Sun Devils Head to Pac-10 Wrestling Championships

Feb. 20, 2007

Championship Notes in pdf

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State University wrestling team will head to the Icardo Center on the Cal State Bakersfield campus Saturday and Sunday where it will look to capture its third-consecutive conference crown at the Pac-10 Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield, Calif. The Sun Devils (8-11, 5-2 Pac-10), winners of the past two tournaments, will vie for their 17th Pac-10 title and the 19th conference crown in the history of the program.

The Sun Devils will not only be competing to retain their distinction as Pac-10 Champions for the third year in a row, but each competitor will look to earn individual championships as well as qualifying for the NCAA Wrestling Championships (March 15-17) in Auburn Hills, Mich. To qualify for the national event, a wrestler must finish in the Top 3 of his respective weight class at the Pac-10 Championships or be one of nine at-large berths awarded by a vote of the conference's coaches at the conclusion of the tournament.

The Icardo Center will be the host of the 2007 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield, Calif., and tickets are currently on sale. To purchase all-session passes, visit the home page of CSUB,

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

Arizona State has won the past two Pac-10 Wrestling Championships, capturing the 2005 crown in San Luis Obispo, Calif., before winning the 2006 title in Palo Alto, Calif. Last year, the Sun Devils secured their 16th Pac-10 title (18th conference crown overall) as five wrestlers advanced to the finals with Patrick Pitsch (165), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (285) each winning titles. The win by Bader secured the team crown for ASU as it edged Cal Poly, 118-115.5.

The Sun Devils' victory over Cal Poly last year came by 2.5 points, marking a tie for third-closest victory in the 44-year history of the Pac-10 Championships. ASU also won the 1995 crown in Corvallis, Ore., by the 2.5 margin over host Oregon State. The record is one quarter of one point (0.25) set at the 1976 meet in Corvallis where OSU edged Oregon, 79.00-78.75. The second-closest margin came in the second championship meet (1964) when UCLA edged Washington, 64-63, in Berkeley, Calif.

Two Sun Devils will hit the mats this weekend with Pac-10 gold already in their names as Patrick Pitsch will look to defend his title at 165 pounds while Brian Stith will look for his second title at 157 pounds after winning the 2005 title. Pitsch, the tournament's No. 3 seed one year ago, opened the tournament with an 11-3 major decision over sixth-seeded Risto Martinen of CS Fullerton before defeating second-seeded Ray Blake of Stanford, 4-1, in the semifinals. In the championship bout, Stith scored a 7-5 defeat of fifth-seeded Brian Busby of CS Bakersfield to win his first Pac-10 title.

Of the nine Sun Devils headed to the Pac-10 Championships this weekend, five will be making their conference tournament debuts. True freshman Shawn Jones (133) will join redshirt freshmen Robert Galvan (141) and Thor Moen (285) and junior Jason Trulson (197) in the tournament for the first time. Senior Greg Gifford will also be making his debut after competing in the West Region the past three years with Fresno State.

The 2007 tournament will mark the third time the conference's championship will be held on the CS Bakersfield campus after the Roadrunners played host to the events in 1990 and 1996. At the 1990 tournament, the Sun Devils won their seventh Pac-10 title, scoring 109.25 points to beat-out host CSUB (90.50). That year, ASU saw seven different athletes win individual titles while coach Bobby Douglas earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. The last time in Bakersfield, the hosts won their first Pac-10 crown with 155.00 points while the Sun Devils took second with 138.50. Individually, ASU had three individual champions.

Since the Roadrunners won the team title in Bakersfield at the 1996 event, only three teams have won titles. During that 11-year span, the Sun Devils have won six titles (1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006) while Boise State (2000, 2002, 2004) and CSUB (1996, 1999) are the other teams to have won championships.

A team victory by the Sun Devils would mark just the fourth time in Pac-10 history that one team has won three or more titles in a row at the wrestling championships. Oregon State was the first to do so with six in a row (1965-70) and then again with a streak of four in a row (1976-79). Arizona State set the record for consecutive titles with seven (1985-91) to become just the third holder of a streak of three or more titles.

After joining the Pac-10 Conference in time for the 1979 championships, the Sun Devils have competed in 28 Pac-10 Championships and have placed among the Top 3 in 27 of those tournaments. All told, Arizona State has won 16 championships while taking runner-up honors six times and third-place five times. The lone time the Sun Devils finished out the Top 3 came in 2004 when they tied for fifth place with Stanford.

The final Pac-10 individual rankings were released on February 19 and six Sun Devils were among the Top 6 in their respective weight classes. Leading the way were three ranked No. 1 at their weights, including Brian Stith at 157, Patrick Pitsch at 165 and Greg Gifford at 184. Both John Espinoza (125) and Jason Trulson (197) are ranked No. 3 while No. 6 Rick Renzi (174) made his way into the Top 6 for the first time this year.

Heading into the Pac-10 Championships, a pair of Sun Devils hold national rankings, including No. 4 Brian Stith at 157 pounds and No. 12 Patrick Pitsch at 165 pounds. The Sun Devil team is not ranked in the polls this week.

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 in the overall category. Standing 109-31 overall in his collegiate career, Stith is now 14th on the all-time wins list and needs just one win to move into a tie for 13th with current assistant coach Aaron Simpson (1995-98). Following his 3-1 victory at Stanford last weekend, Stith concluded his dual career with a 55-16 record and tied Ryan Bader (2002-06) for eighth on the all-time dual wins list.

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 13 wins in a row with. In that span, he has recorded six major decisions (five in a row at one point), one technical fall and two pins, with his quickest fall (1:18) securing his 100th career victory.

Senior Greg Gifford has been on a tear as of late, winning six of his last seven bouts in convincing fashion. Over that stretch, Gifford has won three majors, two falls and one technical fall while adding a 9-6 decision. Against Pac-10 foes during that time, Gifford has won three majors, one technical fall and one fall. Winner of his last two bouts by identical 10-2 major decisions, Gifford now stands 13-7 overall on the year and is 6-1 against Pac-10 foes.

If Greg Gifford wins the 184-pound title at the Pac-10 Championships this weekend, it will mark the second year in a row he will advance to the NCAA Championships as a champion. Last year, while competing for Fresno State, Gifford won the NCAA Western Regional title by pinning Eastern Illinois' Greg Perz in the finals in 3:36. The regional event, just as the Pac-10 tournament, were used as a selection tool for the national event.

After a two-week hiatus following an injury, Patrick Pitsch returned to the mats and has competed in three duals since then, winning all three. His first pitted him against No. 11 Shane Seibert of Oklahoma and saw the unranked Sun Devil take a 9-7 victory. After moving back into the national rankings, Pitsch (at No. 15) pinned Evan Barbe of Cal Poly in 4:13 before scoring a tough 6-0 decision over Scott Loescher of Stanford last weekend. Pitsch currently is ranked 12th in the nation and holds an 11-7 overall record this year.

The Sun Devils scored a 26-18 defeat of Cal Poly at home February 11, 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 Pavlenko (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.

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.

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.

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.

For those Sun Devils that qualify, the next event will be the 2007 NCAA Wrestling Championships on March 15-17 at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Now on Pac-12 Network
2:00 AM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network