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Pac-10 wrestling championships await ASU in Fullerton

February 25, 2009

Sun Devil Mat Notes (pdf)

The championship season is upon the Arizona State University wrestling team this weekend as the Sun Devils will travel to Fullerton, Calif., for the 47th Pacific-10 Conference Wrestling Championships that will be held on Sunday and Monday inside CS Fullerton's Titan Gym. Action begins Sunday morning at 11 a.m. (PT) with championship pig tail matches and runs through the semifinals and consolation first round that ends at 9 p.m. (PT). Monday opens at 3 p.m. (PT) with the consolation semifinals and wraps-up with matches for first, third and fifth all taking place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (PT) that night.

For those fans that won't be able to see the action in person in Fullerton, Calif., the Pac-10 Conference and CSTV have joined forces once again to provide live action over the internet for free. The webcast will be streamed on the Conference's web site ( and can be viewed by clicking on the All Access button on the right side of the Pac-10 page.

Conference titles will be on the line this weekend as the Pac-10 Championships will conclude with the crowing of 10 individual champions and the overall team champion. Each individual champion also will secure a berth into the NCAA Wrestling Championships (March 19-21) in St. Louis, Mo.

NEW FOR 2009
Gaining entry into the national championships this year will take on a new twist as only the individual conference champion will automatically advance to the NCAA event. In years past, each conference was allocated varying numbers of qualifiers to the national meet, with the Pac-10 averaging around 40 entries per year, meaning the Top 3 from each weight and several wild cards would represent the Pac-10 at the meet. Now. the NCAA committee will use coaches' rankings and other factors to determine the at-large wrestlers selected to the national tournament.

The Sun Devils will be competing in their 31st Pac-10 Championships, dating back to school joining the conference in time for the 1978-79 season and the 1979 championships. Since joining the conference, the Sun Devils have won 16 Pac-10 titles, just one behind Oregon State for the most all-time, and has finished outside of the Top 3 only three times. Despite finishing outside of the Top 3 in the past two tournaments, the Sun Devils still rank second all-time in Top 3 finishes in the league with 27 while Oregon State leads with 34. Oregon -- who eliminated its program last year -- is third with 21.

This year's Championships will mark the third time CS Fullerton has served as the tournament host after holding the events in 1988 and 1998. Both of those tournaments were highly successful for the Sun Devils as they won both crowns with the 1988 title being the fourth in a row at the time and the 1998 title serving as the second in a row at the time.

Arizona State easily won the Pac-10 Championships both times the tournament was held at CS Fullerton. In 1988, the Sun Devils won six individual titles, including the 142 crown by current ASU head coach Thom Ortiz, on its way to scoring 103 points and winning the team race by more points than the runner-up scored: 55.5. Oregon took second with 47.5 points while Utah State was third with 47.0 points. At the 1998 tournament, the Sun Devils had just three individual champions, but it was good enough as they scored 134.5 points to win back-to-back titles while Oregon State was second (113.4) and Oregon third (100.5).

Last year, at the tournament hosted by Oregon, the Sun Devils placed fourth overall in the team race with 103 points and were just 3.5 points away from tying for second place. Boise State won the event with 152.5 points and was followed in the Top 5 by Stanford (106.5), Oregon State (106), ASU and CS Fullerton (101.5). Individually, five Sun Devils reached the finals with Patrick Pitsch winning his third title at 165 and Brent Chriswell capturing the 184 title as a redshirt freshman. Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141) each took second place in their weight classes as redshirt freshman while Jason Trulson (197) finished second in his senior meet despite a knee injury.

Two of the Sun Devils that are slated to compete this weekend in Fullerton hail from a nearby city in California as both Chris Drouin (141) and Jake Meredith (184) both grew up in Temecula, Calif., which is roughly 60 miles away from the CSUF campus.

Heading into the Pac-10 Championships this weekend, only four of the schools competing have won a Pac-10 title, including Oregon State (17), Arizona State (16), Boise State (four) and CS Bakersfield (two). With a team victory this weekend, the Sun Devils would tie the Beavers for the most in the history of the meet. If a team outside of OSU, ASU, BSU and CSUB wins, they would become just the ninth team to ever win the crown in a conference that has featured 18 different teams that have been members of the Pac-10 at one time or another. In fact, you would have to go back to the 1982 win by Oregon to find a current Pac-10 team other than ASU, BSU, CSUB and OSU that have won. The other previous champions include three-time winners Oregon and Washington and single winners Washington State and UCLA. The schools that have competed in the Pac-10 but have not/never won a title included Arizona, California, Cal Poly, CS Fullerton, Fresno State, Portland State, San Jose State, Stanford, UC Davis and Utah State.

The Sun Devils have won a total of 99 individual Pac-10 Championships since joining the league, averaging a little more than three individual crowns each year. The next title won by a Sun Devil will be the 100th in the program's history. Including the titles won as members of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), the Sun Devils have currently won 127 titles (28 in the WAC).

With two individual titles last year at the meet in Eugene, Ore., the Sun Devils ran their current streak of winning of individual crowns to 34 years in a row, dating back to Bruce Young winning the 177-pound division at the WAC Championships. ASU has had at least one Pac-10 Champion in all 30 meets it has participated and has brought home at least two titles in each of the last eight tournaments and in 29-of-30 Pac-10 Championships (only one title was won in 2000).

The 2009 Championships will be new experience for many of the Sun Devils as only two of the 10 set to compete have participated in a Pac-10 tournament. The Sun Devils that will be making their Pac-10 debuts this weekend include true freshmen Te Edwards (157), Eric Starks (174) and Jake Meredith (184), redshirt freshmen David Prado (133), Vicente Varela (149), Kyle DeBerry (165), sophomore Imanibom Etukeren (285) and junior Jake Cranford (197).

The team will not be without some experience at the conference meet as both Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141) will be back in action and looking to improve upon their runner-up finishes from last year. Robles, the No. 2 seed last year, lost a 7-6 decision to No. 1 seed Tanner Gardner of Stanford in the final before Drouin, the No. 6 seed, lost a 6-4 decision to No. 1 seed and nationally top-ranked Chad Mendes of Cal Poly in the final. Both Sun Devils were redshirt freshmen last year while both of their foes were seniors.

The Sun Devils are entering the Pac-10 Championships after compiling a 5-8 overall record in duals with a 3-4 mark in the Pac-10 Conference after falling at home to CS Fullerton, 20-18, on February 14. That loss was the second time in the last three duals of the season that ASU lost by two or fewer points (also lost at Stanford, 20-19). Individually, the Sun Devils won five-of-10 contested bouts with victories recorded by Anthony Robles (125), Chris Drouin (141), Kyle DeBerry (165), Eric Starks (174) and Jake Meredith (184).

Three of the Sun Devils are heading into the Pac-10 Championships with perfect or nearly perfect records against conference opponents, including Anthony Robles (125), Chris Drouin (141) and Eric Starks (174). Robles went 6-0 in Pac-10 duals and 9-0 overall against the Pac-10 this year while Drouin was 7-0 in duals and 8-0 overall. Starks also was a perfect 7-0 in duals and was 8-1 overall. Starks did avenge that lone loss by knocking off Todd Noel, 12-2, in the final dual of the season at home against CS Fullerton.

Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141) were the team's statistical leaders during the regular season with Robles leading in four areas and Drouin in three. Robles led the way with tournament wins (14), technical falls (eighth), falls (eight) and fastest fall (0:32) while Drouin was the leader in overall wins (24), dual wins (12) and major decisions (seven).

InterMat released its Division I national team and individual rankings on February 24 with both Chris Drouin (No. 5 at 141) and Anthony Robles (No. 11 at 125) moving up one position from last week.

The NCAA released its first of three Coaches Panel rankings that will be utilized later this season to select the competitors for the NCAA Championships in St. Louis. In the initial release, Chris Drouin is ranked No. 6 at 141 while Anthony Robles is tied for 11th (with Joey Fio of Oklahoma). The rankings are based on points earned according the ranking assigned by each voter in their mock Top 33 (33 points for 1st place down to 1 point for 33rd).

Heading into the Pac-10 Championships this weekend, the Sun Devils have four wrestlers ranked among the Top 5 in their respective weight classes, including three holding a place in the Top 2. Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141) are both ranked No. 1 in their weight classes while true freshmen Eric Starks has quietly knocked off several foes on his way to the No. 2 position at 174. The final Top 5-ranked Sun Devil is another true freshman, Jake Meredith (184), who is currently No. 5. Although these are the final rankings, they could change on Saturday as the coaches seed each wrestler for the Pac-10 Championships in Fullerton, Calif.

In just his second year on the mats for the Sun Devils, Anthony Robles has been quite successful at picking up extra points for the team. So far this year, Robles has won one major decision, eight technical falls and eight falls, totaling 17 of his 22 victories. With 77.3% of his wins producing bonus points this year, he is just behind Cain Velasquez (2005-06) for the highest point percentage for an ASU wrestler since 1994-95, when statistics for all three bonus categories were available. Velasquez, an up-and-coming heavyweight fighter in the UFC and two-time All-American at ASU, won 30-of-38 matches with bonus points or 78.9% after claiming nine majors, five technical falls and 16 pins. For his career, Robles has won 47 matches with 33 earning bonus points (70.2%), including eight majors, 13 technical falls and 12 pins.

Anthony Robles has won eight matches by technical fall this year, which ties him for the most by a Sun Devil since the 1994-95 season when complete statistics were available. Robles is tied with Casey Strand, who also won eight technical falls while wrestling at 184 pounds in 1998-99.

Four Sun Devils are heading into the Pac-10 Championships on a two-or-more match winning streak, including Chris Drouin (141), who has won his last eight in a row and has not met defeat in 2009. In that time, Drouin has won four majors, one tech fall and one fall in that span and has won five matches against Pac-10 foes. Eric Starks has won four in a row, all against Pac-10 foes, including a 4-2 upset of No. 11 Kyle Bressler (Oregon State) and a 12-2 major decision over Todd Noel (CS Fullerton). Anthony Robles has won three in a row at 125 and six of his last seven while Jake Meredith has won two in a row and four of his last five.

Despite being a true freshman, Eric Starks has made a statement heading into the Pac-10 Championships, posting an 8-1 season record against league foes and going 7-0 in Pac-10 duals. The probable No. 2 seed this weekend, Starks' last two wins have been his most impressive. At Oregon State on Feb. 8, Starks faced No. 11 Kyle Bressler and scored an early takedown to lead to his 4-2 defeat of the senior. Last weekend, Starks faced the only Pac-10 foe to defeat him this year and handed Todd Noel of CS Fullerton a 12-2 major decision defeat. Noel had won the first meeting at the Reno Tournament of Champions, 5-3, in December.

During the 2008-09 season, the Sun Devils participated in three tournaments -- Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Reno Tournament of Champions and the Midlands -- with two wrestlers fairing very well. Anthony Robles (125) was the lone Sun Devil to place in all three events, including winning the Reno event, taking third in Las Vegas and finishing seventh in the prestigious Midlands. Drouin, who did not place at Midlands, won his first tournament title by claiming the Reno crown after finishing fifth in Las Vegas.

Sun Devils have won 126 matches this year with 69 of those producing bonus points for the team. So far this season, the Sun Devils have won 21 majors, 12 technical falls, 22 pin falls and 14 forfeits.

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 ASU debuts on the mats this year. Against Minnesota (Jan. 23), David Prado, a redshirt freshman, debuted and dropped a 14-5 major decision to No. 7 Zach Sanders, making him the 12th different wrestler to wrestle in his first match for ASU during the 2008-09 season. So far, three true freshman have competed, including Te Edwards, Eric Starks and Jake Meredith, and eight redshirt freshman, including Prado, Sal Musto, Anthony Morales, Jeff Cappellini, Vicente Varela, Michael Swigart, Nick WilliamsKyle DeBerry. Erik Nye, a junior college transfer, also saw his first action for the Sun Devils this fall. and

With debuts come first victories and another name added to the list following the Cal Poly dual where David Prado won by fall. Of those 11 Sun Devils that have debuted so far this season, nine have won at least one bout: Prado (125), Vicente Varela (149), Te Edwards (157), Kyle DeBerryEric Starks (174), Jake Meredith (184), Jeff Cappellini (197), Nick Williams and Erik Nye (285). (165),

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). Since their win over ERAU, though, the Sun Devils have dropped three in a row (CS Bakersfield, No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 9 Minnesota).

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.

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. Henderson, who recently defeated Rich Franklin, will serve as a coach on the next season of TUF.

On April 1, the UFC will invade Nashville, Tenn., for UFC Fight Night and broadcast a card featuring two former Sun Devils to a national audience on Spike TV. Ryan 'Darth' Bader (9-0-0) will face Carmelo Marrero (10-2-1) after former All-American and former assistant coach Aaron 'A-Train' Simpson (4-0-0) takes on Tim 'Wrecking Machine' McKenzie (12-5-0). Simpson has won all four of his fights in the WEC and will be making his UFC debut.

For those that are selected to compete (official announcement will be made by the NCAA on March 11), the next event also is the final event of the collegiate season, the 2009 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The tournament will take place March 19-21 inside the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.