Beavers Begin Season With Experience

Dec. 1, 2004

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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3-SATURDAY, DECEMBER 4Oregon State at Las Vegas Collegiate;Las Vegas, Nev.FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3Preliminary round; 9 a.m.First round, second round, wrestlebackpreliminaries; 10 a.m.Quarterfinals, wrestleback first round,wrestleback second round; 7 p.m.SATURDAY, DECEMBER 4Wrestleback third round; 9 a.m.Semifinals, wrestleback fourth round; 10 a.m.Wrestleback semifinals; 11:30 a.m.Fifth/sixth place finals, seventh/eighth placefinals; 12:30 p.m.Championship finals, third-fourth place finals;5 p.m.

Oregon State's early-season preparation has been good; now it's time to put it to use.

That's the approach Oregon State is taking to the 2004-05 wrestling season. The Beavers compete in their first scoring event of the winter this Friday and Saturday at the Las Vegas Collegiate, which will be held at the Cashman Center.

The tentative field of 46 teams includes No. 3 Nebraska, No. 6 Michigan, No. 10 West Virginia, No. 11 Missouri, No. 12 Cornell, No. 13 Hofstra, No. 16 Cal Poly, No. 18 Wisconsin, No. 19 Edinboro, No. 21 Purdue, No. 22 Arizona State and No. 24 Cal State-Bakersfield.

The Beavers return eight starters and 11 lettermen from a team that was 11-7 in dual meets (7-3 in the Pacific-10) before finishing seventh in the Pacific-10 Championships and 42nd at the NCAA Championships.

'My overall assessment of this squad is, first, we have great leadership in Matt Ellis, Tim Norman and Ty Watterson,' OSU head coach Joe Wells said. 'Second, we have made a number of changes in our preparation and training and the team has bought in and made the adaptations quickly and completely so far. Third, and maybe most important, they believe in each other and plan on being very competitive as a team and individuals - especially in the season-ending championships.'

The Beavers enter the season with four wrestlers in the preseason national rankings. Senior 165-pounder Ellis is ranked 10th by Amateur Wrestling News and 11th by InterMat; sophomore heavyweight Jamie Rakevich is ranked 12th by AWN and 13th by IM; junior 184-pounder Dan Pitsch is ranked 16th by both AWN and IM; and junior Tony Hook is ranked 15th at 149 pounds by AWN but will be moving up to 157 this winter.

OSU's faces its typically challenging schedule, including dual meets against national powers Nebraska, and Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Boise State Central Michigan, and top-flight tournments at the Las Vegas Collegiate and the Midlands Open.

'I really think this team is going to get better and better and better as the year goes on, and that's a good thing because the schedule definitely stiffens up in the second half - and I'm not saying the first half is easy,' Wells said. 'I'm really looking forward to watching these guys and seeing them progress and develop. It's going to be a great year.'

During the Beavers' preseason workouts, Wells has seen a lot to like.

'All in all, we have a great group of guys,' Wells said. 'They're really focused, they're doing the right things. We're doing quite a few different things and they're on board and really bought into it. For them to accept all the changes we've made and the lack of any disagreements, it's kind of surprising. It's made it real easy; it's a real easy group to work with.'

When Wells talks about doing some things differently, he's referring to OSU's overall practice and preparation. The Beavers have concentrated on improving the coordination in their schedules and workouts for strength, conditioning and technique.

The result has allowed OSU to eliminate some early-morning sessions and turn them into part of the in-day routine. It's also made it possible to get additional time between some workouts, which makes for a more energetic group when the Beavers get into the Dale Thomas Wrestling Room.

'We're finding a lot better effort and the guys are coming to practice prepared to get after it,' Wells said. 'They have a little more bounce in their legs.'

Most of all, Wells said, the Beavers want to show that they're a lot better than they were a year ago.

'They want to improve, they want to do something,' Wells said. 'That's the key with this group, I think - they want to do well. And they're all about getting better. They're going to take every opportunity to improve and get better and just do the right things. We're very optimistic about this team and what it can achieve.

'We want to see more pinning and dominant performances to get the fans excited.'

125 POUNDS: Eric Stevenson returns for his sophomore season after going 16-13 with five pins as a freshman.

'Eric just needs match experience,' Wells said of Stevenson. 'He beat two of the guys who were All-Americans last year (Mario Stuart of Lehigh, Vic Moreno of Cal Poly) in early-season competition, so he's got it. We just have to become more consistent, a little more disciplined, a little more focused there. He's as good as anybody in the conference or anybody in the country. We look for good things from Eric; it's just a matter of time. It's not if, but when.'

One thing helping Stevenson is increased depth and variety in his workout partners at the lower weights, including freshman Jake Gonzales. Gonzales was a state champion and high school All-American in 2004.

133 POUNDS: OSU has a pair of wrestlers with varsity experience, as senior co-captain Norman was 13-11 last season and sophomore Bobby Pfennigs was 6-5 with four pins.

'Tim has experience, and Bobby has shown some moments of brilliance - he just has to sustain it,' Wells said. 'Tim made some big strides last year from the previous year. He's one of our captains and he's done a great job. He's really focused and comes to practice every day with that mantra to improve and get better.'

Also in the equation are freshmen Derek Bartlemay and Ryan Enoch, both of whom won high school state titles.

'It's a good cadre of lightweights,' Wells said of the 125 and 133 pounders. 'We're going to have some tough scraps.'

141 POUNDS: Sophomore Kyle Larson is a returning starter after going 12-11 with three pins last season, and he'll be pushed by redshirt freshman Clinton Leonard, sophomore Bryan Medelez, and sophomore Emery McReynolds, a junior college transfer who placed fifth in the nation last season. Larson will likely be sidelined until the holidays by injury, so Leonard may get his first taste of varsity action.

'Clinton is very tough, a very good competitor,' Wells said of the high school All-American. 'At times, he just looks great; at times he looks like a young kid. He just needs more consistency. For Clinton, it's just a matter of discipline and working on some areas that he needs improvement. If he does that, nobody is going to question his desire and his fight. He likes to get after it.'

149 POUNDS: Junior Orlando Perez returns after splitting last season between 149 and 157 pounds and compiling a 7-13 record with two pins. Freshman Talon Hoffman was a four-time high school state champ, and sophomore Louis Camarillo and freshman Scott Perry could also be at that weight, with Perry likely to redshirt.

'Orlando is seasoned, he knows what it's about, he knows what his part is,' Wells said. 'He had an opportunity to start at the Pac-10s (at 157) last year and got hurt right at the very first match and was out of the tournament. He still remembers that; I think he's really looking forward to solidifying the spot and getting out there and really showing what he can do. He's as good as any of those guys at 149, but it's a good conference.'

157 POUNDS: Hook moves up a weight class after placing third in the Pac-10 at 149 last year, going 18-10 with two pins. Senior Joel Gibson, who was 0-1 last season, and freshman Andy Hall will be his competition.

'Tony is seasoned, he knows what it's about, he just has to get a little more offense,' Wells said of the two-year starter who has a 36-24 career record with six pins. 'He's a lot of fun to watch, very exciting, very talented. I think he's really going to do well there.'

165 POUNDS: The Beavers bring back the defending Pac-10 champion in Ellis, who was 29-8 with one pin last season and had an 18-match winning streak. The senior co-captain, who has a 47-19 career record with two pins, is recovering from an injury and should be back right around the holidays.

'Matt has his work cut out for him this year,' Wells said of Ellis, who was ranked as high as 10th nationally last season by InterMat. 'But he's right there. He's looking forward to being an All-American, and he wants to be in the hunt for a national championship. He's improved dramatically. He's done a great job this summer working on his frame and getting some more size and working on his strength. He's just a great guy; he's doing a great job as a team leader.'

Behind Ellis, the Beavers will look to two-year letterman junior Anthony Weber, who was 4-9 last season at 157 pounds; sophomore David Lorring, who was 0-2 a year ago; and freshman Brett Arand, a state champ in 2004.

174 POUNDS: Two experienced wrestlers vie here. Sophomore Jeremy Larson redshirted last season; as a freshman, he was 5-11 as the starter at 157 pounds. Senior Steve Grayson was 3-3 with one pin a year ago when pressed into action at 184 and 197 pounds.

'Jeremy has a little more match experience,' Wells said. 'Steve is kind of a surprise; he's come a long way from his 141-pound frame as a freshman. He's grown into his body, he's a fifth-year senior and he wants to do something - that makes him dangerous. Steve just needs to get consistent, day-in, day-out. He has moments of brilliance. I think Jeremy's strength is that he is pretty darn steady and consistent and meticulous about his preparation. That's going to be a good challenge for both of them all year long.'

Behind that duo will be redshirt freshman Neal Beaudry, who was a state high school champ, and freshman Chase Locke.

184 POUNDS: Pitsch was 20-12 with two pins a year ago and placed fourth in the Pac-10; his career record is 35-19 with three pins after a freshman season that was cut short by injury in 2003. Freshmen Kyle Bressler, Matt Keefer and Kyle Sukanen will be behind Pitsch at the weight.

'Dan wrestled some great kids in the national tournament,' Wells said of Pitsch, who beat 17th-ranked Nick Ciarcia of Brown at the NCAA meet before being eliminated by a pair of ranked foes. 'He wrestled some all-Americans and came close, and beat some real good guys at times. He's just got to get more consistent, steadier. He does the things, day to day, that he needs to do.

'When Dan stops talking, then I know he's ready. When he's not talking much and just thinking and getting ready and doing his work and taking care of business, that's it. He's also one of our team leaders, as well. We've got some great leaders this year.'

197 POUNDS: The Beavers are thin at this weight with the candidates being redshirt freshman Travis Gardner and freshman Jason Gage. Gardner was a state champion and Gage was a two-time state titlist in high school.

'Travis was a redshirt freshman last year who was a 215-pounder in high school but a chubby one, so he's going to be a 197-pounder,' Wells said. 'He just needs more mat time and experience. He's got very good technique, very nifty for a big guy. It's two guys who lack a little experience, but they're both game and have good attitudes. Jason is a real strong kid and had a real good high school career.'

HEAVYWEIGHT: Whichever of the top two heavyweights battles his way into the lineup should be able to make a run at All-America honors, and both are sophomores. Ty Watterson was the starter at the beginning of last winter but saw his season end with a 1-3 record and one pin when he broke his arm in December's Civil War dual. Rakevich stepped in and wound up one victory from an All-America finish at the NCAA Championships, going 18-11 with six pins.

'They grew up about 50 miles away from each other and have been wrestling all their lives; they know each other real well and they're good buddies,' Wells said of Rakevich and Watterson. 'Jamie is also a great leader for us, a very good competitor and a smart wrestler. One of them is going to be a national champ. They're going to be in there fighting and making each other better.'

Adam Daniel, a senior, is also at heavyweight. Said Wells of the former OSU Student-Athlete Advisory Council president: 'Adam is a great student and a great guy. He's just been a mainstay and a tremendous contributor and leader to this team and will be this year, as well. He's well-respected by teammates and coaches, and we'll miss him after this year.'


National rankings are Amateur Wrestling News of Nov. 24, Intermat preseason125-Eric Stevenson; so. (Newberg, Ore./Newberg HS); 3-1 record with 1 pin133-Bobby Pfennigs, so. (Great Falls, Mont./Russell HS); 1-1 record with 0 pinsor-Tim Norman, sr. (Newberg, Ore./Newberg HS); 1-1 record with 0 pins141-Clint Leonard, fr. (Post Falls, Ida./Lakeland HS); 0-0 record with 0 pins149-Orlando Perez, jr. (Hermiston, Ore./Hermiston HS); 0-0 record with 0 pins157-Tony Hook, so. (Sandpoint, Idaho/Sandpoint HS); 0-0 record with 0 pins165-Anthony Weber, jr. (Newberg, Ore./Newberg HS); 3-0 record with 0 pinsor-Matt Ellis, jr. (Prosser, Wash./Prosser HS, Okla. St. U.); 0-0 record with 0 pinsNo. 13 AWN, No. 11 IM174-Steve Grayson, sr. (Bellevue, Wash./Newport HS); 0-0 record with 0 pins184-Dan Pitsch, so. (Tacoma, Wash./Spanaway Lk. HS); 4-0 record with 0 pinsNo. 20 AWN, No. 16 IM197-Travis Gardner, fr. (Portland, Ore./Parkrose HS); 2-1 record with 1 pinHWT-Ty Watterson, so. (Enumclaw, Wash./Enumclaw HS); 3-0 record with 1 pinor-Jamie Rakevich, so. (Elma, Wash./Elma HS); 3-0 record with 0 pinsNo. 10 AWN, No. 13 IM

OREGON STATE ALL-TIME VS. THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS: Oregon State has competed in the Las Vegas Collegiate 12 times prior to this season. OSU's most recent trip to the tournament came during the 2002-03 season, when the Beavers placed 18th in a 50-team field. Oregon State's highest finishes at the Las Vegas Collegiate came when the Beavers placed second in the 1993-94 and 1998-99 seasons; OSU also placed fourth in 1992-93 and 1994-95 and fifth in 2000-01.

OREGON STATE'S LATEST MEET: Oregon State 184-pounder Dan Pitsch won the championship of the Best In The West wrestling tournament Saturday at the Jackson County Fairgrounds. OSU heavyweights Jamie Rakevich and Ty Watterson both reached the final before opting to share a co-championship at that weight class.

No team scores were kept at the open tournament.

The Beavers' Eric Stevenson placed second at 125 pounds, while Tim Norman placed second at 133 and Bobby Pfennigs was fourth at that weight. Placing third for OSU were Jeremy Larson at 174 pounds and Travis Gardner at 197.

'We're wrestling better,' OSU head coach Joe Wells said. 'We had a lot of pins and a lot of people scoring. We had indications of some good things. Obviously, when we get a few of the banged-up guys back in the lineup it will make us a little tougher, but I liked our fight and our attitude. We stayed in matches and we were pushing the pace.'Now we go back to work and go to Las Vegas.'

2003-04 IN REVIEW: Oregon State went into the 2003-04 wrestling postseason with high hopes, and the Beavers had good reason to be looking forward to the Pacific-10 and NCAA championship meets.

OSU (11-7 overall, 7-3 Pacific-10) won 10 of its last 14 dual meets, including victories over nationally-ranked squads from Cal State-Bakersfield and Cal Poly and a 30-12 rout at arch-rival Oregon. The momentum didn't last into the postseason, though.

The Beavers placed seventh at the Pacific-10 Championships, which became one of the most competitive conference meets in years. OSU then tied for 42nd place among the 72 teams represented at the NCAA Championships.

'I thought we had, at times, some really nice performances,' OSU head coach Joe Wells said. 'I think throughout the whole season, a different individual - depending on any specific dual meet - stepped up.'

Wells pointed to junior 165-pounder Matt Ellis and senior 174-pounder Jed Pennell as two Beavers who performed at a consistently high level. Ellis went unbeaten from Dec. 30 through the Pacific-10 Championships, winning 18 straight matches en route to the Pac-10 title. Pennell won 11 in a row at one point, was the Pac-10 runner-up, and moved onto OSU's all-time career top 50 lists in wins and pins.

Wells pointed to a number of others - sophomore 184-pounder Dan Pitsch, freshman heavyweight Jamie Rakevich, sophomore 149-pounder Tony Hook, senior 157-pounder Brian Duhrkoop, freshman 125-pounder Eric Stevenson and sophomore 149/157-pounder Orlando Perez - who energized the Beavers in various meets.

'At times, different guys stepped up,' Wells said. 'The one thing we can take from this season is, it takes the whole team, and you be the guy to spark the team. If we can get that as a group ...

'We had a young team to begin with, so everybody was kind of waiting for someone else to set the pace or set the tempo. In those cases where we started with Matt and Jed, they did that really well; the younger guys kind of floundered a bit. But when we had a great performance, it was because some young guys stepped up and really showed the team what to do.'

There was also sadness between the conference and national meets when legendary former OSU coach Dale Thomas died on March 4 after a long illness. Thomas, whose 616 dual meet wins are more than any other coach in collegiate wrestling history, was saluted by many of his former wrestlers in a Gill Coliseum memorial service the weekend before the NCAA Championships.

With Pennell the only senior in the starting lineup, Wells and the Beavers quickly began looking ahead to the 2004-05 season.

'We're going to be one year older and have more experience and depth than we've ever had in regard to competition for spots from 125 through heavyweight,' Wells said. 'I'm very optimistic about our chances for next year. We just have to get some of that work done this spring and summer and focus in on the areas we need to improve, and make that improvement so we hit the ground running in the fall.

'I really think we have an outstanding chance to have an excellent season next year - much better than we have over the last two or three years. I'm really optimistic and very positive about this group.'

OREGON STATE HEAD COACH Joe Wells: Joe Wells, who is in his 13th season as Oregon State's head coach, has led the Beavers to a Pacific-10 title and 4 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships during his time at OSU.

The Beavers' 25-10 win over then-No. 11 Boise State in 2001 was Wells' 100th dual meet win at OSU. Since taking over the Beaver program prior to the 1992-93 season, Wells is 136-84-1 for a winning percentage of .618.

The Beavers were Pacific-10 Conference champions under Wells in 1994 and he has twice been named the conference's Coach of the Year. OSU has finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships 4 times in Wells' tenure, placing second in 1995, fourth in 1994, eighth in 1996 and tying for ninth in 1998.

Under Wells, OSU has had 2 national champions, 17 All-Americans and 22 conference champions.

Wells was named the ASICS Oregon Wrestling Classic's Man of the Year for 1998 for his contributions to wrestling in the state.

Wells, who has coached numerous World Teams for the United States, is a 1972 Iowa graduate. He was a 2-time placer at the Big Ten meet and was the 1976 U.S. Wrestling Federation freestyle champ. He spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach at Iowa and Michigan before coming to Oregon State.

OREGON STATE SECOND IN ALL-TIME DUAL MEET WINS: OSU rates as one of the best dual meet teams in collegiate wrestling history. The Beavers were third in all-time dual meet wins among Division I schools going into the 2004-05 season. OSU currently has an all-time dual meet record of 870-276-24 and a .754 winning percentage.

OREGON STATE IN GILL COLISEUM: Oregon State has one of the finest homes in college wrestling, 10,400-seat Gill Coliseum. Now in their 49th season in Gill Coliseum, the Beavers have a home dual meet record of 361-70-5 in the arena for a winning percentage of .834. Last season, OSU went 4-2 at home.

OSU moved its home wrestling meets into Gill Coliseum in 1956-57, when Dale Thomas became head coach. Since then, the arena has hosted conference championship meets 14 times, including 2002, and it was the site of the NCAA Championships in 1961 and 1980.

OREGON STATE WRESTLING HOMECOMING: Oregon State celebrated its annual OSU Wrestling Homecoming on Dec. 10 when the Beavers greet Oregon. In last season's OSU Wrestling Homecoming, Oregon State beat Oregon 23-18 in front of 1,132 fans and legendary former OSU coach Dale Thomas. There were 25 former OSU wrestlers on hand; during their Oregon State careers, they accounted for 35 individual conference championships, 25 All-America finishes and 7 national championships.

BEAVERS IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: Here's where Oregon State wrestlers have been in this season's national rankings:

TEAMAm.Wr.News	InterMatPre	NR	Pre	NRNational Wrestling Coaches AssociationPre	NRTony Hook, 157Am.Wr.News	InterMatPre (149)	15th	Pre	NRNov. 24	NRMatt Ellis, 165Am.Wr.News	InterMatPre	10th	Pre	11thNov. 24	13thDan Pitsch, 184Am.Wr.News	InterMatPre	16th	Pre	16thNov. 24	20thJamie Rakevich, HWTAm.Wr.News	InterMatPre	12th	Pre	13thNov. 24	10th