Reno Tournament awaits ASU wrestling
With final exams for the fall semester behind them, the No. 21 Arizona State University wrestling team will return to work on the mats this weekend as the Sun Devils are set to travel to Reno, Nev., for the 15th Reno Tournament of Champions on Sunday. The Sun Devils will be one of 26 teams on hand for the one-day event at the Downtown Convention Center that will feature teams from NCAA Division I (17), NCAA II (four), NAIA (three) and NJCAA (two).
Second of four
The Sun Devils are entering their second individual tournament of the season this weekend after competing in the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational two weeks ago in Las Vegas to open the tournament schedule. Following this weekend's action in Reno, the Sun Devils will not compete in an individual tournament until the end of the season championship events that include the Pac-10 Conference and NCAA Wrestling Championships.
Similar to the Las Vegas event last time, the Reno Tournament of Champions will be filled with highly regarded teams and individuals from all four divisions, including six teams currently ranked in the NWCA Division I Top 25 (December 15 poll). Along with the No. 21 Sun Devils, the other nationally ranked teams include No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Boise State, No. 15 Penn State, No. 17 Edinboro and No. 19 Cal Poly. The nine non-NCAA Division I schools entered into the tournament all carry national rankings from their respective divisions, including Division II teams No. 2 Newberry College, No. 3 Adams State, No. 9 Minnesota State-Mankato and No. 12 Upper Iowa; NAIA teams No. 4 Great Falls, No. 5 Southern Oregon and No. 15 Montana State-Northern; and NJCAA teams No. 7 Clackamas CC and No. 14 Southwestern Oregon CC.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) released its coaches' team rankings once again on Tuesday with Sun Devils remaining at No. 21 for the second week in a row. Five of ASU's 2009-10 opponents are also currently members of the national Top 25 rankings, including No. 2 Iowa State, No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 12 Nebraska, and No. 25 Oregon State. In the two other rankings, the Sun Devils remained among the Top 20 as they are No. 16 in the Wrestling Insider Magazine rankings and are No. 15 in the InterMatWrestle.com rankings.
Several ranking services have three or four of the Sun Devils ranked in their respective nationally rankings with both Anthony Robles and Chris Drouin ranked in all polls. Robles is currently ranked No. 2 at 125 pounds by D1CollegeWrestling.net and No. 3 by both InterMatWrestle.com and Wrestling Insider Magazine (AWN has not released their latest rankings yet this week) while Drouin is ranked No. 7 by D1, No. 10 by InterMat and No. 12 by WIN. Heavyweight Erik Nye is ranked in two polls, including No. 17 by D1 and No. 20 by WIN while Ben Ashmore (133) is No. 17 according to D1.
In the event: Reno
In their previous 10 trips to the Reno Tournament of Champions, the Sun Devils have placed among the Top 6 on eight occasions and finished no lower than 14th overall (2006). Although Arizona State has not won the team title in Reno, it has come close on six occasions, including finishing the tournament as the runner-up in 2000, 2003 and 2004 while adding third-place showings in 1999, 2001 and 2002. Including the 2008 event, the Sun Devils have placed sixth twice with finishes of 11th and 14th also being recorded.
Last time: 2009 Reno Tournament
After two years in a row of placing outside of the Top 10, the Sun Devils placed sixth overall at the 2008 Reno Tournament of Champions, scoring 63 points while No. 13 Oklahoma State won the team title with 146.5 points, No. 17 Edinboro was second in 132.5 and North Carolina third with 94. Individually, the Sun Devils had two place-winners with both Anthony Robles and Chris Drouin winning titles. Robles was the top-seed at 125 pounds and dominated his way to the title as he won one fall and three technical falls before scoring a 9-2 decision over No. 15 Obe Blanc (Oklahoma State) in the final. At 141 pounds, Drouin also was the top-seed and went 6-0 on the day with one fall, one technical fall, one medical forfeit and two decision wins before defeating unranked Jamal Parks (Oklahoma State) in the final, 7-5, on a takedown in overtime.
Quick Recap: Las Vegas
Four Sun Devils placed among the Top 8 as the team finished 11th overall at the 28th Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational in Primm, Nev., on December 4-5. Anthony Robles (125), Ben Ashmore (133), Chris Drouin (141) and Erik Nye (285) all placed with Robles leading the way with a runner-up finish as he fell, 4-2, to top-ranked and 2008 NCAA Champion Angel Escobedo (Indiana) in the final. Drouin posted a 4-3 record on the weekend and finished sixth at 141 pounds while Nye also finished sixth and went 6-2 on the weekend. Ashmore took eighth place at 133 pounds with a 3-2 overall record.
Anthony Robles once again had a strong showing in a tournament setting as he went the distance (seven minutes) in only two of his six matches in Las Vegas. Robles opened the tournament with three wins in a row by fall, including times of 2:21, 3:59 and 2:09, before winning a 17-2 technical fall in 4:29. He added a decision win by a 7-2 score before falling in the final. With his four bonus-point wins, Robles moved into 11th on the career bonus-point wins list at Arizona State with 38 total career wins by major decision (10), technical fall (15) and fall (13). He needs four more to tie Jeremy Mendoza (2003-06) for 10th with 42 career bonus wins. Robles' 15 career technical fall wins currently stand third (since 1994-95) with Nick Frost (2000-04) holding the record of 17.
More than others
While the lightest Sun Devil made quick work of his opponents, the heaviest, Erik Nye, did not have it as easy as he not only wrestled in eight matches, but also went into overtime in three of those matches. Nye, who went 6-2 and placed sixth at heavyweight, won by fall and then by a 7-2 decision before falling to No. 17 Ed Bordas (Rider) in a 3-2 decision that came in the first tie-breaker set. Nye rebounded with a win by fall before winning a 3-1 decision in sudden victory and then followed that with a 2-1 win in the second tie-breaker set. Nye went on to upset No. 16 Clayton Jack (Oregon State), 3-2, before losing by injury default in the consolation semifinals.
Ben Ashmore, similar to Nye, had several close matches in Las Vegas as all three of his wins came by one point each. Ashmore had wins of 1-0, 6-5 and 5-4 on the weekend.
Heading into the Las Vegas Invitational, true freshman Anthony Pike had fallen in his three previous matches and was in search of his first collegiate win. In his first match of the tournament, he got just that as he stuck Rory McBryde (UC Davis) in 1:14 to collect his first win. Pike went 2-2 in the tournament with his other win coming by fall as well (4:27).
See you next year
Over the past few weeks, four individuals have signed National Letters of Intent to continue their education and compete for the wrestling program at Arizona State upon completion of their high school careers. The soon-to-be Sun Devils include Louis Trujillo of Rio Rancho, N.M.; Nathan Hoffer of Anchorage, Alaska; Joel Smith of Collins Hill, Ga.; and local product Shane McGough of Scottsdale. According to InterMat, three of those signees are ranked among the Top 100 recruits this season, including Trujillo, who enters his senior season ranked as the No. 27 recruit and No. 4 at 135 pounds. Hoffer is the No. 66 recruit and No. 5 at 140 pounds while Smith is the No. 82 recruit and No. 9 at 140 pounds. McGough, although not ranked among the Top 100 recruits, enters the season ranked No. 9 nationally at 130 pounds and is one of the top wrestlers in the state.
With four strong recruits signed, head coach Shawn Charles' 2010 recruiting class is already being lauded as one of the best in the nation as InterMat has pegged it as the No. 10 class in the nation following the early signing period. The schools ahead of the Sun Devils include No. 1 Iowa, No. 2 Northwestern, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Penn State, No. 5 Cornell, No. 6 Cal Poly, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 8 Missouri and No. 9 Ohio State.
Over the weekend, three with ties to the program were in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., participating for Team USA at the 2009 FILA World Grappling Championships with all three helping the Americans to a pair of world team titles and placing among the Top 5 individually. Ben Askren, the ASU's Director of Operations, won the no-gi 84kg (185) division with a 3-1 decision over Jacob Volkmann (USA), the 2008 world champion, to lead the trio from Tempe while former Sun Devil wrestler Jeff Funicello placed fifth in the same division. In the 120kg (264.5) division, current Sun Devil Kenny Lester also earned a medal as he took the bronze by defeating Srdjan Kliseric (Serbia), 6-1. Funicello also competed in the 84kg gi tournament and also took fifth to contribute points toward the U.S. winning another team title.
Away from the team
Here are some other things happening involving former members of the program:
• Former Sun Devil Kelsey Campbell and several other women's freestyle wrestlers traveled to Beijing, China, to take part in a 10-day training and exhibition trip with Team China. Campbell was a two-time Women's Collegiate National Champion while with the Sun Devils and recently won the 2009 U.S. Championship at 59kg (130 pounds).
• In the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), four former Sun Devil wrestlers have found out who, when and where their next fights will be in the UFC with three making the trip to Australia for the UFC's first event 'down under'. First up, Aaron Simpson (6-0) will face Tom Lawlor (6-1) at UFC Fight Night on January 11 in Fairfax, Va. Then, on February 20, in Sydney, Australia, three Sun Devils will fight in UFC 110 with Cain VelasquezRyan Bader (11-0) will meet Keith Jardine (14-7-1) in a light heavyweight fight while C.B. Dollaway also will fight (his fight details will be announced later). (7-0) and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-5-1) fighting in the main event.
Speaking of Velasquez and other alumni, the Sun Devil wrestling program has been encouraging alums to come out and support the current mat men in their home duals. On January 22, when the Sun Devils play host to Nebraska at 7 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena, the program is inviting all former Sun Devil wrestlers back to WFA for Alumni Night. All alums in attendance will be recognized at 'halftime' of the dual and Velasquez will be on hand after the dual to sign autographs for all fans in attendance. More information for alums will be announced at a later date.
Picking up the pace
Entering the dual with Grand Canyon, the Sun Devils had pinned just three opponents with only one fall coming in the first period (Vicente Varela, 2:30 against UC Davis). In the dual with the Antelopes, the Sun Devils won three matches by fall with two of those pin times coming in under 1:34 of the first period. Chris Drouin was the first to pin an opponent, doing so in 5:36 before Jake Meredith and Erik Nye made short work of their opponents, needing just 1:00 and 1:34, respectively, to secure a six-point win for the team. Although quite fast, both men still have one teammate ahead of them for the honor of fastest fall as Tony Ruiz (149) stuck an opponent at the Fullerton Open two weeks ago in just 44 seconds.
Get connected, stay connected
Are you a social net-worker that wants to get connected to the Sun Devils? Well, we have two ways you can do that! If you are on Twitter, request to follow our program by going to Twitter.com/ASUWrestling for our latest tweets. If you are on Facebook, type Sun Devil Wrestling into the search box and join our fan page, which will have updates and photos throughout the year. And be sure to check back throughout the season to find out about special happenings, including auctions for seats on the ASU bench and other great deals.
Do we know you?
While the social network sites are a great way to get updates on us, another way for future Sun Devils, their coaches, our alumni and all friends of the program can stay in touch with us is by filling out the form on the wrestling page of TheSunDevils.com. On that page, under the headlines, are links to filling out a recruiting questionnaire as well as a questionnaire for our alumni to reconnect and for others to also become part of the program. Make sure you fill out the form to stay up-to-date on the program.
Fans have the unique opportunity to get up close to the action as they can purchase mat side tickets for the entire season for a $75 donation to the program. Fans can also support the program and show their Sun Devil pride by purchasing 'Wrestling with the Devil' T-shirts. Both the ticket and T-shirt forms can be found on the right side of the wrestling page on TheSunDevils.com (look under SUPPORT ASU WRESTLING). Merchandise and autographs with the wrestlers and coaches also will be available on the arena floor following the dual.
One year older
Last year, the Sun Devils had a starting line-up much of the season that consisted of two sophomores, two juniors, three true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen. With eight of the 10 in just their first or second seasons, the Sun Devils had one of the youngest lineups in the nation. This year, however, those young wrestlers enter the season with more experience and a line-up that has just two freshmen, Michael Hawkins (redshirt freshman) and Anthony Pike (true freshman) at 197.
Making his debut
Just the sixth head coach in the 47-year history of the program, former Sun Devil All-American Shawn Charles made his debut on the sideline over the weekend and became the fourth coach in a row to win his first dual with the Sun Devils as Arizona State downed host UC Davis, 39-6. The past three coaches each posted victories in their debuts, including a 30-15 win at CS Bakersfield for Bobby Douglas (1974-75 season), a 23-15 win at Clarion for Lee Roy Smith (1992-93) and a 40-6 home win for Thom Ortiz against CS Fullerton (2001-02). Ted Bredehoft, following one forfeit win and one forfeit loss, led his team to victory with a 38-0 blanking of Cal Poly Pomona (1962-63) to also collect a win in his first dual in which wrestling took place. The only coach that did not register a victory in his first dual was John Wadas, who saw his Sun Devils fall at home to Utah, 23-11, to open the 1971-72 season.
Lifting the lid
Arizona State continued a recent string of success in their first dual of the season as the Sun Devils' defeat of UC Davis have ASU a win in it's fifth season-opening dual (including three in a row against UCD). Overall, the Sun Devils are 35-13-0 all-time in their first dual of the season and 32-16-0 all-time in their first road contest of the season.
Ahead of the Pac(-10)
Since joining the Pac-10 Conference in time for the 1978-79 season, the Sun Devils have built a 28-4-1 all-time record in their first conference dual of the season and hold a mark of 23-5-0 all-time in their first Pac-10 road dual of the year (ASU didn't wrestle a Pac-10 foe on the road five times) following the win at UC Davis. Arizona State is 12-0-1 in its last 13 Pac-10 openers with its last loss coming during the 1996-97 season in a 21-18 set back to CS Bakersfield in Tempe.
Despite posting a 3-4 record against Pac-10 foes last year, the Sun Devils still hold a strong record all-time against schools in the conference and are 2-0 so far this season. Dating back to Arizona State joining the conference for the 1978-79 season, the Sun Devils have been one of 18 different schools that called the Pac-10 home with ASU and seven others still competing (including Boise State, Cal Poly, CS Bakersfield, CS Fullerton, Oregon State, Stanford, UC Davis). As members of the Pac-10, ASU holds an 84-21-1 record. When counting in the other schools that no longer compete, ASU is 125-21-1 against 17 teams during their time as members of the Pac-10.
By the numbers: Pac-10 success
In the 31 years the Sun Devils have competed in the Pac-10 Conference, they have won 16 championship crowns and 100 individual Pac-10 titles. When you include all 47 years the Pac-10 has sponsored a wrestling championship, the Sun Devils trail only Oregon State in both categories as the Beavers have won 17 team titles and 117 individual titles. Also since ASU joined the conference, the Sun Devils and Boise State are the only two schools to have won at least one individual title in each of the 10 current weight classes while ASU is the only school in Pac-10 history to win at least one title in each of the 19 weight classes that have been used since the 1979 championships.
Back for more
Twenty-five wrestlers return to the roster once again this season, including nine of the 10 men that competed at the Pac-10 Championships. The Sun Devils return three Pac-10 finalists in Anthony Robles (125 champion), Chris Drouin (141 runner-up) and Eric Starks (174 runner-up) with both Robles and Drouin coming off an All-American season as the duo placed fourth and sixth, respectively, at the NCAA Championships. Other starters returning include David Prado (133), Vicente Varela (149), Te Edwards (157), Kyle DeBerry (165), Jake Meredith (184) and Imanibom Etukeren (285). Several others that started at various points in the season are also back this season, including Erik Nye (285), Michael SwigartJerrad Trulson (157). (157) and
Hello! My Name is...
The program also has welcomed eight new wrestlers to the fold with six coming to Tempe as true freshmen and two in their sophomore year at Arizona State. The newcomers include Carlos Castro (141, Tucson, Ariz./Amphi HS), Sergio Cortez (165, Moorpark, Calif./Royal HS), Tai FukumotoKalin Goodsite (133, Riverside, Calif./Martin Luther King HS), Orson Lor (165, Tucson, Ariz./Amphi HS), Anthony Pike (197, Tucson, Ariz./Sunnyside HS), Jared Stephens (133, Westland, Mich./Westland John Glenn HS) and Daniel Walker (133, Phoenix, Ariz./Shadow Mountain HS). (149, Seattle, Wash./Lakeside HS),
But wait, there's more
Not only did eight new wrestlers join the program this season, but so did three staff members, including Bryan Snyder (head assistant coach), Raymond Jordan (volunteer coach) and Ben Askren (director of operations).
• Snyder was a four-time All-American (157) for Nebraska and was a two-time national runner-up. A four-time Big XII Champion and three-time NWCA All-Star Classic selection, Snyder went 136-11 with a 69-4 dual record in his days in Lincoln. He was a four-time NWCA All-Academic and Academic All-Big XII selection before earning two degrees from NU in 2002 (Sociology, Communication Studies).
• Jordan was a two-time All-American at Missouri, earning the honors at 174 (2009) and 184 (2008) to become just the fourth Tiger to earn All-America honors at two different weights. A four-time NCAA qualifier and 2007 Big XII Champion (174), Jordan went 123-29 in his career before earning a degree in Personal Finance Planning from MU in 2008.
• Askren, a U.S. Olympian at the 2008 Beijing Games, was a four-time NCAA All-American, four-time finalist and two-time NCAA Champion for Missouri. A two-time Dan Hodge Award winner, the three-time Big XII Champion went 153-7 in his career, won an NCAA record 18-consecutive matches by first-period pin and won 93 matches by pin in his career. Askren was a four-time NWCA All-Academic honoree and graduated from MU in 2007.
With their performances in St. Louis, Robles and Drouin both earned All-America honors to become the 63rd and 64th national honorees in the program's history. Overall, the Sun Devil program has collected 104 total All-America honors with four individual earning four honors in their careers, including current head coach Shawn Charles, the first Sun Devil in program history to do so. Robles and Drouin will now look to become the 31st and 32nd Sun Devils to earn multiple All-America honors in a career, which also includes current assistant coach Brian Stith, who was a two-time honoree.
Home of the Sun Devils
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 170-56-2 all-time inside Wells Fargo Arena (208-92-2 all-time at home). With its 36-3 defeat of Utah Valley on Jan. 10, 2005, ASU recorded its 150th victory at WFA.
Next time out
The Reno Tournament of Champions is the final action of 2009 for the Sun Devils... the team will return to action on January 3, 2010, at Pac-10 rival CS Bakersfield in a 2:00 p.m. PT dual inside the Icardo Center in Bakersfield, Calif. Until then, the entire Sun Devil wrestling program would like to wish everyone the Happiest of Holidays and Happy New Year!