Wrestling Plays Host to No. 11 Oklahoma Sunday at 6 pm

Jan. 15, 2009

Sun Devil Mat Notes (pdf)

TEMPE - The Arizona State University wrestling team (4-3, 2-1 Pac-10) will look to rebound from its first home loss of the season this weekend as the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners (12-0) visit Tempe for a 6 p.m. dual Sunday inside Wells Fargo Arena. ASU, which lost its last home dual in a 36-15 setback to CS Bakersfield, will be playing host to it second home dual in a row and the second of four in a row at home this month.

The dual with Oklahoma was originally scheduled for a 2 p.m. start on Sunday, but has been pushed back to a 6 p.m. start. The time change will allow for an easier arrival for wrestling fans with the P.F. Chang's Rock-N-Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, which finishes outside of Wells Fargo Arena, concluding its annual run around 4 p.m.

Arizona State's dual with No. 11 Oklahoma will be the first of two duals against highly-regarded teams. Next Friday, the Sun Devils will play host to No. 9 Minnesota (7 p.m.).

Since Thom Ortiz took over coaching duties in time for the 2001-02 season, the Sun Devils have been very impressive at home, posting an overall mark of 41-19-0. Ortiz' teams also have been nearly perfect against Pac-10 foes as the Sun Devils stand 25-4-0 against league opponents after going 1-2 last year. ASU is 3-1 overall at home this year and 2-1 against Pac-10 foes following its 36-15 loss to CS Bakersfield on January 4.

After wrestling in three tough tournaments in the month of December and then two duals on back-to-back days in the early days of January, the Sun Devils took a break and returning to the mats following a 12-day layoff from competition.

The Sooners enter the weekend with a 12-0 record and ranked 11th in the January 13 InterMat/USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll. OU, who faces Maryland at home on Friday night in Norman, is tied with the 1985 team for the best start in school history and, with a win Friday vs. Maryland would become the first Sooner team to open a season 13-0. Seven different Sooners are ranked among the national Top 20 and are led by No. 9 Jeff James (17-1 at 174) and No. 10 Eric Lapotsky (19-1 at 197).

Oklahoma holds the edge in the all-time series standings with a 23-14-1 record after winning a 31-9 decision last year in Norman. The Sun Devils hold a slight advantage in duals held in Tempe with a 9-8-0 all-time record against the visiting Sooners, but have lost the last two home duals in a row, including a 31-9 decision on Feb. 2, 2007.

Only one match will feature nationally ranked foes and that will come at 125 pounds where ASU's No. 10 Anthony Robles (19-5) will meet OU's No. 11 Joey Fio (11-3). Both are sophomores and will be facing each other for the third time in two years. Last year, Robles won both matches, including a fall in 1:22 at the dual in Norman before scoring a 17-7 major decision victory in the consolation rounds of the NCAA Championships.

Looking at the national statistics, Anthony Robles has a pretty dominating year so far. With a 19-5 overall record, Robles has won 17 matches with bonus points, including seven by tech fall, seven by fall, one major decision and two forfeits. Adding those points together, along with the six points from his two decision wins, gives him 99 points this year, the 23rd-most in NCAA Division I. That point total also ranks as the fourth-best among all 125-pound wrestlers in the nation and is the top total among all Pac-10 wrestlers. His seven wins by technical fall also rank third nationally and are the most recorded by a 125-pound wrestler as well as the most by any wrestler in the Pac-10.

Sun Devils have won 98 matches this year with 66 of those -- or 67% -- producing bonus points for the team. So far this season, the Sun Devils have won 16 major decisions, 10 technical falls, 18 pin falls and 12 forfeits.

InterMat released its Division I national team and individual rankings on January 13 with both Chris Drouin (No. 6 at 141) and Anthony Robles (No. 10 at 125) remaining among the Top 10 nationally in their respective weight classes.

According to this week's USA Today/InterMat/NWCA national team and individual rankings (January 13), the Sun Devils have duals remaining against two nationally ranked foes in No. 9 Minnesota and No. 11 Oklahoma.

The coaches at CS Fullerton (hosts for the 2009 Pac-10 Championships) have begun releasing Pac-10 individual rankings this month with Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141) both holding the top spots in their respective weight classes. Both Thor Moen (197) and Erik Nye (285) are ranked fourth with all other Sun Devils ranked sixth or lower in the Jan. 6 release.

The Sun Devils defeated host Grand Canyon, 41-6, with wins in 9-of-10 matches at the dual held in Phoenix. The dual was the first for the Sun Devils on the road in the state of Arizona since winning, 40-0, at Phoenix College on December 17, 1993 and extended the Sun Devils' road winning streak in the state to 18 in a row. While improving to 60-9-0 all-time against Arizona schools, the Sun Devils also won their 40th in a row over instate schools.

The Sun Devils won only three matches and suffered a 36-15 set back to visiting CS Bakersfield in a Pac-10 dual inside Wells Fargo Arena on January 4. Arizona State has three true freshmen in its starting 10 with one of those true rookies, Eric Starks (174) securing his first win in a Pac-10 dual. Anthony Robles won by fall and Chris Drouin won a technical fall for ASU's other victories. The loss was only the 10th for head coach Thom Ortiz in his eight years facing Pac-10 teams (he is 43-10-0 all-time at ASU against the Pac-10) while the program slipped to 111-17-1 all-time in Pac-10 Conference duals.

Jake Meredith stuck his foe from Grand Canyon in 1:44 to score only the ninth-fast fall of the season and gave ASU its 13th first-period pin on the year. So far this year, Arizona State wrestlers have pinned foes in under one minute three times, including a team-leading fall in 32 seconds by Anthony Robles at the Las Vegas Invitational. The team also has six others coming in under two minutes of match time.

Similar to last year, several Sun Devils have made their collegiate and/or Arizona State debuts on the mats this season with one more joining the list at the Midlands Championships. Te Edwards competed at 157 pounds and went 1-2 in his first action in uniform for the Sun Devils, marking the 11th different debut of the season. So far this season, Edwards is the third true freshman to compete, joining Eric Starks and Jake Meredith. Seven redshirt freshman have debuted this year, including Sal Musto, Anthony Morales, Jeff Cappellini, Vicente Varela, Michael Swigart, Nick Williams and Kyle DeBerry. Erik Nye, a junior college transfer, also saw his first action for the Sun Devils this fall.

With debuts come first victories and another name added to the list following the Midlands Championships where Te Edwards went 1-2 with a win by major decision. Of those 11 Sun Devils that debuted so far this season, eight have won at least one bout this season: Vicente Varela (149), Edwards (157), Kyle DeBerry (165), Eric Starks (174), Jake Meredith (184), Jeff Cappellini (197), Nick Williams and Erik Nye (285).

With their 38-6 defeat of Embry-Riddle, the Sun Devils improved to 3-0 on the year in home duals. The win also marked the 17th time in program history -- as well as the second year in a row -- the team has opened a season 3-0 or better at home. In the program's history, eight Sun Devil teams have gone undefeated at home with the last time coming in the 1992-93 season (8-0-0).

With their 40-0 win over Portland State, the Sun Devils not only recorded their 12th victory in a row over the Vikings (12-1-0 all-time in the series), they also posted the 25th shut out victory in program history. The last time ASU shut out an opponent came in a 46-0 defeat of intrastate rival Embry-Riddle on December 5, 2002, in Tempe. Conversely, the last time the Sun Devils were shut out came this year as ASU fell at Iowa, 41-0.

Last season, the Sun Devils, at various points, had up to seven redshirt freshmen in their starting 10 with two or three seniors. This year, the team will continue to be young as 27 of the 36 athletes on the roster are freshmen or sophomores, including 12 redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen. Also, the team has two seniors (Kelsey Campbell and Preston Pruett) along with seven juniors.

Kelsey Campbell, one of the two seniors on the squad this year, is set to defend the two U.S. Women's College Wrestling National Championships that she has won in 2007 (63kg) and 2008 (59kg). The No. 1 college wrestler in the nation at 59kg last year, Campbell competed in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials over the summer and has placed among the Top 4 in several national events throughout the past year.

Twenty-five wrestlers from the 2007-08 roster return this year and are led by starters Anthony Robles (125), Orlando Jimenez (133) and Chris Drouin (141) along with several veterans that have moved up to a starting position, including Thor Moen (197) and Jake Cranford (184). Several freshman that redshirted last year also figure prominently into the starting line-up, including Vicente Varela (149), Michael Swigart (157) and Kyle DeBerry (165).

The program welcomed 11 new members to the team this fall, including two immediate starters, one possible starter and several others with impressive credentials. Heavyweight Erik Nye (2x undefeated California junior college champion) and Eric Starks (174; 2x state placer in California) both look to have the edge in the starting line-up while Eric Starks (184; 2x Washington state champion) also could see action. Ben Ashmore, a four-time Texas state champion, could see action at 125 after transferring from Oklahoma State while true freshmen Te Edwards (157) and Michael Hawkins (285) will add depth to a young, but talented roster.

The coaching staff also made an addition as Al Fuentes was brought on to replace Eric Larkin, who left to pursue other career aspirations. A two-time NAIA All-American at 142 pounds (1997 and 1998) for Findlay (Ohio), Fuentes also was a three-time Academic All-American and will play a vital role in helping the program both on and off the mats. Like head coach Thom Ortiz, Fuentes was a member of a national championship team as UF captured the 1995 NAIA Championship title.

Arizona (12) and California (nine) provide wrestlers for more than half of the Sun Devil roster this year with other western/southwestern states adding 11 more, including two each from Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Three eastern states are also accounted for on the Sun Devil roster, including two wrestlers from New York and one each from New Jersey and Virginia.

During the month of September, two former Sun Devils competed on the international stage and returned with bronze medals. First up was the 2008 World Beach Championships in Durres, Albania, on September 21 with Jeff Funicello winning a bronze medal in the Under 85kg/187.25 classification for the second year in a row. Funicello also competed in the World Grappling Championships one day earlier and earned a bronze medal at the same weight class. Then, on September 26 in Perm, Russia, John Hughes competed in the 2008 Veteran World Championships and captured the bronze medal in Division E (56 years +) freestyle at 69kg/152.

Over the weekend, former Sun Devil All-American Ryan Bader stepped into the Octagon inside the Palms in Las Vegas, Nev., and won the light heavyweight division of the eighth season of the Ultimate Fighter. 'Darth' Bader, as he is known in the world of MMA (mixed martial arts), kept the fight on its feet in the opening minutes of action and exchanged punches and kicks with his opponent, Vinny Magalhaes, before landing a huge overhand right that dropped the world champion jiu-jitsu fighter from Brazil. Bader moved in with some more punches on the ground before the referee stepped in and called the fight for Bader at 2:18 (TKO). The former three-time Pac-10 Champion at 197 pounds will now receive a contract with the UFC.

In the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), the Sun Devil wrestling program has produced some top talent both now and then. While former Sun Devils have held championship belts in the past, including UFC Heavyweight Champion Dan 'The Beast' Severn and Pride Welterweight and Middleweight (at the same time) Champion 'Dangerous' Dan Henderson, the current crop of talent is already turning heads. That trio (all of which were All-Americans in 2006) include up-and-coming UFC heavyweight Cain Velasquez, TUF Season 7 runner-up (middleweight) C.B. 'The Doberman' Dollaway and TUF Season 8 light heavyweight winner Ryan 'Darth' Bader.

The team will be led by a trio of captains this season, including junior Thor Moen (197) and sophomores Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141).

Wells Fargo Arena serves as the home of Arizona State's home wrestling duals, as well as basketball (men and women), women's gymnastics and women's 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, 57 Sun Devils have captured 109 individual conference titles while 67 different athletes have earned a total of 98 All-America honors. The Sun Devils stand 169-56-2 all-time inside Wells Fargo Arena (207-92-2 all-time at home). With its 36-3 defeat of Utah Valley on Jan. 10, 2005, ASU recorded its 150th victory at WFA.

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. Since the opening, the facility has hosted numerous practices for the Sun Devils and Sunkist and was a two-week training home for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Freestyle Team before it headed to Beijing. One of the wrestlers that trained at the facility along side the Sun Devils was Henry Cejudo, who won Olympic Gold this summer.

Arizona State will face its second ranked team in a row at home next time out as the No. 9 Minnesota Golden Gophers visit Tempe for a 7 p.m. dual on Friday, January 23.

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