Reno Awaits Wrestlers in Final Tourney of 2005

Dec. 12, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. - For the second tournament in a row, the No. 18 Arizona State University wrestling team (3-2, 1-0 Pac-10) heads to Nevada for competition, this time taking part in the 2005 Reno Tournament of Champions to be held Sunday, December 18, at the Reno Livestock Event Center in Reno, Nev. The event will serve as the final action of 2005 and the final individual tournament until the 2006 Pac-10 Championships later in the season.

Twenty-seven teams, including five ranked in the Top 25 of the latest NWCA/USA Today Division I rankings, will be on hand Sunday at the 2005 Reno Tournament of Champions. Three-time defending national champion and top-ranked Oklahoma State will join No. 9 Central Michigan, No. 12 Penn State, No. 15 Northwestern and No. 18 Arizona State in the field that has a strong mix of all divisions of collegiate wrestling. Eight of the 10 teams that currently make up the Pac-10 Conference will send competitors to the mat, including ASU, Boise State, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal State Fullerton, Portland State, Stanford, UC Davis and Oregon (the two member institutions not competing are Cal Poly and Oregon State).

With several top teams headed to the event, several wrestlers ranked in the national Top 20 will be on the mats this weekend. The 133, 157, 174 and 197 weight classes each boast six wrestlers holding Top 20 ranks while the weight class with the least representation is 184 with two. Brian Stith, ranked No. 8 this week, is the highest ranked entrant in the 157 class while both No. 11 Patrick Pitsch (165) and No. 4 Cain Velasquez (285) are the second-highest in their respective divisions. Overall, five wrestlers ranked No. 1 in the nation will be on hand to compete in the tournament.

Last year in Reno, the Sun Devils finished second to eventual national champion Oklahoma State, 163.5-103.0, and was seven points ahead of third-place Fresno State's 96.0 points. Six Sun Devils placed in the Top 6 with Brian Stith (157), C.B. Dollaway (184) and Cain Velasquez (285) each falling in the finals of their respective weight classes to finish second overall. Ryan Bader (197) took third, Patrick Williams (149) was fourth and Patrick Pitsch (165) finished sixth to round out the placers for Arizona State.

Arizona State will compete in the Reno Tournament of Champions for the sixth year in a row and will look to keep alive its streak of Top 3 finishes as it has place either second or third each of the five previous years. The Sun Devils were runners-up to Oklahoma State in 200, 2003 and 2004 while finishing third in 2001 behind Missouri and OSU and third in 2002 behind OSU and Edinboro.

Here are the Sun Devils that have entered into the 2005 Reno Tournament of Champions this weekend at the Reno Livestock Events Center: Jeremy Mendoza (125), Adam Hickey (133), Jason Robbins (141), Pat Payne (149), Brian Stith (157), Kevin Gaughan (157), Patrick Pitsch (165), Jamie Robbins (174), Alex Pavlenko (174), Jason Trulson (184), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285). Each team is allowed to enter up to 13 athletes in the tournament with the Sun Devils sending 12 to compete.

MR. 100
Heading into his senior season, Ryan Bader stood 88-34 in his career with the Sun Devils. So far this season, Bader has compiled an 11-2 record to bring his career mark to 99-36, leaving him one victory shy of 100 career wins. If he can win one bout in his hometown this weekend, he will become the 21st Sun Devil to reach the century mark. The last ASU wrestler to reach the milestone mark of 100 victories was current assistant coach Eric Larkin, who finished his career with 123 victories, tying him for the sixth-most wins in school history.

Ryan Bader's chase for 100 victories is not the only place in the record books he is nearing in on. Following the first five duals of the season, Bader is 4-1 and has improved his career dual record to 41-19 overall. His win total ties him for the 19th-most in program history with John Ginther, who went 41-10-3 from 1985-89. With at least 13 duals remaining on the schedule in 2006, Bader could reach the Top 10 in dual victories, needing just 10 more wins to tie for 10th overall. Joining him in this chase is another senior, Jeremy Mendoza. After going 5-0 in duals so far this season, Mendoza improved to 31-15 overall in his dual meet career and will need 10 more on the season to crack into the Top 20.

Each week throught the 2005-06 season, Sun Devil Assistant Coach Aaron Simpson will provide an inside look at the team as he submits journal entries to Visit the wrestling page on the official athletic web site of Arizona State Athletics to see what Coach Simpson has to say about a previous meet, the team's preparations and other interesting facts and stories about the Sun Devils.

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 14-1 record. So far this season, his lone loss came in a 6-1 decision loss to No. 3 Greg Wagner of Michigan in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational. If the Reno Tournament of Champions goes according to national rankings, Velasquez could meet two-time defending national champion Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State in the finals. That meeting would be the second in a row at the tournament as Mocco won 6-1 last year, one of only five losses for the Sun Devils' big man.

Through two tournaments and five duals, five members of the starting line up have secured at least 11 victories or more so far in 2005 and will look to add to that this weekend in Reno. Both Patrick Pitsch (165) and Cain Velasquez (285) lead the team with 14 victories on the season with 14-3 and 14-1 records, respectively, while Jeremy Mendoza (125), Pat Payne (149) and Ryan Bader (197) have compiled 11-1, 11-6 and 11-2 records, respectively.

Pat Payne has waited a long time to get out on the mats for the Sun Devils and, following a slow start in tournament action, has really shown his talents recently. After redshirting two years ago then sitting out all of last year with an injury, Payne currently stands 11-6 on the season following a big showing in Las Vegas. Payne, who entered the tournament with a 4-4 record with two losses in sudden victory overtime, got off on the wrong foot in Vegas as he dropped a tough 3-1 decision in the first round. Relegated to the consolation bracket, Payne reeled off six victories in a row, including four without allowing a point to be scored on him, as he marched through the wrestle backs to finish fifth. Of his six losses this season, four were by two points or less.

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.

Patrick Pitsch may have recorded the first fall of his collegiate career earlier this season, but several Sun Devils have made pinning their opponents a habit this season. So far, 13 falls have been recorded by Arizona State grapplers with five coming from Cain Velasquez (285) and another three from the opposite end of the weight class spectrum, Jeremy Mendoza (125). Velasquez, who took over the team lead from Mendoza, pinned his first three opponents at the Las Vegas Invitational en route to the finals and second place showing.

Stanford, the host of the 2006 Pac-10 Championships, released updated rankings for the conference December 12 with six Sun Devils holding positions in the Top 6 and the team sitting second in the team rankings behind Cal Poly. Jeremy Mendoza (125), Brian Stith (157), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285) are each ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes while Pat Payne (149) and Patrick Pitsch (165) each sit second. This week's rankings mark the first time this season Payne has been in the Top 6 as well as the first time both John Espinoza (133) and C.B. Dollaway (184) have not been ranked. Both unranked wrestlers are expected back in the line up in January.

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. Thom Ortiz was selected Coach of the Year after leading the team to its 15th Pac-10 title.

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.

The Sun Devils got off to a slow start before making a late charge and finishing fifth overall at the 2005 Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational December 2-3 at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas. Jeremy Mendoza (125) and Cain Velasquez (285) each advanced to the finals of their respective weight classes before finishing second overall to lead the Sun Devils as five total Arizona State representatives placed in the event. Also placing for the Sun Devils were Pat Payne (149) in fifth, Patrick Pitsch (165) in fourth and Ryan Bader (197) in third.

Following the holiday break, the Sun Devils will return to dual action on the road as they travel to Minneapolis, Minn., for a January 4 showdown with the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The Big Ten powers are ranked No. 5 in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches' Poll and are 7-0 on the year. Four days later, the Sun Devils play host to the Sun Devil Duals with conference foe UC Davis and No. 7 Iowa State, led by former ASU head coach Bobby Douglas, coming to Wells Fargo Arena.

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