since the Wells Fargo Arena opened its doors to wrestling in 1974, the Sun Devils have compiled a 139-47-2 record. In the history of the program, ASU is 176-74-2.

With one of the tougher schedules in the nation this year, it is no wonder the season would open with such a tough test for Arizona State. The Iowa Hawkeyes enter the dual as the No. 3 team in the nation according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Top 25 released Nov. 19. The Sun Devils are No. 20 in the same poll.

Several Sun Devils find themselves ranked nationally following the latest release of polls. According to Amateur Wrestling News, six Arizona State's starters are ranked in the Top 20 with Ryan Bader leading the way at eighth. No. 9 Mike Simpson (133), No. 12 Brian Stith (157), No. 14 Cain Velasquez (HWT) and Nos. 17 Patrick Williams (149) and Nick Frost (184) round out the Sun Devils' representation in the polls.

In the team polls, the Sun Devils remained No. 20 (NWCA) and No. 22 (InterMat).

The Hawkeyes will have competed in two tournaments (six total individual titles won) and duals with Southwest State and Minnesota State prior to meeting Arizona State. Head Coach Jim Zalesky enters his seventh season at the helm of his alma mater's program and holds a career record of 95-18. Of his 10 probable starters for the dual Sunday, seven are ranked in the Top 20 by AWN with three of them (No. 2 Luke Eustice at 125; No. 5 Cliff Moore at 141 and No. 5 Tyler Nixt at 174) ranked in the Top 5.

The Sun Devils had not had much success against the Hawkeyes as Iowa holds an 18-1-1 advantage in the all-time series. Luckily for Arizona State, both the win and the tie came in Tempe. The Sun Devils won, 22-18, in 1987 and tied, 18-18, in 1990. Since the stalemate, the Hawkeyes have won 12 duals in a row, including a 32-7 decision last year in Iowa City, Iowa.

Although Iowa has a large lead in the all-time series with the Sun Devils, not many schools Arizona State has faced on the mat are in the same company as the Hawkeyes. Since the 1962-63 season, the Sun Devils have faced 103 different schools' teams with ASU holding the advantage in 81 of the series. Only 14 schools have the upper-hand in the series ledger with four of the schools (Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska and Oklahoma) appearing on ASU's schedule this season. The remaining eight series are tied.

Four matches in the Iowa-Arizona State dual have the potential to pit two, Top 20 (Amateur Wrestling News poll) wrestlers against one another. The highest-ranked match pits No. 8 Ryan Bader against UI's No. 7 Ryan Fulsaas. Other matches include No. 17 Patrick Williams facing No. 6 Ty Eustice at 149, No. 12 Brian Stith facing No. 8 Joe Johnston at 157 and No. 17 Nick Frost facing No. 6 Paul Bradley at 184.

The season opened Nov. 23 at the Missouri Open with Ryan Bader compiling a 4-0 record on his way to winning the 197 division. The tournament title was the second of his career with the first coming at the 2003 Pac-10 Championships in Boise, Idaho.

Four freshmen and two transfers wrestled the first official matches of their Arizona State career at the Missouri Open. Freshmen Christian Staylor (125), Curtis Ray (133), Brian Stith (157) and Jason Trulson (174) not only competed for the Sun Devils for the first time, but each picked up their first wins. Transfers James Terry (165) and Cain Velasquez (HWT) also donned the maroon and gold singlet for the first as well as earning two wins apiece.

Five Sun Devils placed in the Missouri Open over the weekend, led by the championship title of Ryan Bader at 197. Also placing in the open division were Brian Stith (157) and Nick Frost (184), both third, and Patrick Williams (149) in sixth. True freshman Jason Trulson competed in the freshman/sophomore division of the tournament at 174 and took runner-up honors. There were no team points recorded for either division.

The California Open also was held over the weekend with 10 current Sun Devils competing (all were unattached from Arizona State) and three placing in the event. Patrick Pitsch won the 165 title with fellow freshmen Pat Payne (149) and Jason Hackett (184) earning third-place finishes.

History was achieved Jan. 5 when Arizona State handed Lock Haven a 21-16 defeat at the Sun Devil Duals to give the program its 400th victory since becoming a varsity program during the 1962-63 academic season. To date, the Sun Devils have won 409 duals for a career mark of 409-223-11. The Sun Devils could reach 425 wins this season. They are scheduled for 15 duals with at least two more at the Virginia Duals.

When USA Wrestling named its list of 16 finalists to become the head coaches of the USA Olympic freestyle, Greco-Roman and women's freestyle teams, four people with ties to Arizona State wrestling made the cut. Former coach Bobby Douglas and All-American Zeke Jones are finalists for the men's freestyle discipline while former assistant coach and Sun Devil All-American Townsend Saunders and his wife Tricia are up for the job of guiding the women's freestyle team in Athens. The finals selections will be made and announced in mid-December with team selections being determined May 21-23 in Indianapolis.

Six Sun Devils won individual Pac-10 titles as the team edged out Boise State to claim its 14th Pac-10 title at the 2003 tournament in Boise, Idaho. Mike Simpson (133), Eric Larkin (149), Nick Frost (165), Curtis Owen (174), Ryan Bader (197) and Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) won their weights while Dana Holland (141) took second and Rocky Smart (157) third to send eight ASU grapplers to the NCAA Championships.

Larkin was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships for winning his fourth individual title. He also earned the award for Most Falls in the Least Time while coach Thom Ortiz was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year. The team would go on to finish fifth at the NCAA Championships with three All-Americans (Larkin, Owen and Fluckiger) with Larkin winning the national title at 149 pounds.

Limited action awaits the Sun Devils in the month of December as they travel to just two tournaments. Arizona State will again take part in the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational Dec. 5-6 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Some of the teams slated to compete are ASU, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio State.

The final tournament leading up to the holiday season will be the Reno Tournament of Champions, Dec. 18, in Reno, Nev.

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