Five Sun Devil Wrestlers Head to NCAA Championships

March 15, 2004

Complete Release in PDF Format

TEMPE, Ariz. - The 2003-04 wrestling season draws to a close this weekend with five members of the Arizona State team heading to the Savvis Center in St. Louis, Mo., for the 2004 NCAA Wrestling Championships, Thursday-Saturday. Ten individual and one team national championship is on the line in the three day tournament, as well as All-American accolades to the Top 8 finishers.

Thrusday, March 18
Session 1 * 11 a.m.
Session 2 * 6:30 p.m.
Friday, March 19
Session 3 * 10 a.m.
Session 4 * 6 p.m.
Saturday, March 20
Session 5 * 10 a.m.
Session 6 * 5:30 p.m.

At the national meet, Session 1 will showcase roughly 200 matches with championships pigtails and first round bouts being contested. In Session 2, consolation pigtails and first round action will be contested with any wrestler that loses being bumped from the event. Session 3 will hold three rounds that include the championship quarterfinals, and second and third consolation rounds.

Session 4 opens with the championship semifinals as well as two more consolation rounds. The consolation fourth round is very important as the winners of those bouts are guaranteed to place in the Top 8 and attain All-America status. On the final day, Session 5 will hold the consolation semifinals and placing bouts for third, fifth and seventh places. Session 6 is the pinnacle for the sport as the 10 bouts remaining will decide the 2004 individual national champions.

Five Sun Devils will head to the NCAA Wrestling Championships this weekend, two as the champion of the Pac-10 Conference. Arizona State wrestlers heading to St. Louis include No. 4 Ryan Bader (197), No. 8 Nick Frost (184), No. 17 Patrick Williams (149), Clifford Starks (heavyweight) and Christian Staylor (125).

The path to the national meet saw many different avenues taken for the Sun Devil entrants, ranging from conference titles to coaches selections. Here is how it happened:

Ryan Bader (197) and Nick Frost (184) each won their second Pac-10 championship in a row to automatically earn a berth at the NCAA meet. Patrick Williams (149), also a finalist at the conference meet, placed second to earn his spot. Needing to finish in the Top 3 in his weight class to secure a berth, Clifford Starks (heavyweight) captured third place to punch his ticket to round out the automatic qualifiers for Arizona State. The fifth member of the squad, Christian Staylor (125), finished sixth in his weight class at the conference meet. He was chosen as one of the Pac-10's 11 wildcard entries.

A trio of Sun Devils will make their first appearances in the NCAA Wrestling Championships this weekend. Redshirt freshman Christian Staylor (125) and junior Clifford Starks (heavyweight) will make their first trip to any national collegiate meet while Patrick Williams (149) also will make his debut in the NCAA meet, though he has been a part of a national meet before. As a sophomore (two seasons ago), Williams competed for Neosho CC and finished third overall.

Both Ryan Bader (197) and Nick Frost (184) will be making return trips to the NCAA meet this weekend. Bader will be in his second national tournament in as many years while Frost is in his third in a row.

Last year, Bader went 1-2 in the 197 tournament, having absorbed two major decision losses in a row following an opening round victory. Frost, competing at 165 pounds a year ago, upset the No. 11 seed to start the meet before losing to the No. 6 seed. In the consolations, Frost won one bout before falling from the tournament one victory shy of earning All-America accolades.

Nick Frost went 2-2 at 165 pounds last year in the national tournament, going win-loss-win-loss. Frost, unranked in the event, opened with a first upset of No. 11 Jacob Klein (Nebraska), 5-4, before falling to No. 6 Johnny Clark (Ohio State) in the second round, 6-3. In the consolations, Frost scored a 12-4 major decision over Jimmy O'Connor (North Carolina) before being bounced from the event by No. 8 Noel Thompson (Hofstra), by an 8-2 score.

Seeded wrestlers got the best of Ryan Bader in his first national tournament in the collegiate ranks as the redshirt freshman went 1-2. Bader won his first round bout with a 6-4, sudden victory, decision over Adam Schaaf (Millersville) before falling to No. 1 Jon Trenge (Lehigh), 11-2. In the consolations, No. 11 Matt Greenberg (Cornell) handed Bader a 14-1 major decision to send the Sun Devil from the tournament.

In the history of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, only 11 different institutions have won the team crown with Arizona State being one of the few. Oklahoma State, the defending champions, leads the way with 31 titles won while Iowa sits second with 20. Iowa State (eight), Oklahoma (seven) and Minnesota (two) round out the schools with multiple victories while single crowns have been secured by ASU, Cornell, Indiana, Michigan State, Northern Iowa and Penn State. The titles won include those seasons that two teams were declared co-champs.

At the 2003 meet, Arizona State finished fifth overall on the strength of three All-Americans and one NCAA champion. The Sun Devils received strong performance from national champion Eric Larkin (149), fourth place Curtis Owen (174) and fifth place Kellan Fluckgier (heavyweight) to accumulate 65 points on their way to a high placing.

With the 2003-04 season ending in Missouri this year, it was only fitting that the Sun Devils opened the season in the same state. On Nov. 23, Arizona State traveled to Columbia, Mo., for the Missouri Open with mixed results recorded by the Sun Devils entered in the tournament this weekend.

Ryan Bader (197) did the best of the group, winning the title with a 5-0 record. Nick Frost (184) took third by going 4-1 overall with Patrick Williams (149) rounding out the placewinners in sixth with a 4-3 mark. Christian Staylor (125) did not place with a 1-2 record while Clifford Starks (heavyweight) did not compete at the event.

Arizona State compiled an 11-8 overall record with a 6-1 mark in the Pac-10 this year, including a 22-20 upset of No. 2 and previously undefeated Iowa State at the Sun Devil Duals. Overall, the Sun Devils went 3-8 against nationally Top 25 teams with the wins coming over No. 2 ISU, No. 22 Edinboro at the Virginia Duals and No. 25 Cal Poly on the road. In tournaments, ASU placed fifth at the Las Vegas Invitational and took second in the Reno Tournament of Champions.

Ryan Bader has posted a 29-6 record this season and has climbed to as high as No. 2 in the national rankings. In four tournament appearances, Bader won three and took runner-up honors in the third. His first crown was won at the Missouri Open before a his nine-match win streak came to an end in the finals for the Las Vegas Invitational two weeks later. From there, Bader won the Reno Tournament of Champions and secured his second-consecutive Pac-10 title at 197. Overall, he had seven wins by major decision, four technical falls and a fall.

A pair of redshirt freshmen, Christian Staylor and Brian Stith, have enjoyed fairly successful seasons this year with both Sun Devils earning spots in the national rankings. Staylor is 24-12 in his first collegiate season with ten of his 12 losses coming to nationally ranked foes. Staylor earned his first national ranking of No. 10 when he upset Oklahoma's No. 6 Sam Hazewinkel in Norman, Okla., 13-10, on Jan. 24 and has stayed in the Top 15 the remainder of the season.

Stith opened the season with a 12-4 record and placed in three tournaments (third at Missouri Open, seventh at Las Vegas and sixth at Reno). He needed just two weeks to earn his first upset win when he went to Iowa City, Iowa, and defeated Iowa's No. 8 Joe Johnston, 9-7, in overtime.

After three seasons of competing at 165, Nick Frost made the move to 184 pounds and has produced a 24-5 record. Undefeated in dual meets, Frost placed third at the Missouri Open, seventh at Las Vegas, sixth at Reno and won the Pac-10 title this year. Overall, 11 of his 24 victories have come by major decision (three), technical fall (six) and fall (two). Frost is currently on a 13 match winning streak, culminating with his second Pac-10 title in as many years.

Ron Renzi built a 16-13 record in his final campaign with Arizona State with four of his wins coming via fall. In his first tournament action at the Las Vegas Invitational, Renzi pinned his first three opponents on his way to taking home the Most Falls in Least Time award. But his third fall recorded also tied him for a school record. Against Marshall Marquardt of Dana College in the championship second round, Renzi scored a takedown at the opening whistle and pinned his opponent at 0:07. That time tied Dave Severn, who accomplished the same feat in 1976 against Mark Erickson of New Mexico.

Last year, 149 was associated with Eric Larkin, ASU's four-time Pac-10 Champion, four-time NCAA All-American and 2003 NCAA Champion. This year, Patrick Williams has taken over the weight class for the Sun Devils and built a 27-12 record. He also is 7-0 in Pac-10 dual meets and went a perfect 9-0 against all foes he faced from Pac-10 Conference teams prior to the conference meet. Williams' placings have improved in each tournament this year, starting with sixth place at the Missouri Open, then fourth at the Las Vegas Invitational before taking runner-up honors at both Reno and the Pac-10 meet.

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, currently an assistant coach on the West Virginia staff, will share duties guiding the men's freestyle team while Townsend Saunders and his wife Tricia will guide the women's freestyle team.

Arizona State slipped in the polls heading into the NCAA Wrestling Championships, including falling out of the coaches' poll. In the NWCA poll, the Sun Devils slipped from No. 22 to receiving votes, while retaining the 21st and 22nd positions in the final Intermat and Wrestling Mall polls, respectively. In the coaches' rankings, no Pac-10 team holds a national spot with ASU, Boise State, CS Bakersfield, Cal Poly and Stanford each receiving votes.

Three Sun Devils find their names listed in the final Amateur Wrestling News individual rankings heading into the national meet, led by No. 4 Ryan Bader (197). The other ASU wrestlers in the polls are No. 8 Nick Frost (184) and No. 17 Patrick Williams (149).

As the hosts of the 2004 Pac-10 Championships, the Sun Devils looked to defend the title they won a year ago and secure the 15th team title in the program's history. But with several Arizona State wrestlers falling from the tournament early on, the door was open to another school to win the title and that is what Boise State did. In one of the closest team races in conference history, six teams were within 8.5 points of the title. BSU won with 94.5 points and was followed by Cal Poly (91.0), CS Fullerton (89.5), CS Bakersfield (87.0) and ASU and Stanford (85.0) in the Top 5.

Individually, ASU saw seven of its entrants place in the Top 6, including titles won by Nick Frost (184) and Ryan Bader (197). Patrick Williams (149) took second while Clifford Starks (heavyweight) was third. Ron Renzi capped his senior season in fourth place while Christian Staylor (125) and Jeremy Mendoza (141) were sixth.

In nearly three full seasons at the helm of the Arizona State wrestling program, Thom Ortiz has brought about success in Tempe. The 2003 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, Ortiz guided the Sun Devils to their 14th Pac-10 Championship last year on the way to fifth overall in the national. Three All-Americans bolstered the Arizona State lineup a year ago, led by the most decorated wrestler in Sun Devil history, Eric Larkin. Under the guidance of Ortiz, a former ASU All-American and member of the team's 1988 NCAA Championship team, Larkin went undefeated and became the first Sun Devil to win the Dan Hodge Award as well as the Outstanding Wrestler Award at the NCAA Championships.

This season, Ortiz took a young squad to a fifth-place tie in the conference standings and has helped to mentor two of the top grapplers in the nation, Nick Frost at 184 and Ryan Bader at 197.

The Sun Devils return to action next season. See you at Wells Fargo Arena!

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