Wrestling Welcomes No. 5 Nebraska, Oregon This Week

Jan. 27, 2004

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The No. 12 Arizona State wrestling team (7-5, 3-0 Pac-10) plays host to two home duals this weekend with No. 4 Nebraska and Oregon visiting Wells Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils and Huskers (16-1, 1-0 Big XII) will meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday evening with ASU and the Ducks (1-9, 0-4 Pac-10) facing one another at 2 p.m. Sunday. Both duals will be held inside Wells Fargo Arena.

In the 2001-02 season, the Sun Devils played host to Nebraska and Oregon on the same weekend, very close to the similar dates of the duals this year. That season, Arizona State defeated NU, 20-16, on Feb. 1 before handing the Ducks a 30-11 setback.

Arizona State has had a habit of not being gracious hosts to Pac-10 foes over the years. The Sun Devils have won 15 consecutive home Pac-10 duals, including wins over Oregon State and Cal State Fullerton two weeks ago, and have gone undefeated in its last 19 home contests against conference opponents. ASU did end one dual, on Jan. 31, 1999, with Cal State Bakersfield, in an 18-18 tie. The Devils' last home loss in conference was Jan. 17, 1997, when CSUB won, 21-18.

The last time Arizona State faced Nebraska is certainly a time the Sun Devils would rather not remember. In the semifinals of the Virginia Duals (Jan. 10) in Hampton, Va., the Huskers swept all 10 weight classes and, coupled with one team point being deducted from ASU for unsportsmanlike conduct, won the dual, 37-(-1). The loss was the first in Sun Devil history with the team scoring negative points in the contest.

Fourth-year head coach Mark Manning and the Huskers are flying high as they are riding an eight-dual winning streak and are 16-1 on the year. Five of their wins, including one over Arizona State, have come against Pac-10 foes. Individually, four Huskers are ranked in the Top 4 nationally while seven hold Top 10 ranks and nine of the 10 starters are ranked in the Top 17. NU is led by No. 1 Jason Powell at 125 (15-1) and No. 4 Travis Pascoe at 184 (22-0).

Making his return to Tempe this weekend is former four-time Sun Devil All-American Shawn Charles, an assistant coach on the NU staff. Charles became ASU's first four-time honoree following placements of fifth, seventh, second and second at the NCAA tournament as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior, respectively, at 126 pounds.

Arizona State trails Nebraska in the series, 4-9-1, following perhaps the strangest outcome in Sun Devil history earlier this year, a 37-(-1) loss in the semifinals of the Virginia Duals Jan. 9. ASU lost all 10 weight classes and had a team point deducted (unsportsmanlike conduct) to attain the negative score. Overall, the Sun Devils are 2-0 in the series when the dual is contested in Tempe.

With the Sun Devils having six wrestlers ranked in the national polls and the Huskers with nine, marquee matches appear at most weights. The top bout could boil down to the 197 match pitting No. 3 B.J. Padden of NU and ASU's No. 4 Ryan Bader. The two met at the Virginia Duals with Padden scoring an 8-2 decision win.

Chuck Kearny, the Ducks' sixth-year head coach, and his team have had a tough season on the mats and stand 1-9 overall (0-4 Pac-10) on the year. The team's lone win was a 23-20 defeat of Army that has been followed by four losses in a row. Luke Larwin (165) leads the team with a 21-8 record.

The Sun Devils have enjoyed great success against the Ducks in the series, holding an 18-2 advantage and winning the last 18 meetings in a row. During the streak, five of the wins have come by three points or less with three, including last year in Eugene (21-20), coming by one point. ASU is 10-1 when the dual is held in Tempe.

The top matchup of the dual will pit the conference's No. 2 ranked wrestler in ASU's Mike Simpson against Pac-10 No. 4 Jason Harless. Last year, Harless was the top seed in the conference tournament when he met unseeded Simpson in the semifinals where the Sun Devil won, 4-0, on his way to the Pac-10 title at 133.

USA Wrestling has announced a trio of people with ties to Arizona State will coach the USA Olympic Wrestling teams in Athens in 2004. Zeke Jones will share duties guiding the men's freestyle team while Townsend Saunders and his wife Tricia will guide the women's freestyle team.

Following their loss at No. 8 Oklahoma over the weekend, the Sun Devils slipped slightly in the polls, moving to No. 17 in the latest Wrestling Mall poll (Jan. 20) and No. 19 in the Intermat rankings (Jan. 20). Arizona State also is No. 12 in the NWCA Coaches poll, released Jan. 20.

Six Sun Devils hold national rankings this week, including new-to-the-lists Christian Staylor at 125. After not being ranked all year and upsetting the No. 6 wrestler, Staylor moved to No. 9. Also in the Amateur Wrestling News rankings this week are No. 11 Mike Simpson (133), No. 11 Patrick Williams (149), No. 9 Nick Frost (184), No. 4 Ryan Bader (197) and No. 8 Cain Velasquez (HWT).

With the rankings being expanded to a Top 8 poll this week, nine of the 10 Sun Devil starters have made the list with three holding the top ranking and another five coming in at No. 2. In first place are Patrick Williams (149), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (HWT). The runners-up are Christian Staylor (125), Mike Simpson (133), Brian Stith (157), Ron Renzi (174) and Nick Frost (184).

Arizona State and Oklahoma each won five bouts in the dual with the Sooners winning one decision, two majors, one technical fall and one fall to secure the team victory on bonus points, 22-18. Garnering wins for the Sun Devils were No. 5 Ryan Bader (197) in a 4-0 decision, Christian Staylor (125) in a 13-10 upset of No. 6 Sam Hazewinkel, No. 10 Mike Simpson (133) in a 5-3 decision, No. 11 Patrick Williams (149) in a 7-4 decision and Brian Stith in a fall at 6:13.

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.

A trio of road contests await the Sun Devils next weekend as the team faces three conference opponents on their mats. The weekend kicks off with Arizona State facing Portland State Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. On Feb. 8, the Sun Devils will do battle twice, facing Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif., at 1 p.m. before taking on Cal State Bakersfield in Bakersfield, Calif., at 7:30 p.m.

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