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Sun Devils play host to No. 9 Minnesota

January 21, 2009

For the second dual in a row, the Arizona State University wrestling team (4-4 overall, 3-1 Pac-10) will play host to a Top 12 team, this time as No. 9 Minnesota (9-4) comes to town for a 7 p.m. dual on Friday night inside Wells Fargo Arena. ASU is coming off a 36-7 loss to No. 11 Oklahoma at home on Sunday evening.

Food City will once again sponsor Arizona State wrestling as the grocery chain has donated money to the program and will sponsor the Sun Devils' duals with Minnesota and Cal Poly (January 31). Food City's generosity will not be limited to just the Sun Devils as the company also will be donating funds to the UMOM New Day Center in Phoenix. The Center aids the community's underprivileged children and families.

Former Sun Devil All-American and Arizona State graduate C.B. Dollaway will be on hand before and after the dual with Minnesota on Friday night to sign free autographs and take pictures with fans in attendance. 'The Doberman', as he is known in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, was the runner-up on season seven of The Ultimate Fighter and recently won a fight in the UFC at UFC 92 - The Ultimate 2008.

The Minnesota dual has been selected at this season's 'Gold Game' and all fans are encouraged to wear gold to the dual to support the Sun Devils.

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 41-20-0. 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 3-2 overall at home this year and 2-1 against Pac-10 foes. The Sun Devils' last home dual came on Sunday, a 36-7 setback to No. 11 Oklahoma (January 18).

The Golden Gophers enter the weekend with a 9-4 record and are ranked ninth in the January 20 InterMat/USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll. Head Coach J Robinson's Golden Gophers, members of the Big Ten Conference, are led by a trio of Top 10 wrestlers with all three coming at the lowest weight classes. Those ranked wrestlers include No. 6 Jayson Ness (22-3 at 133 pounds), No. 7 Zach Sanders (25-1 at 125) and No. 9 Mike Thorn (21-8 at 141).

Minnesota holds the lead in the all-time series, 10-8-0, and has won in eight in a row, including a 44-3 decision in Minneapolis on January 2, 2007. The Sun Devils are 6-3-0 all-time in duals held in Tempe, but has lost the last two meetings in the Valley, including a 22-16 setback on December 7, 2004.

Two weight classes could feature a battle of Top 12-ranked opponents with those matches coming at 125 and 141. At 125 pounds, the matchup would pit No. 11 Anthony Robles against UM's No. 7 Zach Sanders while the 141 match would feature No. 6 Chris Drouin vs. UM's No. 9 Mike Thorn.

Those same two battles of ranked opponents would also be rematches from last month as Robles dropped a 7-3 decision to Sanders in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational while Drouin scored a 6-2 decision over Thorn to finish fifth in Las Vegas.

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 36th-most in NCAA Division I. That point total also ranks as the fifth-best among all 125-pound wrestlers in the nation and is third among all Pac-10 wrestlers. His seven wins by technical fall also rank fourth 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 100 matches this year with 67 of those -- or 67% -- producing bonus points for the team. So far this season, the Sun Devils have won 17 major decisions, 10 technical falls, 18 pin falls and 12 forfeits.

InterMat released its Division I national team and individual rankings on January 20 with both Chris Drouin (No. 6 at 141) and Anthony Robles (No. 11 at 125) remaining among the Top 12 nationally in their respective weight classes.

According to this week's USA Today/InterMat/NWCA national team and individual rankings (January 20), the Sun Devils have one dual remaining against a ranked foe and that is No. 9 Minnesota this Friday.

The coaches at CS Fullerton (hosts for the 2009 Pac-10 Championships) have begun releasing Pac-10 individual rankings in December with Anthony Robles (125) and Chris Drouin (141) both holding the top spots in their respective weight classes. The remaining Sun Devils are ranked anywhere between No. 4 and No. 8.

Oklahoma won 8-of-10 matches, including three by fall and three by major decision, to win, 36-7, in a dual held on Sunday in Tempe. No. 6 Chris Drouin scored a 15-6 major decision victory, his team-leading fourth of the season, at 141 pounds while Kyle DeBerry (165) was the other lone victor for the Sun Devils with his 7-3 decision. The team competed hard, including two true freshmen in the heavier weights, but it was not enough to send OU to its first loss of the season (14-0). Eric Starks (174) came close to an upset of No. 9 Jeff James (4-2 decision) while Jake Meredith (184) was tough on top, but unable to score in his close 4-0 loss to No. 19 Pat Flynn.

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). Since their win over ERAU, though, the Sun Devils have dropped two in a row, including 36-15 to CS Bakersfield and 36-7 to No. 11 Oklahoma.

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 EdwardsMichael Hawkins (285) will add depth to a young, but talented roster. (157) and

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.

The Sun Devils will play host to their fourth home dual in a row on January 31 as Pac-10 foe Cal Poly comes to town for a 7 p.m. dual. The dual will once again be sponsored by Food City.