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Robles, Drouin headed to NCAA wrestling tournament

March 17, 2009

A pair of highly ranked members of the Arizona State University wrestling team are off to St. Louis this weekend where they will compete against the best in the nation at the 79th NCAA Wrestling Championships, hosted by the NCAA and the University of Missouri. The tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday, will take place inside the Scottrade Center. This will be the second year in a row that the Scottrade Center has played host to the national event.

The ESPN family of networks will offer live television coverage of the championships this weekend with much of the action hitting the air waves on Friday and Saturday. While will offer live coverage throughout both days, ESPNU will air action all day on Friday, as well as the early session on Saturday. ESPN2 will also carry Friday night's action live while the flagship ESPN will provide live coverage of the finals on Saturday night.

With a new qualifying system in place for the 2009 tournament, only two Sun Devils qualified for the national event and those entries come from Anthony Robles at 125 pounds and Chris Drouin at 141 pounds. Both wrestlers are redshirt sophomores and will be making their second-consecutive appearances in the national tournament.

Both Robles and Drouin received a national Top 12 seeding in their respective weight classes this season with Drouin earning the No. 7 position and Robles the No. 12 spot. Neither Sun Devil was seeded last year and both advanced to the Round of 12, falling one victory short of placing in the Top 8 and earning All-America honors.

The pairings for the first round of competition was released on Monday with both Sun Devils being paired against an opponent he has not faced in college. In the opening matches, Robles (25-6) will face Nikko Triggas (20-15) of Ohio State, a non-placer out of the Big Ten Conference, while Drouin (26-6) will take on William Simpson (18-6) of Army, the fourth-place finisher out of the EIWA. Both of the Sun Devils' opponents earned at-large selections into the NCAA field.

Entering the tournament this weekend, Chris Drouin holds a 10-10 all-time collegiate record against the remaining 32 wrestlers in the field at 141 pounds and stands 9-5 against those qualifiers this season. Anthony Robles holds a career record of 13-10 against the remaining 32 qualifiers to the tournament at 125 pounds and is 6-5 against those foes this season.

If the seedings in the first round play out, both Sun Devils would face a familiar foe in their second-round match. At 125 pounds, Robles would meet up with fifth-seeded Charlie Falck of Iowa, who defeated Robles, 2-1, earlier this season in a dual at Iowa. At 141 pounds, Drouin would take on 10th-seeded Michael Thorn of Minnesota who Drouin has defeated twice this season, including a 6-2 decision at the Las Vegas Invitational and an 11-7 decision in a home dual.

Robles and Drouin earned automatic berths from the Pac-10 Conference based upon their finishes at the Pac-10 Wrestling Championships at CS Fullerton on March 1-2. Robles, the top-seed at 125 pounds, went 3-0 to claim his first Pac-10 title and was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament after winning two technical falls and one pin. Drouin, the top-seed at 141 pounds, went 2-1 and finished second after dropping a close 9-8 decision to second-seeded Elijah Nacita of CS Bakersfield in the final.

The stakes at the NCAA Wrestling Championships include national titles and All-America honors for the elite finishers in each of the 10 contested weight classes. The Top 8 placers will earn the distinction of All-Americans while the winner will be crowned the national champion. Team titles and Top 4 trophy finishes are also on the line this weekend.

Arizona State sent five wrestlers to the national tournament one year ago and collected 15.5 points, which was good enough to finish in a tie for 28th-place in the overall team standings. Four of the five Sun Devils in the tournament advanced to the Round of 12, just one victory shy of placing among the Top 8 and earning All-America honors. Those individuals included Anthony Robles (125), Chris Drouin (141), Patrick PitschJason Trulson (197). (165) and

Anthony Robles advanced to the NCAA Championships in 2008 as a redshirt freshman and collected a 4-2 record and falling out of the tournament in the Round of 12. Robles opened the tournament with a 12-5 decision over Brandon Kinney (Columbia) before dropping a 4-2 decision to eventual champion and top-seeded Angel Escobedo (Indiana). Robles rebounded with three wins in a row, including one major decision (17-7 over Oklahoma's Joey Fio) and an injury default victory, before falling to fourth-seeded Tanner Gardner (Stanford), 5-3, in sudden victory overtime.

Similar to Robles, Chris Drouin also advanced to the NCAA Championships in 2008 as a redshirt freshman where he went 3-2 overall and fell in the Round of 12. Drouin opened with a 3-0 loss to ninth-seeded Nick Gallick (Iowa State) before rebounding for three wins in a row, including upsets of eighth-seeded Dan LeClere (Iowa), 13-7, and seventh-seeded Kyle Ruschell (Wisconsin), 7-5, before taking down Jacob Kriegbaum (Air Force), 3-1. Drouin was bounced from the tournament by fifth-seeded Manuel Rivera (Minnesota), 12-1.

Anthony Robles went 25-6 on the season with an 8-3 record in duals and a 17-3 mark in tournament action while winning titles at the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Pac-10 Championships. Robles, who was ranked among the Top 12 nationally all season, also placed third at the Las Vegas Invitational and seventh at the prestigious Midlands tournament. Robles led the Sun Devils in several categories throughout the season, including wins by technical fall with 10, wins by fall with nine and tournament victories with 17. Robles also recorded the fastest fall of the season with a win in 32 seconds and is the only Sun Devil that placed in all four tournaments he entered during the season.

Robles' 17-1 technical fall victory in the Pac-10 Championships final gave the sophomore two milestones as he collected his first conference crown while also recording the 50th win of his collegiate career. He currently stands 50-17 all-time in his two seasons with ASU.

Chris Drouin posted a 26-6 overall record on the year and went 12-1 in duals and 14-5 in tournament action. His dual wins easily lead the team (eight was second) while his 14 wins in tournaments were the second-best on the squad. Drouin placed in three of the four tournaments he entered, including winning the Reno Tournament of Championships, taking second in the Pac-10 Championships and placing fifth at the Las Vegas Invitational. Drouin not only led the team with dual victories on the year, he also recorded the most wins by major decision with eight and was one of two Sun Devils to post a perfect 7-0 dual record against Pac-10 foes.

Despite dropping his final two matches of the Midlands event, the final tournament in the year 2008, Drouin came back at the start of the new year with a great deal of success as he won a team-high 10 matches in a row, including five major decisions, one technical fall and one fall. That streak was ended in the Pac-10 final with a 9-8 loss to Elijah Nacita of CS Bakersfield.

Both Sun Devils in the NCAA event lost six times on the year with nearly all of those wrestlers to defeat them earning national seeds this weekend. At 125, four of the five wrestlers to defeat Robles are ranked ahead of him, including No. 5 Charlie Falck (Iowa), No. 7 Joey Fio (Oklahoma), No. 9 Tyler Clark (Iowa State) and No. 11 Zachary Sanders (Minnesota) with only fellow Sun Devil Ben Ashmore not in the tournament. At 141, three of the five wrestlers to defeat Drouin are seeded with only two ahead of him. Those seeded include No. 4 Alex Tsirtsis (Iowa), No. 6 Nick Gallick (Iowa State) and No. 9 Corey Jantzen (Harvard). The two that are not seeded include Chris Diaz (Virginia Tech) and Elijah Nacita (CS Bakersfield).

Since becoming a varsity program in 1962-63, Arizona State has had at least one wrestler represent the program at 44 of the possible 47 NCAA Championships (which includes the 2009 tournament), including the last 35 in a row. The Sun Devils have placed among the Top 10 nationally 18 times and earned five trophy finishes (Top 4), including the 1988 NCAA Championship crown and runner-up finishes in both 1989 and 1990.

Since 1928, the NCAA has conducted a wrestling championship with 11 different schools claiming the crown. In 1988, Arizona State won the title and still is the only Western team to have done so in the history of the event. Based on geographical location, when removing ASU from the list, the most western team to win a title would be Oklahoma, who has won seven. The schools that have won crowns include Oklahoma State (33), Iowa (21), Iowa State (eight), Oklahoma (seven), Minnesota (three) and the following schools with one each: Arizona State, Cornell College (Iowa), Indiana, Michigan State, Northern Iowa and Penn State.

The 2009 NCAA Championships will mark the fifth time St. Louis has played host to the event, including the second year in a row. When wrestling under the arch, the Sun Devils have placed among the Top 25 twice, including a 13th-place showing at the 2005 tournament and tie for 16th at the 2000 event. In the most recent tournament held in St. Louis (2008), the Sun Devils scored 15.5 points and tied for 28th overall in the team standings.

One of the top honors a wrestler can receive each year is All-America status and that is achieved by placing in the Top 8 at the NCAA Championships. In the history of the program, 62 Sun Devils have combined to collect 102 All-America honors, including four Sun Devils that ended their careers with four All-America honors. Eight others were three-time honorees, including current Head Coach Thom Ortiz, while 18 others collected two All-America honors in their careers, including current assistant coach Brian Stith.

The Sun Devils scored 101.0 points and placed fifth overall as a team at the 2009 Pac-10 Championships on March 1-2 inside Titan Gym on the CS Fullerton campus. All 10 Sun Devils placed among the Top 8 in the tournament and were led by Anthony Robles, who won his first Pac-10 crown at 125 pounds and was selected by the conference coaches as the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament. Chris Drouin (141) and Eric Starks (174) both advanced to the finals of their respective weight classes and placed second overall.

The Pac-10 Championships line-up for the Sun Devils was certainly a young one as only Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141) were making their second appearance in the tournament while the other eight Sun Devils were making their Pac-10 debuts. Of those eight newcomers to the event, which included one redshirt sophomore and one redshirt junior, six were truly rookies as three competed as true freshmen and three others as redshirt freshmen. The three true freshmen all placed in the Top 6, including runner-up Eric Starks (174), fifth-place Te Edwards (157) and sixth-place Jake Meredith (184). The redshirt freshmen included Kyle DeBerry (fifth at 165), Vicente Varela (seventh at 149) and David Prado (eighth at 133).

Robles' victory in the finals of the Pac-10 Championships gave the Sun Devil program its 100th individual Pac-10 title and the 128th conference crown overall. The Sun Devils, once members of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), won 28 titles before making the move to the Pac-10 Conference.

With Robles' crown this year, the Sun Devils have now won at least one individual title in each of the past 35 seasons, dating back to Bruce Young's WAC crown at 177 pounds in 1975. ASU also now has had at least one champion in each of the past 31 Pac-10 Championships entered.

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, 10 technical falls and nine falls, totaling 20 of his 25 victories. With 80.0% of his wins producing bonus points this year, he is just ahead of 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 50 matches with 36 earning bonus points (72.0%), including eight majors, 15 technical falls and 13 pins. His 20 bonus point wins this year also tie him for the third-most in a season and he would need eight more to tie for second on the all-time list.

With two more wins by technical fall at the Pac-10 Championships, Anthony Robles took over the top position for technical fall victories in a season with 10 and breaking a tie with Casey Strand (1998-99) who had eight. With 15 technical fall victories in his career, Robles now stands third all-time (dating back to the 1994-95 season when complete statistics were recorded) and needs two wins by technical fall to tie Nick Frost (2000-04) for the all-time lead with 17.

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 No. 2 seed at the tournament, Starks' last two wins before the Pac-10 tournament 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. After that, 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. At the Pac-10 Championships, Starks added two more wins to bring his season record to 10-2 against the Pac-10 foes he faced.

Sun Devils have won 140 matches this year with 79 of those producing bonus points for the team. So far this season, the Sun Devils have won 26 majors, 14 technical falls, 24 pin falls and 15 forfeits/injury defaults.

Kyle DeBerry won by fall in 2:51 to place fifth at the Pac-10 Championships, giving the Sun Devils their 14th first-round pin of the year and the 24th win by fall of the season. 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.

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.

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

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 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. The UFC also recently announced that Cain Velasquez will face Heath Herring at UFC 99 in Germany on June 13 with the main event featuring Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva.

Over the past several seasons, the Sun Devil wrestling program has been active in the community and lending a hand where they can. Last year, the wrestlers visited with children and handed out dinner and dessert to those in attendance the day before Thanksgiving and also read to numerous children at the UMOM New Day Center in Phoenix one week later, just two name two events. This year, the Sun Devils participated in the Wilson Neighborhood Cleanup (helping the neighborhood remove debris around the elementary school in Phoenix) while also talking to children at Lomas Elementary School as part of Sparky's Tour (teaching children about the importance of education).

The NCAA Championships marks the final event of the collegiate season for the Sun Devils.