Final Two Duals Await #12 Wrestling This Weekend

Feb. 8, 2006

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TEMPE, Ariz. - With the championship tournaments just around the corner, the No. 12 Arizona State University wrestling team (12-7, 7-0 Pac-10) will play host to its final two duals of the 2005-06 season this weekend as Fresno State and Stanford visit the Valley of the Sun for duals with the Sun Devils. ASU and FSU will meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in a dual at Raymond Kellis High School in Glendale that will coincide with the Arizona High School State Championships being held one mile away at the Glendale Arena. Then, the Sun Devils and Cardinal close out the dual season Sunday at 2 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena for a Pac-10 showdown.

Arizona State will play host to Fresno State this Friday night in a dual at 7:30 p.m. But one notable difference will be that the Sun Devils and Bulldogs will not compete at Wells Fargo Arena, rather they will meet at Raymond Kellis High School in Glendale, Ariz. The dual, which will take place one mile from the home of the Arizona High School State Championship meet inside Glendale Arena, will be free for all to attend.

The 2006 Pac-10 Championships are now less than three weeks away with this weekend's duals serving as the final competitive preparations for the Sun Devils before heading to the conference event Feb. 26-27 at Stanford. Seven current starters competed at the Pac-10 meet one year ago where the Sun Devils captured the 15th Pac-10 title in program history.

With the conference tournament nearing, this weekend's dual with Stanford will go along way in helping determine seedings for each weight class of the Pac-10 Championships. In all, four bouts feature meetings between members of the Pac-10 Top 6: No. 1 Jeremy Mendoza vs. No. 4 Tanner Gardner (125); No. 3 Pat Payne vs. No. 5 Josh Zupancic (149); No. 1 Brian Stith vs. No. 4 Scott Loescher (157) and No. 2 Patrick Pitsch vs. No. 4 Ray Blake (165).

The dual with Stanford will mark the final home appearance for five seniors as their collegiate careers draw closer to an end. Jeremy Mendoza, Marc Rizio, C.B. Dollaway, Ryan Bader and Cain Velasquez are each in their senior seasons for the Sun Devils and hold a collective career record of 307-109 in their time with the program. Bader leads the way with an 111-38 record, followed by Mendoza (80-41), Velasquez (78-15) and Dollaway (38-14). Rizio has not competed in a match for ASU.

All alumni of the Arizona State wrestling program are encouraged to attend Sunday's dual with Stanford as the current Sun Devils will take time to honor its past. All alumni of the program are asked to stop by the scoring table at least 10 minutes prior to the start of dual to make sure you are placed on the list that will be read at the halfway point of the dual.

Although the team will honor its alumni Sunday afternoon, the dual with Fresno State will become a little alumni gathering of its own as Sun Devil head coach Thom Ortiz will lead his team against former Arizona State All-American Shawn Charles and his Bulldogs. Charles and Ortiz were teammates in 1990 when Ortiz was a senior.

Three bouts this weekend will pit nationally ranked foes against one another, including both bouts at 165. ASU's No. 11 Patrick Pitsch will meet No. 17 Shane Seibert of Fresno State on Friday night before taking on No. 16 Ray Blake of Stanford. The other ranked meeting should be a great bout as No. 7 Jeremy Mendoza is set to meet No. 11 Tanner Gardner of SU.

During the 2004-05 season, the Sun Devils posted a perfect 8-0 record against Pac-10 foes. So far this season, Arizona State has won all seven of its conference clashes to bring that streak to 15 in a row following its three-dual sweep in California. In the five seasons Thom Ortiz has been at the helm of the ASU program, the Sun Devils have gone 32-2 against Pac-10 foes with their lone losses coming at the hands of Oregon State in 2003 (18-16 in Corvallis) and Cal State Bakersfield (20-17 in Bakersfield). Overall, ASU is 18-0 at home against Pac-10 foes with Ortiz as its coach and will have one more home Pac-10 dual this season when Stanford visits Feb. 12.

With Thom Ortiz at the helm, the Sun Devils not only have gone 18-0 at home against Pac-10 foes, they also stand 27-10 in all duals contested at Wells Fargo Arena. In those 10 losses, the Sun Devils were nationally ranked higher than their opponents on two occasions while the other eight losses came at the hands of teams ranked in the Top 10. Of those eight, four were among the Top 5 in the nation, including No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Iowa, No. 3 Minnesota and No. 5 Iowa. Also, of the 10 losses, the Sun Devils have kept it close with one loss coming by one point, one by two points and two by three points.

With the team enjoying success at home under Thom Ortiz, its no wonder this year's senior class also enjoyed strong showing on its home mat. Jeremy Mendoza, C.B. Dollaway, Ryan Bader and Cain Velasquez have combined to go 67-15 in home duals in 13 combined seasons-worth of wrestling. Velasquez leads the way with a 17-0 home record while Bader (27-3) and Dollaway (9-3) each sustained only three losses with Mendoza going 14-9. So far this season, Mendoza, Bader and Velasquez are perfect at home, each standing 5-0.

So far this season, the Sun Devils are 12-7 overall with all seven losses coming at the hands of teams ranked among the Top 10 teams in the nation. Arizona State has lost duals to then No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Minnesota, No. 5 Iowa, No. 5 Michigan, No. 7 Iowa State, No. 8 Lehigh and No. 10 Oklahoma. Only Lehigh (No. 15 this week) and Oklahoma (No. 11 this week) have fallen out of the Top 10 since taking on ASU.

John Espinoza made his season debut last weekend in Oklahoma and scored a 6-2 victory over Trey Blakely at 133 pounds in his first bout since placing sixth at the Pac-10 Championships one year ago. Espinoza figures to be the starter at 133 for the remainder of the season, including at the Pac-10 tournament in two weeks.

With his team's 21-21 defeat (on criteria) of No. 9 Missouri in the seventh-place dual Sunday at the 2006 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals, Head Coach Thom Ortiz collected the 50th victory in his coaching career, raising his record 50-32-1 all-time as a head coach on the collegiate level. So far this season, Ortiz' Sun Devils are 12-7 overall and 7-0 in the Pac-10, giving him an overall record of 55-33-1 and a 32-2-0 mark in the conference.

Each week throughout 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.

Along with the weekly journal, the coaching staff will select a wrestler of the match. This week, Patrick Pitsch earned the honor as he picked up a hard-fought victory over No. 14 Jarrod King of Oklahoma. In the bout, both men earned one point escapes to open the second and third periods before sending the match into overtime. In the extra session, neither scored so the tie breaker was used. After riding his foe for the entire 30 seconds, Pitsch escaped during his 30 second period to win the bout, 2-1.

With a 23-4 record so far this season, Ryan Bader has improved his career record to 111-38, giving him the 12th-most in school history after passing current assistant coach Aaron Simpson and his 110 victories. Bader also is closing in on his two other coaches, needing seven more victories to tie head coach Thom Ortiz for eighth all-time and needing 12 total victories to tie for sixth place with assistant coach Eric Larkin.

Ryan Bader's career victory total is not the only number to watch. Bader, Jeremy Mendoza and Cain Velasquez also are in the hunt for placements on other record boards. Bader currently has 53 career dual wins, tying him with Aaron Simpson for the eighth-most in a career. Mendoza also is chasing the dual wins ledger as his 42 are good enough for 20th all-time. With two duals remaining this year, Mendoza and Bader, who both hold 16 wins in duals this year, are one victory away from tying for the No. 20 spot on the season duals wins list. The trio also is chasing the single-season wins leaders with 35 tying for 18th all-time. To date, Mendoza and Velasquez both have 28 and Bader has 23.

One month ago, the Sun Devils earned coach Thom Ortiz his 50th career victory by taking down No. 9 Missouri for seventh place at the National Duals. Three weeks ago, two individuals accomplished milestone victories as well. Brian Stith scored a 6-0 decision over No. 16 Tony Hook of Oregon State Friday night to record the 75th victory of his career. Two nights later, Ryan Bader secured the 50th dual victory of his stellar career when he defeated Shaun Dee of Oregon, 6-1. Two weeks ago, Cain Velasquez recorded the 75th victory of his career by pinning Arturo Basulto of Cal Poly in 1:08.

In their final campaigns for the Sun Devils, four seniors have fared quite well on the mats this season as the quartet has combined for an 88-16 overall record. Jeremy Mendoza leads the way with a 28-2 mark while Cain Velasquez stands 28-5. Ryan Bader is 23-4 with C.B. Dollaway, who just returned to the starting line up one month ago, is 9-5.

So far this season, four Sun Devils have won 20 or matches and absorbed no more than five losses. Those wrestlers are Jeremy Mendoza at 125 (28-2), Brian Stith at 157 (23-2), Ryan Bader at 197 (23-4) and Cain Velasquez at heavyweight (28-5).

The Bulldogs enter the dual with a 4-7 overall record and are coming off their first upset victory of the season, a 28-19 defeat of No. 20 Cal Poly at home Tuesday. The second-place finisher at the All-California Championships last weekend, Fresno State is led by Greg Gifford at 184 (24-11) and Cody Parker at heavyweight (21-9).

Arizona State leads the all-time series with an 18-5-1 record following an 18-18 tie one year ago in Fresno. Prior to the tie, the Sun Devils won the previous meeting in Tempe, 32-21, to snap a two-dual slide dating back to the 2001-02 season.

The Cardinal are 7-5 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-10 after 2-1 against the Oregon schools last weekend. Stanford defeated Oregon, 22-15, before falling to Oregon State, 28-7. The final victory was over Portland State by a 40-7 score. Tanner Gardner at 125 (28-9) and Ray Blake at 165 (34-10) lead the way for the Cardinal.

Arizona State holds a 5-0-0 record in the all-time series with Stanford and won last year's meeting, 27-12, in Palo Alto. Two years ago, the Sun Devils defeated the Cardinal, 32-12, in Tempe in the first meeting between the two schools since the 1985-86 season.

Stanford, the host of the 2006 Pac-10 Championships, released updated rankings for the conference February 6 with seven Sun Devils holding positions in the Top 6 and the team staying put at No. 1. Jeremy Mendoza (125), Brian Stith (157), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285) are each ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes while Patrick Pitsch (165) and C.B. Dollaway (184) each sit second. Pat Payne (149) slipped from the top spot to No. 3 last week to round out the rankings.

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, who entered the 2006 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals unseeded and ranked No. 18 in the national polls, went 3-2 at the national event and finished seventh overall. The Sun Devils twice upset No. 9 Missouri, the tournament's eighth-seeded team, and also knocked off No. 13 Northwestern in the consolation rounds. ASU's losses came at the hands of top-ranked and top-seeded Oklahoma State and fifth-ranked and fourth-seeded Michigan.

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.

On Saturday, January 7, the Sun Devils dedicated their new training facility in a joint celebration with the gymnastic team. The Riches Wrestling Complex, the John Spini Women's Gymnastics Training Center and the Cavanagh/Dickey Olympic Sports Plaza were dedicated and showcased as fans and over 200 supporters toured two of the premier training centers in the nation while both teams showcased their teams by holding practices. The facilities are located off Sixth Street behind the Kajikawa Football Practice Fields and beyond the outfield wall at Farrington Softball Stadium.

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 Sun Devils will take nearly two weeks off from competition before returning to the mats on Feb. 26-27 for the 2006 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships. The meet, in its 44th year, will be held inside Maples Pavilion on the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, Calif., and will be used as a selection tool for the 2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships that will follow two weeks later.

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