#22 Wrestling Faces Tough Road Tests in Iowa

Nov. 23, 2004

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State University wrestling team (0-0/0-0 Pac-10) hits the road this weekend for a pair of tough opponents as the Sun Devils lift the lid on their 2004-05 dual meet season in the state of Iowa. ASU, who is ranked No. 22 in the latest NWCA/Intermat rankings, will head to Iowa City, Iowa, Saturday for a 7 p.m. dual with No. 9 Iowa (0-0/0-0 Big Ten) before closing out the trip with a 2 p.m. tilt in Ames, Iowa, against No. 5 Iowa State (5-0/0-0 Big XII) and former Sun Devil head coach, Bobby Douglas.

Saturday will mark the start of the 43rd season that Arizona State has competed as a varsity program. In the previous 42 years, the Sun Devils have built a 30-12 record in dual openers, but have lost the past two. Last year, ASU opened with a 24-17 setback at the hands of visiting Iowa.

The wrestling program will soon have a new training facility on campus to use as a joint effort between the Sunkist Kids and ASU. Ground was broken in early August with the 9,600 square foot building scheduled for completion in December. With 7,200 square feet of usable mat space, the facility will hold three full-size competition mats (40x40) and afford a much larger practice area for the Sun Devils, and Sunkist Kids, to utilize.

All wrestling media/publications have released their preseason rankings with the Sun Devils entering the 2004-05 campaign projected as a Top 25 team. The Wrestling Mall has the Sun Devils ranked No. 20 heading into the season with NWCA/Intermat selecting ASU for the No. 22 spot. Individually, five wrestlers have been selected as Top 20 competitors with four earning rankings from all four publications. According to the NWCA/Intermat Coaches' Poll, Ryan Bader (197) leads the way at No. 4 with Cain Velasquez (HWT) and Patrick Williams (149) earning Top 10 rankings at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively. Brian Stith (157) sits 16th and C.B. Dollaway (184) is 18th. The ranks for Stith, Dollaway and Bader are the best for each across the board with the Amateur Wrestling News ranking Velasquez at No. 6 and Williams at No. 8.

Cal Poly, the host of the 2005 Pac-10 Championships, released the conference's preseason individual rankings Oct. 26 with four Sun Devils earning a place in the Top 6. Both Patrick Williams (149) and Ryan Bader (197) are No. 1 in their respective weight classes while Cain Velasquez (HWT) and Brian Stith (157) sit third and Jeremy Mendoza (125) ranks sixth. Look for other Sun Devils to make their way into the Top 6 during the year as the conference does not rank true freshmen and redshirt freshmen in the preseason (ASU has three redshirts among the starters). The complete rankings are included in the notes package above or can be found on Cal Poly's web site.

The Hawkeyes, under the leadership of eighth-year head Jim Zalesky, have not competed in a dual meet this year, but has competed in one open tournament as seven of its members placed at the Kaufman/Brand Open. Alex Tsirtsis (141) and Joe Johnston (157) each won their respective weight classes.

For more information on the Hawkeyes, visit www.hawkeyesports.com.

The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series with the Sun Devils, holding a 19-1-1 advantange on the strength of winning 13 duals in a row. ASU is 0-8-0 all-time when facing the UI in Iowa City with the most recent loss of 32-7 coming Dec. 1, 2002, in Carver Hawkeye Arena.

Under the guidance of 13th-year head coach Bobby Douglas, the Cyclones are 5-0 on the year, including a 32-10 defeat of Boise State, a member of the Pac-10 wrestling conference. Trent Paulson leads the way for the Cyclones with a 10-0 season record and is one of five members of the team that hold perfect 5-0 records in dual meets this season.

For more information on the Cyclones, visit www.cyclones.com.

The Cyclones hold an 18-5-0 advantage in the series and had won 11 in a row prior to the Sun Devils upsetting then No. 2 and undefeated Iowa State, 22-20, at the Sun Devil duals last year (Jan. 4, 2004). ASU is 1-8-0 all-time as visitors to Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, with its last win coming in a 19-15 decision on Feb. 10, 1989.

A trio of connections link ASU and ISU's wrestling programs. Current ASU head coach Thom Ortiz served as an ISU assistant for nine years under current Cyclone head coach Bobby Douglas before taking over as ASU. Douglas is the former Sun Devil coach that guided ASU to the 1988 NCAA Championship. He also served as head coach at ASU for 18 seasons, compiling a 226-76-6 record and guiding Ortiz to three All-America honors.

A consensus Top 4 pick in this season's preseason individual rankings, Ryan Bader returns for his junior season with hopes of not only adding his third Pac-10 championship title at 197 pounds, but also adding his second All-America honors following a fourth-place finish at the national meet a year ago. Bader has compiled a career record of 57-26 following a stellar 33-8 mark last year on his way to earning a spot among the nation's elite wrestlers and winning tournament titles at the Missouri Open, Reno Tournament of Champions and the Pac-10 Championships.

Ryan Bader's All-America honor attained last year may have been his first, but it is certainly not the first for the program. Bader's accolade was the 100th award in the history of the program and also continued a streak of 30 years in a row that the Sun Devil program has produced at least one All-American wrestler.

All four members of the Arizona State coaching staff obtained their degrees from ASU while also competing for the Sun Devils during their careers in Tempe. Head Coach Thom Ortiz graduated in 1990 and was a member of the 1988 national championship team. Aaron Simpson was a two-time All-American prior to earning his degree in 1996 and coaching the team for the past seven seasons. Eric Larkin and Kellan Fluckiger both completed their degree work in 2003 following successful campaigns with the maroon and gold. Larkin was the 2003 NCAA champion at 149 and a four-time All-American and conference champion while Fluckiger was an All-American in his senior season while taking home two conference gold medals.

Thom Ortiz enters his fourth year at the helm of the Sun Devil wrestling program with a 32-20 record as the head coach. Ortiz led the Sun Devils to the 2003 Pac-10 Championship title on the strength of six individual champions and seven total finalists while also guiding current assistant coach Eric Larkin to the NCAA title at 149 pounds in his senior campaign. A graduate of ASU in 1990, Ortiz was a two-time All-American and was a member of the 1988 NCAA Championship Sun Devil team. A three-time Pac-10 champion, Ortiz also was a part of three conference team championships in his time with ASU.

Zeke Jones (1987-90) was enshrined in the Arizona State Hall of Fame Sept. 25 as part of the annual induction ceremonies coinciding with the ASU vs. Oregon State football game. Jones, the current assistant coach at West Virginia, was a three-time All-American and three-time Pac-10 Champion at 118 pounds for the Sun Devils. An accomplished international competitor, Jones was the Olympic Silver Medalist in 1992 and was recently a member of the USA Wrestling staff (freestyle) in Athens.

Real Pro Wrestling (RPW) was created in 2002 and held its first show taping Oct. 8-9 in Los Angeles. Eric Larkin, Aaron Simpson and Kellan Fluckiger all competed for the shows that will begin airing on PAX TV February 13. Teams, results and other information will be released as part of the one-hour shows that will air for 14 weeks in a row with the 15th showing being a two-hour special that features all seven of the championship bouts that pit Olympic caliber freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers against one another in the tournament (realprowrestling.com).

The Sun Devils opened the 2004-05 season by competing in the Fullerton Open over the weekend with four of its wrestlers winning their respective weight classes. Jeremy Mendoza (125), Patrick Williams (149), C.B. Dollaway (184) and Cain Velasquez (Hwt.) each took home individual titles while Brian Stith (157, 4th), Patrick Pitsch (165, 2nd), Ryan Bader (197, 2nd) and Clifford Starks (Hwt., 3rd) also placed in the tournament. A complete recap can be found here

Two tournaments and one dual highlight the next few weeks of competition for the Sun Devils as they head toward the Christmas/Winter Break. Leading off will be the team's annual trip to the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational held Dec. 3-4 (Friday-Saturday) before ASU returns to campus for a dual with Minnesota at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 (Tuesday). The Sun Devils close out December competitions by heading to the Reno Tournament of Champions Dec. 19 (Sunday). ASU returns from the break with a Jan. 4 dual at Fresno State.