ASU Wrestling Sends Seven to NCAA Championships

March 15, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. - The No. 19 Arizona State University wrestling team heads to St. Louis, Mo., this weekend to compete in the final collegiate event of the year, the 2005 NCAA Wrestling Championships. Action begins at 11 a.m. CST Thursday and runs through Saturday evening inside the Savvis Center. Seven Sun Devils will participate in the meet as they attempt to win national titles and attain All-America honors by placing among the Top 8.

It is championship season and that means team titles, individual crowns and national acclaim are on the line this weekend in St. Louis at the 75th annual event. Those wrestlers finishing among the Top 8 in their respective weight classes will garner All-America honors while the Top 4 teams in the finals standings will collect a trophy for their efforts.

Live bracket updates will be made available on the official web site of the NCAA, Also, ESPN will carry a tape-delayed airing of the finals and other highlights of the event starting at 5 p.m. EST (3 p.m. local).

For the second time in three years and the 15th in 27 tries, the Sun Devils captured the Pac-10 Championships team crown as ASU recorded 106 points to outdistance defending champion Boise State at the annual meet held Feb. 27-28 in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Individually, Brian Stith (157) and Cain Velasquez (HWT) each won titles to pace the team to victory.

Tied at one in the Pac-10 finals with Matt Gentry and less than 10 seconds showing on the third-period clock, Brian Stith battled on the edge of the mat with the defending national champion and scored a takedown with six seconds remaining. Following the final horn, Stith had his hand raised as he upset Gentry, 3-1. The victory was the first for Stith in four attempts this season. The loss was only the second for Gentry in the past two seasons.

Although winning 18 matches in a row is a tough thing to do, Cain Velasquez has certainly made it look easy. Since the turn of the New Year, Velasquez is a perfect 18-0 and has raised his record to 32-3 and moved into the Top 3 in the national rankings. But even more impressive than his winning streak is the way he has done it. Of the 18 bouts, the Sun Devil heavyweight has won eight by major decision, two by technical fall and one by fall. In the other seven bouts, only one opponent, No. 14 Clint Walbeck of Fresno State, has been within four points of Velasquez and he lost by just two points, 4-2, in Fresno. Of Velasquez' 32 victories this season, 10 have come by major decision, four from technical falls and three by falls.

Seven of Arizona State's 10 starters have qualified for the NCAA Championships and will compete this weekend. Those Sun Devils include Jeremy Mendoza at 125, Patrick Williams at 149, Brian Stith at 157, Patrick Pitsch at 165, C.B. Dollaway at 184, Ryan Bader at 197 and Cain Velasquez at heavyweight.

The championship brackets were released Monday (March 14) for each weight class. Here are the first round opponents for the seven Sun Devils:
125: No. 12 Jeremy Mendoza will meet Grant Nakamura (4th, Big XII) of Iowa State. The two have met once this year with Mendoza scoring an 11-5 decision over the Cyclone in a dual in Ames.
149: Patrick Williams opens his final NCAA tournament by facing Indiana's Isaac Knable (6th, Big Ten). The two have not met this year.
157: No. 10 Brian Stith faces James Strouse of Hofstra (1st, CAA) in the first round. The two have not met this year.
165: Patrick Pitsch has a tough first round bout as he faces No. 7 Jacob Klein (3rd, Big XII) of Nebraska. The two have not met this season.
184: No. 12 C.B. Dollaway faces Frank Cornely (1st, ACC) of Duke in the first round. The two have not met this year.
197: No. 7 Ryan Bader meets Illinois' Tyrone Byrd (5th, Big Ten) as he tries to earn his second All-America honor. The two have not met this year.
285: No. 3 Cain Velasquez opens his first NCAA tournament by facing Payam Zarrinpour (3rd, CAA) of Sacred Heart. The two have not met this year.

Of the seven Sun Devils headed to St. Louis this week, five earned a seeding in their respective brackets. Heavyweight Cain Velasquez leads the way as the No. 3 seed with Ryan Bader (197) sitting at No. 7. Pac-10 champion Brian Stith (157) is seeded No. 10 while both Jeremy Mendoza (125) and C.B. Dollaway (184) are seeded 12th in their divisions.

Ryan Bader is the lone Sun Devil in the tournament this year that has garnered All-America honors after capturing the accolade last year. In the 2004 event, Bader finished in fourth place.

Patrick Williams (149) returns to the national event for the second time in as many years and will look to garner his first All-American honor after going 2-2 last year.

Jeremy Mendoza (125), Brian Stith (157), Patrick Pitsch (165), C.B. Dollaway (184) and Cain Velasquez (285) will each make their NCAA Wrestling Championships debut this weekend.

Competing in the NJCAA tournament in years past, both C.B. Dollaway (184) and Cain Velasquez (285) know what it takes to be successful at the national level. In 2002, Velasquez, who was wrestling for Iowa Central as a freshman, went to the national junior college tournament and returned home with the national crown. In 2003, Dollaway, also a freshman at the time, won the 184 crown for Colby before placing third at the event last year.

The Sun Devils sent five wrestlers to the 2004 championship tournament with Ryan Bader (197) earning All-America honors to pace the team to 19 points and a 26th-place finish. Christian Staylor (125), Patrick Williams (149) and Nick Frost (184) each went 2-2 and did not place while Clifford Starks went 0-2 at heavyweight. Bader advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion No. 1 Damion Hahn of Minnesota, 2-1.

PAC-10 TO TOP 10?
In the NCAA Championships following a Pac-10 title, the Sun Devils average national finish is 7th place. In the past two instances, ASU finished 5th following the 2003 crown and 9th after the 2001 title. Overall in the 14 tournaments, the Sun Devils have posted a `trophy finish' (Top 4) on five occasions including a national title in 1988, runners-up in 1989 and 1990 and 4th-place finishes in 1993 and 1995.

This year marks the third time in the 75-year history of the NCAA Wrestling Championships that St. Louis will serve as hosts. The first was 2000 where ASU finished tied for 16th on the strength of two All-Americans. Steven Blackford finished 3rd at 165 while Quinn Foster placed 8th at 149.

The seven Sun Devils heading to St. Louis this week have enjoyed success at several tournaments this season with six victories and eight runner-up finishes being recorded. Combined, the seven wrestlers are 99-26 in tournament action.

Securing titles for ASU were Jeremy Mendoza, Patrick Williams, C.B. Dollaway and Cain Velasquez at the Fullerton Open and Brian Stith and Velasquez at the Pac-10 Championships.

Combining the records of all Sun Devils that competed this season, ASU built a 241-128 record overall. Of those 241 wins, 34 came by fall. From a percentage standpoint, the pin falls counted for only 15% of the team's wins this year. ASU was only pinned 14 times in 2004-05.

On the strength of its sixth dual victory in a row, all against conference foes, the Sun Devils capped the 2004-05 dual season with a perfect 8-0 record in the Pac-10. The last time ASU ended a season with a perfect showing in the conference standings was the 2001-02 season in which the Sun Devils went 6-0 in the league.

It is no secret Cain Velasquez pieced together a very solid season this year. Statistically, Velasquez led the team in overall victories (32), dual wins (16) and wins by technical fall (4) while tying for the lead in tournament wins (16) with C.B. Dollaway and Brian Stith and major decision victories (10) with Stith.

C.B. Dollaway led the team in two categories this season including conference dual victories and overall falls. Just as the Sun Devils went 8-0 against teams in the Pac-10 Conference, so did Dollaway as he did not meet defeat in any of those eight duals. Overall for the season, Dollaway won 28 total bouts with 10 coming by fall.

Brian Stith posted 29 victories this season with 16 coming via a bonus point victory. Along with his four wins by fall and two by technical fall, Stith, along with Cain Velasquez, led the team with 10 victories coming by major decision. Since the turn of the New Year, Stith has posted a 14-3 record with half his wins coming by major decision. In four home duals in a row, Stith won by major decision as he defeated foes from Utah Valley State, Cal State Bakersfield, Oklahoma and Cal State Fullerton.

The three heaviest weights in the Sun Devil lineup have provided the largest impact for the team this year. Arizona State's three starters of C.B. Dollaway (184), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285) are a combined 89-16 overall with a total of 25 wins by major decision, eight by technical fall and another 16 victories by fall. At the Pac-10 Championships, the trio combined to go 8-2 as all three made the finals of their respective weight classes. In the way of `bonus point' victories, the trio tallied three wins by major decision and another two by fall.

The final national team rankings released in the March 3 USA Today/NWCA National Top 25 has Arizona State holding onto the No. 19 position.

On September 3, 2004, former Sun Devil All-American Steve Blackford lost his life in a tragic automobile accident. A beloved son, brother, nephew and friend, Blackford will be sorely missed by all that were fortunate enough to have met him and especially those who hold a special place in their hearts for him.

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.

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.

Real Pro Wrestling (RPW) was created in 2002 and held its first show taping Oct. 8-9 in Los Angeles. Several former Sun Devils competed for the shows that will begin airing on PAX TV March 31. For more information, including biographical information on all the participants, visit the internet home of the professional league on the web at

Five Sun Devils hold roster spots in RPW, including Eric Larkin, Aaron Simpson, Kellan Fluckiger and Danny Felix, who all compete for the Texas Shooters. Two-time NCAA Champion Marcus Mollica competes for the California Claw.

The 2005 NCAA Championships are the final event of the collegiate season.

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