Wrestling Opens Season at Portland State Duals

Nov. 7, 2005

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State University wrestling team (0-0-0, 0-0-0 Pac-10) opens its 2005-06 season this weekend as it travels to Portland, Ore., Saturday for the Portland State Duals. The defending Pac-10 champion Sun Devils open the day facing Pacific (Ore.) at 10 a.m. before meeting Southern Oregon at 11:30 a.m. The day concludes with a Pac-10 dual as ASU faces host Portland State at 1 p.m.

Arizona State won the 2005 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships to not only capture its second crown in three years, but also the 15th in the history of the program. Brian Stith (157) upset Matt Gentry of Stanford, the defending Pac-10 and NCAA champion, to win his weight class and earn Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships. Cain Velasquez (heavyweight) also secured a title, the first of his career, before being named as the Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year. C.B. Dollaway (184) and Ryan Bader (197) each advanced to the finals of their respective weight classes before placing second.

Arizona State has three All-Americans returning to its lineup this season, including a pair of first-time honorees from a year ago. Last year, Brian Stith earned his first national accolade by placing sixth at 157 pounds while Cain Velasquez took fifth in the heavyweight division to earn his first honor. Ryan Bader is the Sun Devils' third All-American returning after earning the acclaim in his sophomore campaign of 2003-04.

Three members of the Sun Devils earned post-season awards from the Pac-10 last year, including two wrestlers and one coach. At the conference tournament, Brian Stith was voted by the league coaches as the Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships following his title at 157 pounds. After the completion of the NCAA Championships, another vote was taken by the conference coaches with Cain Velasquez (285) receiving Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year while Head Coach Thom Ortiz was chosen as the Pac-10 Coach of the Year for the second time in his four years at the helm of the ASU program.

Arizona State finished 13th at the 2005 NCAA Wrestling Championships with 39.5 points and two All-Americans at the tournament held in St. Louis, Mo. Brian Stith (157) finished sixth and Cain Velasquez (285) placed fifth to earn All-America honors and pace the Sun Devils to their second Top 15 finish under Thom Ortiz. In all, seven Sun Devils competed at the national event, including Jeremy Mendoza (2-2 at 125), Patrick Williams (3-2 at 149), Patrick Pitsch (2-2 at 165), C.B. Dollaway (1-2 at 184) and Ryan Bader (2-2 at 197).

The Sun Devils went 11-6-1 overall and a perfect 8-0-0 against Pac-10 foes in their 43rd season as a varsity program that ended with Arizona State winning its 15th Pac-10 title and placing 13th in the nation. Brian Stith (157) and Cain Velasquez (285) led the way for ASU as both won individual Pac-10 crowns, earned All-America honors and collected a Pac-10 award including Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships and Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year, respectively. In tournament action, the Sun Devils also placed second in Reno and fourth at the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational.

In the history of the program, the Sun Devils are 29-13 all-time in their first dual of the season and hold a 13-5 mark when that dual takes place on the road. ASU also is 1-0 when the first dual of the season is held at a neutral site, just as it will be this weekend against Pacific (Ore.). Overall, the Sun Devils have lost their last three openers, falling to Nebraska in 2002, 20-19, and then Iowa each of the last two seasons, 24-17 in 2003, and 29-10 in 2004.

The third dual this Saturday will be the Pac-10 opener for both Arizona State and Portland State. The Sun Devils have won their last six conference openers and are undefeated in their last eight having recorded a tie in 1998. When the first Pac-10 dual of the season takes place away from Tempe, ASU is 6-1-0 and has won six in a row. The last time the Pac-10 season for the Sun Devils opened on the road was in the 1999-00 season when ASU defeated Cal State Bakersfield, 22-18.

Several wrestling publications recently released their preseason rankings with the Sun Devils earning placement in the Top 20 as both a team and individually. In the team rankings, Arizona State will open the season as the No. 10 team in the nation according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) and USA Today. In their individual rankings, six Sun Devils have earned rankings with Cain Velasquez leading the way as the No. 4 wrestler at heavyweight. Also receiving rankings were No. 6 Brian Stith (157), No. 9 Jeremy Mendoza (125), No. 10 C.B. Dollaway (184), No. 10 Ryan Bader (197) and No. 11 Patrick Pitsch (165).

Last year, 10 student-athletes represented the Sun Devils at the 2005 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships where the team captured its 15th conference crown. Of those 10 wrestlers, eight return this season with seven of them retaining their starting positions. The returning starters are Jeremy Mendoza (125), John Espinoza (133), Brian Stith (157), Patrick Pitsch (174), C.B. Dollaway (184), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285). The lone returnee not in the starting lineup is Rick Renzi (174). Renzi had shoulder surgery during the offseason and his return for the 2005-06 season is uncertain.

The 2005-06 roster has five seniors on it, including four starters for the Sun Devils. Jeremy Mendoza (125), C.B. Dollaway (184), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285) will all be in the starting lineup for their final collegiate campaigns while Marc Rizio (125/133) will look to earn a spot on the mat in his senior season. Of the five seniors, Mendoza is the lone wrestler that has not utilized a redshirt season in his career with the Sun Devils.

Arizona State's roster has 11 new names this season including nine true freshmen, three sophomores and a pair of transfers. Sophomores Cedric Powell and Chris Remsen transfered into the program from Meramec CC and NC State, respectively, while Josh Santobianco rounds out the sophomore crop. The freshmen include: Tyler Bowles, Jake Cranford, Wes Fimbrez, Robert Galvan, Jake Hannaford, Matt Lopez, Thor Moen and Jason Robbins.

Thom Ortiz returns for his fifth season as the head coach of the Sun Devils and has compiled a 43-26-1 overall record at Arizona State. The 2003 and 2005 Pac-10 Coach of the Year will be assisted by Aaron Simpson and Eric Larkin. Simpson is starting his eighth season on the ASU sidelines while Larkin is set to begin his second.

In the preseason individual Pac-10 rankings released by Stanford, the host of the 2006 Pac-10 Championships, seven Sun Devils have earned a place among the Top 5 with four of the wrestlers holding the top spot in their weight classes. Those top-ranked Sun Devils include Jeremy Mendoza (125), Brian Stith (157), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285). A pair of Sun Devils are close to the top as well with Patick Pitsch (165) and C.B. Dollaway (184) each coming in at No. 2. John Espinoza (133) rounds out the ranked ASU wrestlers at No. 4.

The Boxers compete in the NCAA Division III ranks where they finished tied for 44th at the national meet one year ago. They also placed sixth in the Great Lakes Region following a 9-9-0 season record.

Arizona State and Pacific (Ore.) will be meeting for the first time this weekend.

The Raiders compete in Region I of the NAIA where they finished third last year before closing out the season with an 11th-place finish at the national tournament. Southern Oregon went 6-4-0 in duals last year.

Arizona State and Southern Oregon will be meeting for the first time this weekend.

The Vikings are coming off a season that saw them post a 2-17-0 record in dual competition and an 0-9-0 mark against the Pac-10. PSU finished 10th at the conference tournament before placing 59th at the NCAA Championships.

The Sun Devils lead the all-time series with the Vikings, 8-1-0. ASU has won eight duals in a row, including a 46-4 victory one year ago in Tempe.

Arizona State won the last meeting between the Sun Devils and Vikings, 46-4, as the hosts won nine of the 10 bouts with four ending in a fall for the Sun Devils. Overall, only one bout did not end with bonus points being awarded as Patrick Pitsch won a 6-2 decision over Chris Feist. In all, Curtis Ray (141), Brian Stith (157), C.B. Dollaway (184) and Jeremy Mendoza (125) each pinned their opponents.

Arizona State's wrestlers, both current and past, competed in the Sunkist Kids/ASU International Open in late October with three former Sun Devils advancing to finals. Eric Larkin, a current assistant coach with the Sun Devils, won the 66kg weight class while another assistant, Aaron Simpson, placed second at 84kg and former All-American Kellan Fluckiger placed second at 120kg. Alex Cotnreras (fifth) and Jeremy Mendoza (sixth) led the way for the current members of the team.

Wells Fargo Arena, which opened in 1974, is a 14,198-seat facility that plays host to Sun Devil wrestling and other ASU varsity teams, including men's and women's basketball, gymnastics and volleyball. In the time the wrestling program has called WFA home, the team has captured one national title, two runner-up finishes and 16 conference crowns, including 15 as members of the Pac-10. Individually, five Sun Devils earned national titles while 55 different athletes captured 103 conference crowns and 66 individuals combined to secure 94 All-America honors.

The last time the Sun Devils took to the mats was the 2005 NCAA Wrestling Championships held at the Savvis Center in St. Louis, Mo., where the team finished 13th in the national standings. Brian Stith (157) and Cain Velasquez (285) each earned All-American honors to pace the team as seven total members of the Sun Devil roster competed in the national event. ASU also was the highest-finishing team among the 10 Pac-10 schools.

The Sun Devils return to the road next weekend, heading to the Quaker State for one dual and one tournament. ASU faces No. 8 Lehigh in a 7 p.m. dual in Bethlehem, Pa., Thursday night before heading to the East Stroudsburg Open Saturday.

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