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Wrestling heads to Las Vegas Invitational this weekend

November 28, 2007

TEMPE, Ariz. - Coming off their fifth dual victory of the season and their first at home, the Arizona State University wrestling team (5-0, 2-0 Pac-10) will return to the road as the Sun Devils are set to compete in the 26th Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational this Friday and Saturday. The two-day tournament will be held inside the Las Vegas Convention Center and will feature over 130 nationally ranked wrestlers from 48 teams. Teams from all three NCAA divisions, as well the NAIA and NJCAA, will comprise the field that is billed as one of the top events held each year at the collegiate level.

For the 23rd year in a row, the Sun Devils will head to Sin City for the Las Vegas Invitational and will look to finish among the Top 10 for the 22nd time in that span after placing 17th one year ago. Top 5 finishers on 16 occasions, Arizona State has captured the team title three times, winning in 1987, 1989 and 1992, while placing second in 1988 and 1997.

Arizona State scored 46.5 points to finish 17th overall in the 25th Las Vegas Invitational with two Sun Devils placing among the Top 8. Brian Stith went 5-0 during the tournament as the top-seed at 157 pounds and scored a 2-1 decision over Brandon Becker of Indiana in the final for his first Las Vegas title. At 165 pounds, Patrick Pitsch posted a 4-2 record with his final victory, a 6-4 defeat of Max Dean of Indiana, securing fifth place for Pitsch.

Of the 48 teams scheduled to compete at the Las Vegas Invitational this weekend, 22 of which are ranked in their respective national team rankings. According the November 27 USA Today/NWCA/InterMat rankings, the Las Vegas Invitational will feature 13 of the Top 25 Division I teams, along with two more that are receiving votes, including three teams in the Top 10 (No. 7 Missouri, No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 10 Michigan). The tournament will also feature three teams ranked in Division II (No. 1 Nebraska-Kearney, No. 4 Adams State and No. 8 Western State), four teams ranked in the NAIA (No. 5 Campbellsville, No. 5 Dickinson State and No. 5 Embry-Riddle and No. 9 Missouri Valley) and two teams ranked in the NJCAA (No. 7 Western Wyoming and No. 13 North Idaho).

With the large number of ranked teams, it is no wonder there are over 130 ranked individuals that could be competing in the tournament. With all divisions accounted for, 15 individuals are ranked at 165, 184 and 197 with each of those weights having one Sun Devil in each. Looking at just NCAA Division I, five weight classes have 10 ranked wrestlers that could compete this weekend. Five different top-ranked wrestlers could compete in the tournament with Top 3 at both 157 and 174 possibly set to wrestle in Las Vegas this weekend.

With its 35-9 defeat of Embry-Riddle Sunday, Arizona State improved to 29-17-0 in its first home dual of the season.

With the addition of wrestling to the athletic department at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, the Sun Devils now have a second competitor hailing from the state of Arizona, joining Embry-Riddle. With duals against both ERAU and GCU this year, the Sun Devils will face two instate rivals in the same season for the first time since 1981 when Arizona and Northern Arizona each had teams. On February 18, 1981, the Sun Devils won, 34-12, at Arizona in what would be the final meeting in the series that ASU won, 28-8-0. Two days later, ASU hosted NAU and won, 43-6, inside Wells Fargo Arena. The Lumberjacks' program was discontinued in 1988 with ASU leading the all-time series, 17-1-0. Including the Sun Devils' 8-0-0 record against ERAU (after Sunday's 35-9 win), ASU holds an all-time mark of 53-9-0 against teams from the Grand Canyon State.

The Sun Devils are now 5-0 overall in duals this season, marking just the ninth time in the programs 46 years that the team has opened the season with a 5-0 record. The 5-0 opening is the best for Arizona State under Thom Ortiz, surpassing the 4-1 mark the team had in 2001-02, his first season with the program. The last time ASU opened a year with a 5-0 or better record came during the 1992-93 season when it opened with six wins in a row before suffering its first loss of the season.

Patrick Pitsch made his senior season debut Sunday against Embry-Riddle and put on a show for the home fans as the third-ranked Sun Devil took the top-ranked wrestler in the NAIA, Hayden Harrison. After some strong shot and scrambles, Pitsch scored a takedown in the third period and put Harrison on his back for the fall at 6:24 for his first victory of the year after not competing at the Keystone Classic because of the All-Star Classic.

Six Sun Devils competed in the first home bouts of their careers with five winning their matches against Embry-Riddle. Redshirt freshmen Anthony Robles (125),Todd Schavrien (133), Chris Drouin (141), Jerrad Trulson (149) and Imanibom Etukeren (285) each won their debuts while Jalonn Wilkins (157) dropped a close decision.

The early season success of the Sun Devils has been in large part due to the individual success the team's freshmen have enjoyed. So far in 2007, 12 different rookies have competed in at least one bout for the Sun Devils with the collective group posting a 35-21 record. Of those 35 victories, 16 have produced bonus points for the team, including four major decisions, four technical falls, five falls and three wins by forfeit.

In the dual with Embry-Riddle, Jason Trulson opened the dual with a pin of Justin Masotti in 3:32 of the 197 bout before younger brother Jerrad Trulson won a 6-4 decision at 149 pounds over Trace Billet. The victories by the brothers marked the first time since the 2002-03 season that a pair of brothers competed in the same dual with each winning a bout. The last time it happened was on January 5, 2003, when Chris Smith pinned his opponent from ERAU at 5:29 of the 141 bout and was followed by brother Mike Smith winning a 7-1 decision at 157. One month earlier, on December 5, 2002, brothers Evan Larkin and Eric Larkin each won forfeits against Portland State at 141 and 149, respectively.

Over the past several weeks, the Sun Devil wrestling team has been getting out in the community more and working with local children. On November 22, the day before Thanksgiving, the Sun Devils visited the Crossroad Youth Intervention Center in Phoenix where they interacted with the children while handing out dinner and dessert. On November 27, the wrestlers headed over to the UMOM New Day Center in Phoenix where they read to numerous children from the community.

Despite taking second place in their respective weight classes, a pair of Sun Devils each recorded upset victories in the semifinal round at the Keystone Classic (November 18). Anthony Robles picked up the biggest win of the tournament as the unranked freshman scored an 18-14 decision over No. 8 Javier Maldanado of UT Chattanooga at 125 pounds. The second upset of the tournament came at 184 pounds where No. 19 Brent Chriswell upset Rider's No. 13 Doug Umbehauer, 4-2.

With an upset victory and second-place showing in his first tournament, Anthony Robles earned his first collegiate national ranking as three publications placed him among the Top 20. In the NWCA/InterMat rankings, Robles was ranked No. 20 at 125 pounds while standing No. 16 in both the Amateur Wrestling News and W.I.N. polls. This week, Robles remained No. 16 in the two polls while moving up to No. 19 in the InterMat rankings.

Senior Patrick Pitsch, ranked No. 3 in the NWCA/InterMat individual rankings at 165 pounds, dropped a 4-0 decision to No. 2 Eric Tannenbaum of Michigan Monday evening at the NWCA All-Star Classic presented by the United States Marine Corps in Eugene, Ore. Tannenbaum scored on an escape and takedown in the second period and then a riding point in the third for the victory in the exhibition event held on the Oregon campus.

With his loss, Arizona State is now 10-13-1 all-time in the All-Star Classic. Pitsch was the 27th different Sun Devil to compete in the event.

Senior Patrick Pitsch will blog each week throughout the season, offering fans a behind the scenes look at Sun Devil wrestling. To access The Inside Trip, visit the wrestling page on

A week after eight Sun Devils competed for the first time in the college ranks, four more added their names to the list with two, Orlando Jimenez (141) andImanibom Etukeren (285), each winning at least once. While Etukeren went 1-2 and did not place at the Keystone Classic, Jimenez turned in a strong performance with a 4-2 record and fifth-place finish. After falling in his first bout, Jimenez won three in a rod, including a pin in 1:40 over the sixth-seeded wrestler in the event, Mark Savino of Brown. After falling to the eventual third-place finisher and second-seeded Kyle Borshoff of American, Jimenez capped his tournament run with a 13-2 major decision victory over Fred Rogers of Rider. So far this year, 11 newcomers have competed for ASU and carry a combined 29-18 record with 13 bonus points victories (four majors, three tech falls and six falls).

The Sun Devils have combined to win 63 bouts this year with 46 percent of those victories producing bonus points. Of the 29 bonus point victories, Arizona State has won 14 by fall (including three against Embry-Riddle last weekend), seven by major decision, four by technical fall and added five forfeit victories.

Of those 14 wins by pin-fall, only six have come outside of the first period this year. Brent Chriswell (184) has recorded the fastest fall of the year as he pinned UC Davis' Jon Clark in just 33 seconds of his first match with the Sun Devils. At the Keystone Classic, Arizona State recorded four wins by fall, including three in the first two minutes of a bout. Last weekend, all three of ASU's falls came outside the first, including two in the second and one in the third.

Wrestlers are used to working hard in their seven-minute bouts, but three Sun Devils put in a little extra work over the weekend at the Keystone Classic with each competing in a lengthy bout. Imanibom Etukeren had the longest bout of the trio as he secured his first college win, 7-6, in the sixth sudden victory session, which roughly made the match last 18 minutes. Jake Cranford won his opening bout of the event in the fourth sudden victory period, 8-6, making his bout about 14 minutes. Kenny Lester picked up his win with a 3-1 decision in the third tie-breaker session, or about at 12 minutes.

While the team was in Philadelphia for the Keystone Classic, Kelsey Campbell was competing at the New York Athletic Club's Holiday Invitational, where she placed third in the 59kg (130 pounds) weight class. Campbell went 2-1 in the event, falling only to the eventual tournament runner-up in a 1-0, 0-1, 1-0 decision.

Despite its 5-0 start, the Sun Devils are not receiving votes in the national rankings this week, according to the USA Today/NWCA/InterMat Top 25 rankings (November 27). Individually in the InterMat/NWCA/NWMA rankings, four Sun Devils are listed among the Top 20 in their respective weight classes, including No. 3 Patrick Pitsch (165), No. 14 Jason Trulson (197), No. 19 Brent Chriswell (184) and No. 19 Anthony Robles (125).

The preseason rankings for the Pac-10 Conference were released by tournament host Oregon on November 12 and five Sun Devils have been selected to Top 5 placements. Patrick Pitsch, the two-time defending 165-pound champion, is No. 1 with Jason Trulson ranked No. 2 at 197 after finishing third last year. Rick Renzi (174) and Quinton Pruett (285) are both ranked No. 4 while Todd Schavrien (133) is No. 5. The next rankings are due out December 4.

This year, the Sun Devils have a first on their roster as Kelsey Campbell is the first woman to join the Arizona State program. A transfer from Pacific (Ore.), Campbell comes to Tempe after competing for the Boxers during the 2005-06 season and then representing the ASU Women's Club Team last year. During the 2006-07 season, Campbell competed in her first National Collegiate Women's Wrestling Championships and won the 63kg (138.5) national title as an unseeded competitor. In the event, she knocked off the No. 4, No. 1 and then No. 2 seeds on her way to her first tournament title.

Kelsey Campbell is currently ranked on a pair of national women's lists, including No. 2 at 59kg (130 pounds) in the Collegiate Women's Wrestling Association rankings. She also is ranked No. 5 in's U.S. Senior Women's Rankings (May 2007).

Seniors Patrick PitschRick Renzi and Jason Trulson and junior Quinton Pruett have been selected as the team's captains for the year.

The 2007-08 season will see the Sun Devils compete in 17 duals, including nine home duals, and five tournaments. In the regular season, Arizona State will send competitors to the Keystone Classic (Philadelphia), Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational and Reno Tournament of Champions, all of which come before the end of the December. Following 12 duals after the turn of the New Year, the Sun Devils will head to Eugene, Ore., for the 2007 Pac-10 Championships (March 2-3) and conclude the season at the 2007 NCAA Wrestling Championships (March 20-22).

Of those 17 duals on the Sun Devils' schedule this season, five teams are ranked among the national Top 25 according the November 12 USA Today/NWCA/InterMat poll. On the list are No. 2 Iowa State, No. 4 Iowa, No. 21 Oklahoma, No. 23 Penn and No. 24 Oregon State.

Senior Patrick Pitsch is the team's lone returning Pac-10 champion, having won the crown at 165 pounds each of the past two seasons. Last year, the No. 2 seed in the tournament opened the event with an 11-2 major over Evan Barbre (Cal Poly) before downing No. 3-seed Brian Perry (Stanford), 7-4. Pitsch closed out the tournament with a close 3-2 decision over top-seeded Dustin Noack (UC Davis) to defend his title. In 2006, Pitsch was seeded third and knocked off No. 6 Risto Marttinen (CS Fullerton), 11-3, No. 2 Ray Blake (Stanford), 4-1, and No. 5 Brian Busby (CS Bakersfield), 7-5, for his first crown. Pitsch will look to become only the 17th Sun Devil to win three conference crowns in a career and the 14th Sun Devil to win three Pac-10 titles in a career.

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 164-54-2 all-time inside Wells Fargo Arena (202-88-2 all-time at home). With its 36-3 defeat of Utah Valley on Jan. 10, 2005, ASU recorded its 150th victory at WFA.

ASU closes out 2007 with its annual trip to the Reno Tournament of Champions in Reno, Nev., on December 19. Following that, ASU plays host to the Sun Devil Duals on January 6, 2008.