ASU Heads to Stanford to Defend Pac-10 Crown

Feb. 22, 2006

Pac-10 Championship Notes (pdf) | Schedule & Results | Roster

TEMPE, Ariz. - Championship season is upon the Arizona State University wrestling team this weekend as the Sun Devils head to Stanford looking to defend their title as the 2006 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships are set to be contested inside Maples Pavilion Sunday and Monday. Winners of the 2005 tournament at Cal Poly, the Sun Devils (14-7, 8-0 Pac-10) will try to win their second crown in a row and the 16th in program history while also looking for berths into the NCAA Wrestling Championships next month in Oklahoma City, Okla.

On a conference level, both individual and team championships will be at stake this weekend while individuals will be looking to attain one of 40 berths into the NCAA Wrestling Championships next month. The conference coaches will determine the qualification process, but if it holds true to years past, the Top 3 placers in each weight class will automatically advance to the national meet with 10 other wild card selections also heading to Oklahoma City, Okla., for the tournament.

Arizona State will send one wrestler per weight class to the Pac-10 Championships this weekend. Those student-athletes include: Jeremy Mendoza (125), John Espinoza (133), Jason Robbins (141), Pat Payne (149), Brian Stith (157), Patrick Pitsch (165), Chris Remsen (174), C.B. Dollaway (184), Ryan Bader (197) and heavyweight Cain Velasquez.

In 27 years of competing in the Pac-10 Championships, the Sun Devils have won 15 team titles while 52 student-athletes have combined to win 91 titles. Nine different Sun Devils captured three individual crowns during their time on the mats for Arizona State while two Sun Devils, Markus Mollica and current assistant coach Eric Larkin, are the only four-time winners. This weekend, Ryan Bader could become the 10th individual to win three Pac-10 crowns as the 2003 and 2004 champion at 197 is seeded No. 1. By doing so, he would be the first Sun Devil to end his career with three titles since Danny Felix did so with titles in 1994, 1995 and 1996.

In those 27 championships the Sun Devils have competed, the team has averaged sending three of its wrestlers to the top of the podium each season, including each of the past four years under Thom Ortiz. In 2005, 2004 and 2002, Ortiz has seen two of his wrestlers win Pac-10 titles while the 2003 squad had six champions.

Heading into the weekend, the Sun Devil program has won 15 Pac-10 titles since joining the conference in time for the 1978-79 season. In the 43 years the Pac-10 has held a championship tournament, Oregon State leads the way with 16 titles won with the Sun Devils, who have only competed in 27 tournaments, has secured 15 and needs one more to tie the Beavers for the most all-time. Behind ASU and OSU are three teams tied for the third-most: Boise State, Oregon and Washington, who each have won three team titles.

Not only will the team try to defend its Pac-10 title, but two individuals will look to secure back-to-back crowns as well. Last year, Brian Stith won the 157 division with a 3-1 upset of defending NCAA champion Matt Gentry of Stanford while heavyweight Cain Velasquez secured his first crown with a 9-3 decision over Portland State's Allen Kennett.

Brian Stith (157) and Cain Velasquez (285) are two of nine wrestlers headed to the meet this weekend that have won Pac-10 titles in recent years. Ryan Bader (197) also has won an individual title on two occasions as he captured the crowns in 2003 and 2004.

Last year at the tournament held in San Luis Obispo, Calif., the Sun Devils scored 106 points to win the team title while Boise State (93), Oregon (88), UC Davis (82) and Cal Poly (81) rounded out the Top 5 in the team race. Individually (complete results on page 7) for the Sun Devils, nine wrestlers place in the tournament with Brian Stith (157) and Cain Velasquez (285) winning their respective weight classes. Both C.B. Dollaway (184) and Ryan Bader (197) reached the finals before placing second while ASU's other place winners included Patrick Pitsch (3rd at 165), Jeremy Mendoza (4th at 125), John Espinoza (5th at 133), Patrick Williams (5th at 149) and Rick Renzi (5th at 174).

Of the four individual honors handed out last year, three were secured by members of the Arizona State team. At the championship tournament, Brian Stith (157) was voted by the Pac-10 coaches as the Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament as he defeated Matt Gentry of Stanford in the finals, 3-1, for his first championship crown. Following the season, the coaches voted once more and selected Thom Ortiz as the Pac-10 Coach of the Year while also selecting Cain Velasquez (285) as the Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year.

This weekend will mark the sixth Pac-10 Wrestling Championships Stanford has played host to and just the fourth of those six Arizona State has participated in. With ASU not joining the conference until the 1978-79 season, it did not compete in the 1965 and 1968 events held at Stanford. In their first appearance in the tournament at Stanford, the Sun Devils placed third while Oregon won the 1982 tournament. Then, in 1991, the Sun Devils returned to Palo Alto and secured their seventh Pac-10 title in a row. The last time the meet was held at Stanford was in 1999. There, the Sun Devils placed third while CS Bakersfield was victorious. That same year marked the first time current assistant coach Eric Larkin won a Pac-10 title as he secured the 133 weight class.

The final regular season Pac-10 individual and team rankings were released Tuesday with the Sun Devils again holding the top spot on the team list. Individually, eight Sun Devils hold Top 6 rankings, including top-ranked Jeremy Mendoza (125), Brian Stith (157), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285). Also appearing in the rankings are No. 2 C.B. Dollaway (184), No. 3 Patrick Pitsch (165), No. 5 Pat Payne (149) and No. 6 John Espinoza (133), who is making his debut on the lists this week.

With its 30-15 defeat of Stanford on Feb. 12, Arizona State finished a perfect 8-0 in Pac-10 duals for the second year in a row. With Thom Ortiz at the helm of the program, the Sun Devils have enjoyed solid dual success at home against Pac-10 foes as his team is 19-0 during the past five seasons with a 33-2 record in all conference duals.

Individually this weekend, three Sun Devils head into the Championships on a hot streak as each as won at least their last seven bouts. Jeremy Mendoza (125) enters the weekend riding a seven-bout winning streak with four victories coming by fall. Heavyweight Cain Velasquez enters with a nine-bout streak that has seen him dominate his foes to the tune of five falls, two technical falls and one major decision. The longest streak belongs to Brian Stith (157) who has won 11 in a row. During that span, Stith has pinned two foes and recorded three majors.

Two other Sun Devils enter on multiple-bout winning streaks, although not as long as the trio listed above. John Espinoza (133), who has only wrestled three times this season, has won three bouts in a row and has pinned his last to opponents. Ryan Bader (197), after suffering a tough loss at Oklahoma, has rebounded nicely with two wins in a row as he pinned both wrestlers he has faced.

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 72-16 in home duals in 13 combined seasons-worth of wrestling. Velasquez leads the way with a 19-0 home record while Bader (29-3) and Dollaway (10-4) each sustained only three losses with Mendoza going 14-9. At the end of the season, both Bader and Velasquez led the charge with perfect 7-0 records at home this season while Mendoza also was perfect, going 5-0.

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.

ASU finished the dual season 14-7 overall with all seven losses coming at the hands of teams ranked in the Top 10. Arizona State 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) has fallen out of the Top 10 since taking on ASU.

With a 25-4 record so far this season, Ryan Bader has improved his career record to 113-38, tying him with Markus Mollica for the 11th-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 five more victories to tie head coach Thom Ortiz for eighth all-time and needing 10 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 finished with 55 career dual wins, the eighth-most in program history while Mendoza's 42 rank 19th all-time. On the season ledger, Bader's 18 dual wins ranks as the 15th-most. Heading into the weekend, Velasquez has 30 wins on the year while Mendoza has 28 and Bader 25. Reaching 34 wins will tie for the 20th spot on the list.

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 93-17 overall record. Cain Velasquez leads the way with a 30-5 mark while Jeremy Mendoza stands 28-2. Ryan Bader is 25-4 with C.B. Dollaway, who just returned to the starting line up one month ago, is 10-6.

Heading into the Pac-10 Championships, the 10 starters representing Arizona State hold a combined record of 164-50 on the season. Of those 164 victories, 87 (or 53 percent) have produced bonus points for the team. In all, 41 victories have come by fall, led by 12 from Cain Velasquez (285); 10 by technical fall, led by five from Velasquez; and 36 major decisions, led by seven from both Velasquez and Brian Stith (157).

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 (25-2), Ryan Bader at 197 (25-4) and Cain Velasquez at heavyweight (30-5).

Before the turn of the New Year last season, Cain Velasquez had built a 14-3 overall record with two of his losses coming to Greg Wagner of Michigan at the Las Vegas Invitational and Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State in the final of the Reno Tournament. After that loss to Mocco, Velasquez would run off 18 victories in a row to win the Pac-10 title before finishing fourth at the NCAA Championships. This season, Velasquez holds a 30-5 record with his losses coming at the hands of Wagner in Las Vegas and the National Duals, Mocco in the finals of the Reno event and the National Duals and Cole Konrad of Minnesota. For his career, Velasquez is 80-15 with 12 of those losses coming against the Top 3 wrestlers this year (five to Wagner, four to Konrad and three to Mocco). Velasquez also has not fallen to a member of a Pac-10 team.

Jeremy Mendoza, a senior walk-on starter from Temecula, Calif., has made the most of his senior season so far as he has climbed to No. 6 in the final national rankings with a 28-2 record and the championship title at the 2005 Reno Tournament of Champions. Mendoza also has built a 16-1 record in dual competition this season. His lone loss outside of dual competition came in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational to Cornell's Troy Nickerson, currently ranked No. 5 in the nation while he lost his first dual bout, falling 8-2 to No. 8 Coleman Scott of Oklahoma State. Mendoza entered the season with a career mark of 52-39 and is now 80-41 in his career.

At 174 this weekend, the Sun Devils will be represented by Chris Remsen, a redhshirt-freshman from Rockport, Maine, who transferred from NC State over the summer. Despite having competed in just tow bouts this season, Remsen won his way into the championships by defeating Alex Pavlenko, 2-1, in a best of three wrestle-off.

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.

The next, and final, event of the 2005-06 collegiate season is the 2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships slated for March 16-18 in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Sun Devils headed to the tournament will be determined at the Pac-10 Championships.

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