Wrestling Faces Stanford in Final Dual of the Season

Feb. 14, 2007

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The final weekend of dual competition is at hand for the Arizona State University wrestling program (7-11, 4-2 Pac-10) this week as the Sun Devils are set to travel to Palo Alto, Calif., for a 7 p.m. PT dual with the Stanford Cardinal (8-7, 5-3 Pac-10) Friday night. The dual is the final regular season competition for the Sun Devils before heading into the 2007 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships slated for February 24-25 at the Icardo Center in Bakersfield, Calif.

A trio of seniors competed and won in their final home bouts Sunday with John Espinoza, Brian Stith and Greg Gifford each securing victories. The dual Sunday will be their final regular season bouts before heading to the Pac-10 Championships.

When the Sun Devils meet Stanford Friday night, there will be just eight days until the 2007 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships begin in Bakersfield, Calif. The Icardo Center will be the host of the tournament and tickets are currently on sale. To purchase all-session passes, visit the home page of CSUB, www.gorunners.com.

Unable to attend the Pac-10 Championships? Then tune in for free on your computer! The Pac-10 Conference and Tuner Broadcasting will stream live video of all bouts wrestled, as well as the Parade of Champions, beginning February 24 at 11 a.m. Pacific time. To access the live feed, visit www.Pac-10.org.

The Sun Devils scored a 26-18 defeat of Cal Poly at home Sunday, giving the program its 200th career home win. The previous milestone marker, win No. 175, came on January 9, 2003, when the Sun Devils handed Embry-Riddle a 46-0 defeat inside Wells Fargo Arena.

With their 31-16 defeat of Liberty in the consolation rounds of the Virginia Duals on January 13, the Sun Devils recorded the 450th win in program history. After taking an early 3-0 lead with John Espinoza's win at 125 pounds before dropping three straight bouts to fall behind, 10-3. Brian Stith cut the deficit to three points with his major decision win at 157, but a fall at 165 put the Sun Devils behind, 16-7. From there, however, the Sun Devils pinned down the win as Alex Pavelnko (174), Greg Gifford (184) and Jason Trulson (197) earned falls before Thor Moen won the heavyweight bout by forfeit to close out the scoring, 31-16.

Brian Stith has moved up on two career wins lists in Arizona State history, including overall wins and dual wins, and will look to climb higher this weekend. Standing 108-31 overall in his collegiate career, Stith is now 14th on the all-time wins list and also stands 54-16 all-time in dual competition, the ninth-most wins. If Stith wins Friday night, he will remain in his current career wins position while tying Ryan Bader (2002-06) for ninth in career dual wins at 55.

Senior Greg Gifford has been on a tear as of late, winning his last six bouts in convincing fashion. Over those six duals, Gifford has pinned two opponents in under four minutes each, recorded one technical fall and posted two major decisions. Last time out, Gifford scored a 10-2 major decision over Cal Poly's Yuri Kalika, the second-ranked wrestler in the Pac-10 at 184 pounds, to improve to 12-7 overall with a 9-6 mark in dual competitions.

Although neither of the teams, Arizona State and Cal Poly, are nationally ranked in this weeks USA Today/Intermat/NWCA Top 25, several individuals are. For the Sun Devils, Brian Stith is No. 4 at 157 pounds while Patrick Pitsch is No. 12 at 165. The Cardinal also have a pair of wrestlers ranked nationally, including No. 3 Tanner Gardner at 125 and No. 15 Josh Zupancic at 157 pounds.

The Sun Devils earned their 200th career home dual victory with a 26-18 decision over the visiting Mustangs Sunday after jumping out to a 20-0 lead. The dual opened at 165 pound with Patrick Pitsch picking up a fall at 4:13 before Rick Renzi won his third bout in a row by major decision. Leading 10-0, the Sun Devils picked up four more points from Greg Gifford's 10-2 major decision at 184 before Jason Trulson won by forfeit at 197. Following a loss by fall at heavyweight for ASU, John Espinoza won a decision to bring the score to 23-6. After dropping the next three bouts and the score at 23-18, Brian Stith won his final home bout with a decision to seal the victory.

When the Sun Devils and No. 13 Sooners met on February 2, it marked the seventh ranked foe Arizona State had faced this season and just the second time the Sun Devils have faced a ranked foe in Tempe. During the 2007 season, the Sun Devils have wrestled at No. 2 Minnesota, No. 5 Iowa, No. 6 Iowa State and No. 11 Cornell while the two home duals were against No. 13 Oklahoma and No. 23 Lehigh.

In the latest Pac-10 Individual Rankings that were released February 12, five Sun Devils are ranked in the Top 6 with three of those wrestlers ranked No. 1. The top-ranked Sun Devils include Brian Stith at 157 pounds, Patrick Pitsch at 165 pounds and Greg Gifford at 184 pounds. John Espinoza holds the No. 2 position at 125 pounds while Jason Trulson rounds out the ranked Sun Devils as the No. 4 wrestler at 197 pounds.

The Cardinal enter the dual with an 8-7 overall record and stand 5-3 against Pac-10 foes. Head Coach Kerry McCoy's squad is led by a pair of nationally-ranked wrestlers, both of which have won over 30 bouts this year. Those two grapplers are No. 3 Tanner Gardner at 125 pounds (33-3) and No. 15 Josh Zupancic at 157 pounds (31-8).

Arizona State holds a perfect 6-0-0 record in the all-time series with Stanford and won the last meeting, 30-15, last year in Tempe. The last time the two teams met in Palo Alto came during the 2004-05 season with the Sun Devils taking a 27-12 decision.

With the Pac-10 Championships just around the corner, four of this weekend's bouts could be potential tournament final previews. At 125 pounds, No. 2 John Espinoza will face No. 1 Tanner Gardner in the only bout that has a Sun Devil ranked lower than a Cardinal. No. 1 Brian Stith will take on No. 3 Josh Zupancic at 157 pounds, No. 1 Patrick Pitsch will meet No. 3 Brian Perry at 165 pounds and No. 1 Greg Gifford will face No. 3 Zack Geisen at 184 pounds. Only Stith has previously faced his foe this year, scoring a 6-1 victory at the Las Vegas Invitational back in December.

Brian Stith pinned Beau Fisher of Virginia in 1:18 of the Sun Devils' opening dual at the Virginia Duals on January 12 to record the 100th victory of his career, becoming just the 22nd Sun Devil to reach the milestone in a career and first since Ryan Bader did so last year. Stith, who is a native of Hampton, Va., the site of the Virginia Duals, closed out his stay in his hometown with three wins by major decision to reach the century mark.

When the first days of January hit, not only did it usher in a new year, it apparently ushered in an improved Brian Stith. Prior to the new year, Stith was 8-1 with only two wins by something other than decision (won two tech falls). Since a 4-3 loss on January 2 in Minnesota, Stith has recorded 12 wins in a row with six of his last eight coming by major decision, averaging a 14-4 score in those six major decision wins. During the streak, Stith has also added one tech fall and two falls to his win total, including pins in 1:47 and 1:18.

Jason Trulson (197) recorded the final fall of the Liberty dual in fast fashion as he pinned Josh Moore in 15 seconds. His fall is the fastest since the 2003 season when Ron Renzi won a 174-pound bout at the Las Vegas Invitational in a school-record-tying seven seconds.

Arizona State had won 17 Pac-10 duals in a row (went 8-0-0 over the previous two seasons) and where unbeaten in conference duals at 29 in a row (28-0-1) before sustaining a 30-14 loss at home to CS Fullerton over the weekend. The loss to the Titans also snapped a 15-dual winning streak over CSUF. 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. Overall in his coaching career, Thom Ortiz is 35-3-0 in duals with Pac-10 foes.

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.

With their 38-12 defeat of Portland State, ASU improved to 31-14 in their first home dual of the season and moved to 32-13 all-time in the first dual of the season.

Seven different wrestlers picked up their first wins in a Sun Devil singlet over the opening weekend, including two true freshmen, three redshirt freshmen and two transfers. Greg Gifford, who spent the past three seasons with Fresno State before the program was cut, went 2-0 on the weekend for his first wins with the program and also picked up the 70th win of his collegiate career. Another transfer, Chris Remsen, also secured the first wins of his career, going 2-0 on the weekend at 149 after dropping all four of his bouts at 174 last year. The NC State transfer is now 2-4 on his career. True freshmen Shawn Jones and Angel Alegre each won one bout at 133 for victories in their first collegiate bouts while redshirted athletes Robert Galvan (141), Jake Cranford (197) and Thor Moen (285) made the most of their first bouts following a season off from competition with victories in their debuts. Following the Fullerton Open, Jonathan Prince, a sophomore transfer, added his name.

After redshirting last year, Thor Moen got his first opportunity to compete for the Sun Devils Sunday, but did not spend much time on the mat as he pinned his foe in 3:56. Moen was one of two Sun Devils that recorded the first pin falls of their collegiate careers as Jason Trulson also won by fall, pinning his opponent in 1:40.

After opening his senior campaign with a 2-0 record, No. 1 Brian Stith headed to the 41st NWCA All-Star Classic presented by the United States Marines Corps in Dallas. In a bout that featured No. 1 Stith and No. 2 Travis Paulson of Iowa State, neither man scored in the first period with Stith winning the flip and deferring. Paulson started the second period down and quickly escaped for the only scoring in the period. Stith, however, could not escape quickly and when he did to tie the match, Paulson had accumulated over one minute of riding time to secure the win, 2-1.

With Stith's 2-1 setback in Dallas this week at the All-Star Classic, the Sun Devils are now 10-12-1 all-time as 23 different wrestlers have competed in the event.

Head Coach Thom Ortiz and the Sun Devil wrestling program have received National Letters of Intent from three high school seniors that have chosen to continue their education and wrestling careers at Arizona State next academic year. The trio of signees include Vincent Varela (Rio Rancho, N.M.), Kyle DeBerry (Tucson, Ariz.) and Jesse Robbins (Oviedo, Fla.) with all three ranked in the Top 150 according to InterMat's Recruiting Rankings with Varela ranked No. 18, DeBerry No. 45 and Robbins No. 101. Varela is a three-time state champ and ranked second in the nation at 135 pounds, DeBerry is a three-time state champion and ranked third in the nation at 160 while Robbins is a two-time Greco-Roman national champion and ranked fifth nationally at 171.

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.

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).

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.

On Saturday, January 7, 2006, 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 2007 Pac-10 Championships await the Sun Devils next weekend in Bakersfield, Calif., with the tournament being held inside the Icardo Center on February 24 and 25.

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