No. 18 Wrestling Heads to Las Vegas Invitational

Nov. 30, 2005

Match Notes (pdf) | Schedule/Results

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State University wrestling team, currently ranked No. 18 in the NWCA/USA Today National Rankings, heads to Las Vegas this weekend as it is set to compete in the 2005 Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational Friday and Saturday at the Cashman Center. The Sun Devils, who are coming off a pair of dual meet losses to Top 8 foes (No. 5 Iowa, No. 8 Lehigh), stand 3-2 overall on the season and are 1-0 in Pac-10 duals.

The 2005 Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational will feature eight of the nation's Top 25 teams, including two Top 10 squads, as nearly 50 teams are set to compete this weekend at the Cashman Center. No. 3 Michigan and No. 9 Wisconsin lead the way as other ranked teams include No. 11 Cornell, No. 12 Nebraska, No. 15 Missouri, No. 18 Arizona State, No. 19 Hofstra and No. 22 Edinboro. Seven of the 10 teams that comprise the Pac-10 Conference also will be on hand, including ASU, Cal Poly, Boise State, CS Bakersfield, CS Fullerton, Oregon State and UC Davis (Stanford, Oregon and Portland State will not compete).

Of the 200 wrestlers ranked in the Top 20 (according to the NWCA poll release Nov. 29), 86 are slated to compete this weekend at the Las Vegas Invitational, including 13 of the Top 20 wrestlers at 133 pounds. Two top-ranked wrestlers also are slated to compete, including No. 1 Shawn Bunch (133) of Edinboro and No. 1 Ben Askren (174) of Missouri. According to the same poll, five Sun Devils are among the highly ranked entrants with Cain Velasquez (4th at heavyweight) and Brian Stith (6th at 157) each coming in as the second-highest ranked wrestler in the meet. Jeremy Mendoza (14th at 125) is the third-highest and Patrick Pitsch (11th at 165) is the fourth-highest while Ryan Bader (14th at 197) is the sixth-highest.

Last year in Las Vegas, the Sun Devils accumulated 103.5 points and finished fourth overall in the team standings while Michigan (148) won the meet with Nebraska (139.5) and Hofstra (108.5) rounding out the Top 3. Individually, seven Sun Devils placed among the Top 8 with both C.B. Dollaway (184) and Ryan Bader (197) finishing second in their respective weight classes. Cain Velasquez (285) was third, Brian Stith (157) was fifth, Patrick Williams (149) was sixth, Jeremy Mendoza (125) was seventh and Patrick Pitsch (165) was eighth.

A pair of Sun Devils have opened the season with undefeated records while another is near perfect in 2005-06 following the team's dual with No. 5 Iowa last weekend. Cain Velasquez (285) stands 10-0 on the season while Jeremy Mendoza (125) holds a 7-0 mark against collegiate-eligible competition. Patrick Pitsch (165) is 9-1 with his lone loss coming at Lehigh.

Senior heavyweight Cain Velasquez has proved why he is a threat to win the NCAA title this season as he has opened his final collegiate campaign with a dominating 10-0 record. He has won five major decisions, one technical fall, two pin falls and one injury default. In his last two years, Velasquez has posted a combined record of 46-5 and has won 16 major decisions, five technical falls and five pin falls. All told, he has earned bonus points for the team 26-of-46 bouts over the last two seasons (56.5% of his bouts).

For the second dual in a row, the Sun Devils took to the mats to face a Top 8 nationally ranked team and, unfortunately for ASU, dropped a dual decision, this time falling to No. 5 Iowa, 26-13. ASU, who also fell at No. 8 Lehigh, 29-7, will also face several other Top 25 teams this season, including No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 Iowa State and No. 21 Cal Poly. Also, the Sun Devils have a chance to face other top ranked teams while competing in the NWCA National Duals.

Of the 30 bouts contested at the Portland State Duals, 17 victories recorded by ASU wrestlers earned bonus points in the team race. Combined, the Sun Devils won five bouts by fall (six points), three by technical fall (five points), seven by major decision (four points) and two by injury default or forfeit (six points). Conversely, only two bouts were won in a dual with No. 8 Lehigh with one victory ending in a major decision for Cain Velasquez.

Last year, Patrick Pitsch went 24-15 in his first season of action for the Sun Devils. In those 39 bouts, Pitsch did not pin an opponent. In his first match of the 2005-06 season, Pitsch collected his first pin as he defeated Marshall Cook with the fall at 5:42. His pin was one of five recorded by ASU wrestlers at the PSU Duals the first weekend of the season.

The Sun Devils will be making their 21st appearance in the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational this weekend and will be in search of their fourth team title. In all 20 appearances made so far, the Sun Devils lowest finish has been ninth (three times) while the team has finished in the Top 3 on nine occasions. The years of the titles won were 1992, 1989 and 1988. Over the past four tournaments, the Sun Devils have finished fourth on three occasions (2004, 2002, 2000).

Here are the Sun Devils that have entered into the 2005 Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational this weekend at the Cashman Center: No. 13 Jeremy Mendoza (125), Adam Hickey (133), Jason Robbins (141), Pat Payne (149), No. 6 Brian Stith (157), No. 11 Patrick Pitsch (165), Jamie Robbins (174), Jason Trulson (184), No. 14 Ryan Bader (197) and No. 4 Cain Velasquez (285).

Of the 10 starters the Sun Devils will enter into the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational this weekend, only five return after competing in the meet one year ago. Those five returning wrestlers include Jeremy Mendoza (125), Brian Stith (157), Patrick Pitsch (165), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285).

Several wrestling publications recently released their updated rankings with the Sun Devils earning placement in the Top 20 as both a team and individually. In the team rankings, Arizona State is No. 18 in the nation according to the NWCA and USA Today. In their individual rankings, five Sun Devils have earned rankings with Cain Velasquez (285) leading the way at No. 4. Also receiving rankings were No. 6 Brian Stith (157), No. 11 Patrick Pitsch (165), No. 13 Jeremy Mendoza (125) and No. 14 Ryan Bader (197).

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.

At the conference level, seven Sun Devils are ranked in the Top 5 according to the preseason poll released by Stanford, the host of the 2006 event. Jeremy Mendoza (125), Stith, Bader and Velasquez are each ranked No. 1 while Patrick Pitsch (165) and Dollaway are both No. 2. John Espinoza (133) also is ranked, coming in at No. 4.

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.

Thom Ortiz returns for his fifth season as the head coach of the Sun Devils and has compiled a 46-28-1 overall record at Arizona State and stands 26-2-0 in Pac-10 duals. 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 while Larkin is set to begin his second. All three members of the staff also wrestled for the Sun Devils at one time with Ortiz competing on the 1988 NCAA Championship team and Larkin winning the 2003 NCAA 149 championship. Combined, the trio won nine All-America honors and nine Pac-10 individual crowns.

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.

For the second week in a row, the Sun Devils found themselves on the mat with another Top 8 team, this time in the form of No. 5 Iowa, Saturday night inside Wells Fargo Arena. And, for the second time in a row, the Sun Devils came out on the low end of the team scoring, falling to the Hawkeyes, 26-13. Jeremy Mendoza (125), Patrick Pitsch (165), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285) each secured victories on the day while Brian Stith (157) made his return to the starting lineup following off-season surgery and fell, 4-2, in a tough bout.

Following a week off from competition and a week of finals, the Sun Devils will return to the state of Nevada, this time taking part in the Reno Tournament of Champions, slated for Dec. 18 in Reno, Nev. ASU does not compete in a dual meet until Jan. 4 when it travels to No. 6 Minnesota for a 7 p.m. dual with the Golden Gophers.

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