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ASU wrestling returns to Nevada for Reno Tournament

December 17, 2008

For the second time this month, the Arizona State University wrestling team will travel to Nevada for a tournament as the Sun Devils (3-2, 2-0 Pac-10) will travel to Reno, Nev., for the Reno Tournament of Champions on Thursday. The tournament will feature 27 collegiate teams, including three that are nationally ranked in the NCAA Division I, as well as two of the top NCAA Division II teams.

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.

While tournaments are always tough, the RTOC will certainly be no different as no fewer than six nationally-ranked wrestlers will be entered into each weight class in a tournament that lasts just one day. The RTOC is the only individual tournament the Sun Devils will compete in this year that lasts only one day.

Of the 27 teams slated to compete in the RTOC this week, 19 compete in the NCAA Division I, including five teams that received votes in the December 9 InterMat/NWCA rankings. Both Boise State and Oklahoma State enter the tournament ranked No. 13 according to the poll while Edinboro is No. 17. CS Bakersfield and Oregon State each received votes. The NCAA Division II will be represented by a pair of storied programs as No. 3 Nebraska-Kearney and No. 4 Adams State are set to compete while the NAIA also will have three ranked teams entered: No. 10 Southwest Oregon CC, No. 11 Clackamas CC and No. 13 Western Wyoming.

While the tournament will be a good test for the Sun Devils and provide the team with chances to build their resumes for entrance into the NCAA Championships in March, it also will provide Arizona State a chance to see all of its conference foes as the other eight schools are slated to enter the event. Those teams are No. 13 Boise State, CS Bakersfield, CS Fullerton, Cal Poly, Oregon State, Portland State, Stanford and UC Davis.

The Sun Devils had three individuals place, including runner-up Jason Trulson at 197 pounds, to score 49.5 points and place 11th overall in the event. No. 6 Central Michigan won the tournament with 152.5 points and was followed by No. 5 Oklahoma State (128), No. 17 Cornell (99), No. 21 Navy (91) and CS Fullerton (86.5). Along with Trulson, Patrick Pitsch (165) and Chris Drouin (141) both placed in the Top 6 as they finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

This year's tournament will mark the 10th year in a row the Sun Devils have compete in Reno where they have finished no lower than 14th place, including six Top 3 finishes. Arizona State first competed in the 1999 tournament and finished third overall before taking second at the 2000, 2003, and 2004 tournaments. The Sun Devils also added third-place finishes at the 2001 and 2002 tournaments.

According to the national rankings of December 9, both Anthony Robles (No. 8 at 125) and Chris Drouin (No. 5 at 141) are the highest ranked individuals in their respective weight classes and should be among the favorites to win an individual crown in Reno. Should any Sun Devil win a crown this week, it would snap a streak of four years in a row without an individual winner. The last time an Arizona State wrestler won a Reno crown came in 2003 when Reno-native Ryan Bader (197) and heavyweight Cain Velasquez each win titles.

Of the 12 wrestlers that represented Arizona State last year in Reno, only four are back this year to compete, including one place-winner in Chris Drouin (fifth place at 141). Joining Drouin on the return trip to Reno are Anthony Robles (3-2 at 125 last year), Jerrad Trulson (3-2 at 149 last year) and Jake Cranford (0-2 at 184 last year). Only Trulson will not compete at the same weight class as last year as he will move up to 157 this season.

Three wrestlers advanced to the second day of competition at the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational last time out for the Sun Devils with two of those wrestlers placing among the Top 5. Anthony Robles, seeded second in the tournament, fell in the semifinals (7-3 to Zachery Sanders of Minnesota) before rebounding to dismantle a pair of opponents en route to finishing third. At 141 pounds, fourth-seeded Chris Drouin lost a pair of bouts to open action on the second day before winning a 6-2 decision over Minnesota's No. 13 Michael Thorn for fifth place.

Anthony Robles won five of his six bouts in Las Vegas with four of those wins coming in quite impressive fashion. After his first two bouts, Robles has spent a mere 1:42 on the mat as he pinned his first foe in 1:10 before sticking his second foe in just 32 seconds. After his semifinal loss, Robles rebounded in a big way as he scored a pair of technical falls, including winning scores of 18-0 and 18-1.

Although he did not place, Vicente Varela advanced to the second day of competition in his first collegiate tournament and came within one victory of placing in the Top 8. Following a tech fall loss to the No. 3 wrestler in the nation in the second round, Varela regrouped and won a pair of decisions before falling in a 6-0 decision to No. 10 Matt Kyler of Army.

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 in Las Vegas. In 'Sin City', Anthony Morales went 0-2 at the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational in his first action as a redshirt freshman. Against Embry-Riddle, Sal Musto made his debut at 165 pounds and dropped a tightly contested 9-7 sudden victory decision to No. 8 (NAIA) Eli Arismendez. The second debut came at 197 pounds with Jeff Cappellini winning by forfeit in his first collegiate bout. Musto, Morales and Cappellini are all redshirt freshmen and are joined in debuting this season by fellow redshirt freshmen Vicente Varela (149), Michael Swigart (157) and Kyle DeBerry (165), true freshmen Eric Starks (174) and Jake Meredith (184) and junior college transfer Erik Nye (285).

With debuts come first victories and another name added to the list following the Las Vegas Invitational as Jake Meredith won a pair of decisions. Of those nine Sun Devils that debuted so far this season, six have won at least one bout this season: Vicente Varela (149), Kyle DeBerry (165), Eric Starks (174), Meredith (184), Jeff Cappellini (197) and Erik Nye (285).

Arizona State wrestlers have won eight bouts by pin fall so far this season with five ot those coming in the first period of action. Anthony RoblesKyle DeBerry (165) is right behind him at 0:38. Erik Nye (285) pinned a foe in 0:53 to round out the under one minute falls while Robles and Chris Drouin (141) also have recorded falls in under three minutes with times of 1:10 and 2:59, respectively. (125) owns the fastest fall at 0:32 while

While the Sun Devils have recorded several fast falls, they have also secured a pair in the closing seconds of periods. Chris Drouin won a fall with one second showing on the first period clock (2:59) while Kyle DeBerry (165) won a fall in Las Vegas at 6:33, which is 27 seconds before the end of the bout.

So far this season, the Sun Devils are a combined 47-42 with 22 of those victories earning bonus points toward the team score. Overall this season, the Sun Devils have won eight falls, seven major decision and two technical falls while adding five more victories by forfeit/injury default.

With their 38-6 defeat of Embry-Riddle on Sunday, 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). For this year's team to join that list, they will have to win five more duals inside Wells Fargo Arena, including three Pac-10 duals and a pair of meetings with Top 20 teams in No. 8 Minnesota and No. 20 Oklahoma.

According to this week's USA Today/InterMat/NWCA national team and individual rankings (December 2), the Sun Devils have duals remaining against two nationally ranked foes in No. 8 Minnesota and No. 20 Oklahoma, but also will see many of the top teams at tournaments this month. In Reno, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 14 Boise State and No. 15 Edinboro will be on hand to compete with the always tough Midlands Championships will see entries from No. 1 Iowa, No. 2 Iowa State, No. 5 Missouri, No. 7 Illinois, No. 11 Wisconsin and several other Top 25 teams.

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, on November 21.

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.

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.

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.

Dollaway has a fight scheduled for December 27 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas against Mike Massenzio at UFC 92 - The Ultimate 2008... Dan Henderson will fight in Dublin, Ireland, on January 17 against Rich Franklin in UFC 93 - Franklin vs. Henderson.

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).

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.

Since becoming a varsity program in 1962, Arizona State has competed in the NCAA Championships all 46 years and scored at least one point in 41 of those tournaments, including each of the last 34 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.

Following the holiday break, the Sun Devils will travel to Evanston, Ill., to compete in the Midlands Championship, hosted by Northwestern University. The two-day tournament (Dec. 29-30) will feature many of the top collegiate teams in the nation as well as several highly regarded post-collegiate entrants.