WRESTLING JOURNAL #10: This Week in ASU Wrestling with Aaron Simpson

Feb. 14, 2006

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2/13/06 - Home Dual Finale
I have decided to make a little change to the wrestler of the week award. Due to some excellent performances by several individuals this past weekend, I will follow suit. In honor of the played out television awards shows, I will give my version of the Grammy/Oscars ... the Slammys!

Best Final Two Matches of the Regular Season by a Senior: Ryan Bader; for his ultra-aggressive two pins against Fresno State and Stanford. Bader is getting himself ready for battle. Expect big things from him at the Pac-10s and NCAAs.

Best Breakout Year by a Junior: John Espinoza; who earned this for going undefeated in 2006 (3-0) thus far and pinning his final two opponents in the regular season. We are definitely excited about getting John back in the line up and look for him to score some big points at the conference and national meets.

Best Conditioned and Toughest Athlete at ASU: Cain Velasquez; I can't imagine anyone tougher. His ability to push himself past his limits is astounding. His goal is, and always will be, finishing No. 1.

Biggest Turn Around in a Final Match of the Regular Season: Adam Hickey; Hickey had some very tough matches this season that always ended up with the other guy getting his hand raised. Sunday afternoon, Adam made a decision. He did so at the next weight up. Adam pinned his Stanford opponent, letting out a season of frustration. I haven't seen a wrestler that excited about a win in a while. The coaching staff was proud.

The Too-Close-For-Comfort-Give-Your-Momma-A-Heart-Attack-And-Anger-Your-Coaches-At-The-Same-Time-Nail-Biter-Of-A-Match Award: Tie: Pat Payne and Patrick Pitsch. These two sophomores have more in common than their names and grades. They seem to love to take their matches down to the wire. Sometimes, they win and sometimes, they lose. I have got to tell you, this is getting stressful. We are hoping they get the close ones figured out by the conference tournament and both bring home individual titles.

Best Portrayal of a Lighting Bolt Striking the Mat: Brian Stith; Brian has an amazing ability to be standing in front of his opponent for two minutes straight, then, at the blink of an eye, he is on top putting two points on the board. His speed is world class. You can usually catch Thom Ortiz, Eric Larkin and I just shaking our heads in amazement after such an attack. Then, Thom will add a comment like, 'I taught him that' and we'll laugh. Some things you just can't teach. Luckily, Brian has more than just speed. He is mentally tough. He knows he can take anybody down. He knows he is the best. He will get his chance to prove it in five weeks.

Best Career Home Dual Meet Record: Cain Velasquez; Alex Ryan, our Sports Information Guru, recently enlightened me about a relatively unknown ASU fact. Cain has never lost a home match in his career at ASU. I imagine a lot of those wins are attributed to his entourage of family and friends that pack the stands. In all, he finished his home career with a 19-0 record. More impressively, Cain won six by major decision, five by technical fall and two by fall (also won twice by forfeit).

Let me get into some match specifics, commenting on our final two duals of the season. On Friday, we caravanned our way through four o'clock traffic to Kellis High School in Glendale for a dual against a battered Fresno State. We weren't sure what to expect as far a crowd turn out. We had hoped we would get some wrestling fans to come over from the Arizona High School State Tournament that was happening right down the road at Glendale Arena. Well, that is exactly what happened and we had a packed house. It was a fun evening and our guys put on a show. We had pins and techs almost across the board. All in all, it was a fun evening and we were able to get a crowd that wouldn't have been able to make the drive across Phoenix to take in the dual. It was a fun event for those who were there.

On Sunday, we wrestled our final dual of the season. Before I talk about the match, I would like to thank two individuals for taking the time out of their busy schedules to stop in and watch some great college wrestling. Both Arizona State University President Michael Crow and the University of Arizona President Peter Likins (both former wrestlers) were in attendance (makes you wonder who could take who!). Likins, a former Stanford Cardinal wrestler, was their in support of his alma mater, and, of course President Crow was there to see to it that we destroyed them! Mission accomplished.

Sunday's dual against Stanford was our five seniors last time to shine at home. Well, only three actually got to wrestle. Marc Rizio is behind a starter and Jeremy Mendoza is still healing up and getting ready to win the Pac-10s and NCAAs. So, really it was C.B. Dollaway, Ryan Bader and Cain Velasquez who finished their home careers at home. I always try to remind our guys to 'enjoy the ride' because their college careers go by so quickly. Just ask the former Sun Devils who were in attendance for ASU Wrestling Alumni Day and see what they have to say. I bet most of them would say they wished they could go back and experience it one more time, just one more time in front of the fans. Just one more match. But, we move forward.

I must say, I have personally been spoiled with guys like Bader, Velasquez and Dollaway. We have had some great work outs and they have done everything asked of them. They have been the backbone of the team. Countless times duals have come down to them and they got the job done. They will be missed next season. Our experienced wrestlers will lie in the middle weight classes next year, as we will be very young in the upper weights.

Well, now it is time to zone in. Gone is our dual season. It is now tournament time. Our guys are battle tested. They have been put through the ringer and have responded well. With some fine tuning and positive reinforcement, we will be ready to defend what is rightfully ours. We will look to bring home our 16th Pac-10 title as we travel to Palo Alto in two weeks. After that, we will go to Oklahoma City with a full head of steam and guns a blazin'!

I will check back next week as we have no competition and let you know how everything is. We will be training hard this week trying to get one last good push before we compete. Wish us luck and GO DEVILS!

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