#23 Wrestling Opens 2006-07 Hosting Two Duals Sunday

Nov. 8, 2006

Match Notes (pdf) | Roster | Schedule/Results

TEMPE, Ariz. - The 2006-07 season of Arizona State University wrestling will get underway this weekend as the Sun Devils are set to play host to Portland State and Embry-Riddle Sunday night inside Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The evening opens with the Vikings and Eagles facing one another at 5 p.m. before the Sun Devils meet Pac-10 foe Portland State at 6:30 p.m. The night concludes with a Grand Canyon State battle as ASU and ERAU meet at 8 p.m.

Entering the season ranked No. 1 following his national runner-up finish last year at the NCAA Championships, Brian Stith has been invited to compete in the 41st NWCA All-Star Classic presented by the United State Marines Corps at the Dallas Convention Center Arena on November 20. Stith, a 157-pound senior from Hampton, Va., will meet No. 2 Travis Paulson of Iowa State in the annual clash of No. 1 versus No. 2. Stith is the first Sun Devil to appear in the event since 2000 when Steve Blackford scored a major decision over Kirk White of Boise State (13-1) in the 165-pound clash.

As a team, the Sun Devil enter the season ranked in the national Top 25 in two services, including No. 23 by NWCA/InterMat while holding the No. 25 position in the WIN Magazine poll. The Wrestling Mall did not have the young Sun Devils in their initial Top 20.

Heading into the season, three Sun Devils are ranked nationally. Senior Brian Stith (157) leads the way as he is ranked No. 1 in three of the four national services (No. 2 in the fourth) following his second-place showing at the NCAA Championships last year. Junior Patrick Pitsch (165) has been ranked among the Top 9 in all four polls, including a high of No. 7 by WIN Magazine. The final Sun Devil to be ranked is Greg Gifford (184), who enters the season at No. 15 in the polls.

Arizona State enters the weekend with a 30-14 all-time record in their first home dual of the season despite dropping each of the last three home openers, including a 26-13 setback last year against Iowa. The Sun Devils sport a 31-13 all-time record in their first dual of the season and snapped a three-dual losing streak last year by defeating Pacific (Ore.), 38-6, during the Portland State Duals.

At the start of the season, the Sun Devils stand 446-244-12 all-time in dual competition, needing just four wins to reach the 450-victory plateau. The last two milestone victories came under the leadership of current coach Thom Ortiz as he guided his squad to a 36-9 defeat of Portland State on December 5, 2002, for the 400th victory in program history before seeing his Sun Devils down CS Bakersfield, 20-19, on January 10, 2005, for the 425th victory. Both victories came in Tempe.

The Sun Devils also need four more home victories to reach 200 in the history of the program. Arizona State won the 175th home dual on Jan. 5, 2003, when they defeated Embry-Riddle, 46-0, with the 150th victory coming on Jan. 9, 1997, in a 19-16 defeat of visiting Iowa State.

Several members of the team started their season one week early as they traveled north to Prescott for the 2006 Embry-Riddle Open on November 4. Competing unattached to Arizona State, true freshman Chris Drouin captured the 141 weight class while fellow rookie Anthony Robles (125) and redshirt freshman Jake Cranford (197) both took second place in their respective weight classes. The final Sun Devil to place in the Top 3 of the even was another true freshman as Cory Nelson finished third at 174.

Arizona State sent five of its wrestlers to the finals of the 2006 Pac-10 Championships with Patrick Pitsch (165), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285) winning individual crowns to help the Sun Devils secure their second Pac-10 team title in a row and the 16th in program history following the tournament held at Stanford. The crown gave the Sun Devils their first back-to-back championships since winning the 1997 and 1998 titles. This year's team will look to secure its third crown in a row, marking the first time the program won more than two in a row since Bobby Douglas' squads won seven in a row between 1985-91.

For the fourth time in the five years Thom Ortiz has been the head coach, the Sun Devils placed in the Top 15 at the NCAA Championships as his squad placed sixth one year ago in Oklahoma City. Four All-Americans helped the maroon and gold to their second-highest finish under Ortiz (fifth in 2003) with Brian Stith leading the charge as the national runner-up at 157. He was joined by Cain Velasquez (4th at HWT), C.B. Dollaway (5th at 184) and Ryan Bader (7th at 197) on the podium at the end of the meet to help ASU accumulate 61.5 points, just one-half of one point from a fifth-place tie with Cornell (62.0) and 8.5 points from fourth-place Iowa (70.0) and a team trophy.

Arizona State posted a 14-7-0 overall record and a perfect 8-0-0 record against the Pac-10 during the last season. After opening the year 3-0 at the Portland State Duals, the Sun Devils hit a tough streak of duals, going 4-6, including a 3-2 showing at the NWCA National Duals where they placed seventh in the top dual tournament in the nation. The win for seventh place in Cedar Falls, Iowa, sparked a six-dual winning streak and victories in eight of its final nine, with the lone setback a 29-13 road decision at No. 10 Oklahoma. In all, the Sun Devils were 4-7 against the national Top 25 and upset No. 9 Missouri twice and No. 13 Northwestern once at the National Duals. The losses all came to teams ranked in the Top 10, including No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Minnesota, No. 5 Iowa, No. 5 Michigan, No. 7 Iowa State, No. 8 Lehigh and No. 10 Oklahoma. The Sun Devils could also face several other top teams as they are set to compete in the Virginia Duals while some of the other top programs will enter the Las Vegas Invitational and Reno Tournament of Champions.

With its 30-15 defeat of Stanford to end the dual season last year, 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. The Sun Devils, which open the season facing a Pac-10 foe at home, will look to win its 17th Pac-10 dual in a row overall and extend its current 28-home-conference-dual unbeaten streak (27-0-1 currently). The last time ASU did not win at home against a Pac-10 foe came during the 1998-99 season when ASU and CS Bakersfield fought to an 18-18 tie in Tempe. The last home loss in conference action came during the 1996-97 campaign when CSUB defeated ASU, 21-18.

Looking at the preseason team rankings released by the NWCA and InterMat, the Sun Devils will face at least seven of the teams ranked in the Top 25, including five of the Top 9 teams in the nation. Those teams include No. 1 Minnesota, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Iowa, No. 6 Iowa State, No. 9 Cornell, No. 20 Cal Poly and No. 21 Lehigh. The Sun Devils will meet Oklahoma, Cal Poly and Lehigh at home with the others taking place on the road.

Brian Stith is the lone returning All-American for the Sun Devils having secured the national honor each of the last two seasons. His first honor came in 2005 when he placed sixth in the nation before finishing as the runner-up last year after entering the tournament as the No. 10 seed. An All-America accolade for Stith this season would make him the 13th Sun Devil to earn three honors in a career and the first since Eric Larkin earned four All-America honors (1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003).

At the start of his senior season, Brian Stith needs just 12 victories this season to reach 100 for his career and become the 22nd Sun Devil to achieve that status. The NCAA runner-up in 2006, Stith enters this season ranked No. 1 and holds an 88-29 career record.

A pair of middle-weights return this season with hopes of collecting their second individual Pac-10 crown. Brian Stith won his first crown in 2005 when he upset defending conference and NCAA champion Matt Gentry of Stanford in the 157 final before earning his first All-America honor. Stith placed second last year, falling to Ben Cherrington of Boise State. The second returning champion is Patrick Pitsch, who captured the 165 title last year as the tournament's three-seed. Pitsch went on to fall one victory short of All-America honors at the national championships and will look for his first national award this year.

Depleted by graduation and redshirts this year, the Sun Devils return just four athletes to their starting line up in 2006-07 that competed in the Pac-10 Championships one year ago. Those individuals include Pat Payne (sixth at 149), Brian Stith (second at 157), Patrick Pitsch (first at 165) and Chris Remsen (did not place at 174). Jason Robbins, who won the true fourth-place match at 141 last year, will redshirt this season.

Over the summer, the Fresno State University cut its wrestling program, unfortunately lowering the number of Division I programs in the west. Because of the cut, many of the wrestlers were forced to transfer to other programs to continue their careers with one of their top talents, Greg Gifford, choosing Arizona State. The senior from Las Vegas will start for ASU at 184 after winning the 2006 West Region Championship and qualifying for his second NCAA Championships berth.

The Sun Devil roster features 41 student-athletes this season with 17 entering their true-freshmen campaigns and three others transferring into the program. Of the newcomers this season, five have already worked their way into the probable starting line up, including freshmen Shawn Jones (125) and Angel Alegre (133), first-year sophomore Cameron Smith (149) and transfers Danny Galvan (sophomore at 141) and Greg Gifford (senior at 184).

The coaching staff welcomed a new volunteer coach to the fold this season as Travis Koppenhafer, the 2004 NCAA Division II Champion at 157 pounds for Adams State College, has joined the Sun Devils. A three-time All-American for ASC, Koppenhafer will work with the middle-weights, including Brian Stith and Patrick Pitsch, among others.

Arizona State has a pair of brothers on its roster this season as Quinton Pruett and Jason Trulson have been joined by their younger brothers, Preston Pruett and Jerrad Truslon, respectively. Although another pair of wrestlers share the same last name, Danny Galvan and Robert Galvan are not related.

The Vikings enter the season under the direction of new head coach Mike Haluska following a season in which the team went 3-19-0 overall and 0-8-0 in the Pac-10. Jake Schneider leads Portland State early this season as he recently won the Mike Clock Open at 184 pounds.

The Sun Devils stand 9-1-0 all-time against the Vikings, winning each of the last nine meetings in the series. The lone loss came in a 31-10 setback in Portland during the 1971 season before the Sun Devils rolled in each of the next nine. In the last meeting, the Sun Devils recorded a 43-6 decision in Portland on November 12, 2005, as part of the PSU Duals.

Under the direction of new head coach Ken Ramsey, the Eagles return four All-Americans from a team that placed fifth at the NAIA Championships, led by national runner-up Richard Byrd at 125 and national runner-up Hayden Harrison at 157. Other returning All-Americans include Gordo Villaescusa (third at 141) and Joffre Lander (seventh at 184).

The Sun Devils hold a 6-0-0 all-time record against the Eagles, winning all six in consecutive seasons starting in the 1998-99 season. In the last meeting, Arizona State won a 27-16 decision in Tempe on January 10, 2005.

In the 44 previous years the Sun Devils have competed as a varsity program, the team holds a combined 54-9-1 record against programs hailing from Arizona. Currently, only Embry-Riddle still has a team competing with the Sun Devils having once competed against Arizona (30-9-0), Arizona Western (1-0-0), Northern Arizona (15-0-1) and Phoenix College (2-0-0).

Begun last year, the wrestling program continues to strive to not only improve on the mat, but also push for greatness off the mat by participating in the Scholar Brawler program. Based on the football team's Scholar Baller, the program was designed and implemented by the Office of Student-Athlete Development to 'teach that performing well in school and earning a bachelor's degree are victories that last a lifetime.' To become a Scholar Brawler, a student-athlete must carry a 3.0 GPA or higher in any semester. Last year, 17 different Sun Devils were Brawlers, including returning wrestlers Robert Galvan, Kevin Gaughan, Pat Payne, Brandon Schad, Brian Stith, Jason Trulson, Alex Pavlenko and Chris Remsen.

Last year, during the first season of Real Pro Wrestling, several former Sun Devils competed in the event with Eric Larkin placing second at 145 pounds for the Texas Shooters. Larkin was teammates with Danny Felix (132 pounds), Aaron Simpson (184 pounds) and Kellan Fluckiger (264 pounds) while another former Sun Devil, Markus Mollica, competed at 184 pounds for the California Claw. Heading into Season 2, the RPW is replaying its first season matches in select television markets with Simpson serving as the host. His duties include previewing the bouts and setting-up the next show in the season rewind.

Wells Fargo Arena serves as the home of Arizona State's home wrestling duals, as well as basketball (men and women), gymnastics and volleyball. Opened in the spring of 1974, the 14,198-seat arena has been the home venue of some of the Sun Devil greats with all 16 Pac-10 team titles and one of the two Western Athletic Conference crowns attained by ASU. Since its opening, 56 Sun Devils have captured 106 individual conference titles while 67 different athletes have earned a total of 98 All-America honors.

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.

Since becoming a varsity program in 1962, Arizona State has competed in the NCAA Championships all 43 years and scored at least one point in 38 of those tournaments, including each of the last 31 in a row. During this time, the Sun Devils have had 60 different student-athletes secure a combined total of 102 All-America honors while helping the team place in the Top 10 on 18 occasions and in the Top 5 seven times, including a NCAA title in 1988 and runner-up finishes in both 1989 and 1990.

Since 1928, the NCAA has conducted a wrestling championship with 11 different schools claiming the crown. In 1988, Arizona State won the title and still is the only Western team to have done so in the history of the event. Based on geographical location, when removing ASU from the list, the most western team to win a title would be Oklahoma, who has won seven. The schools that have won crowns include Oklahoma State (33), Iowa (20), Iowa State (8), Oklahoma (7), Minnesota (2) and the following schools with one each: Arizona State, Cornell College (of Iowa), Indiana, Michigan State, Northern Iowa and Penn State.

The Sun Devils head to Fullerton, Calif., next weekend as several members of the team will compete in the 2006 Fullerton Open on Nov. 18.

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