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Wrestling heads to Philly for NCAA Champs

March 15, 2011

Sun Devil Mat Notes & Statistics (pdf)

Six members of the Arizona State University wrestling team automatically qualified for the NCAA Wrestling Championships and will travel to Philadelphia, Pa., this week to compete in the 2011 event that will take place Thursday through Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. All six Sun Devils will be looking to place in the Top 8 of their respective weight classes to earn All-America honors with each weight winner earning the honor of national champion.

• ESPN, ESPNU and will air coverage of the Championships
• The Stakes: National titles, All-America honors on the line this weekend
• Still the One: ASU is only ‘western’ school to win NCAA Division I Wrestling
• Keystone Clashes: 2011 marks third time ASU will compete at NCAAs in Pa.
• Sun Devils automatically qualified six to the NCAA Championships
• How they qualified: two champions, two finalists, two third-place finishers
• Robles earns #1 seed at 125; Jenkins is #4 at 157
• ASU has had a wrestler seeded 139 times; at least one each year since 1976
• ASU has a #1 seed for the 10th time in team history (1st since Larkin, 2003)

ESPN will air live coverage throughout the Championships this week with action being broadcast through three different outlets. On Thursday, will be the lone place to watch the action with ESPNU taking over all day Friday ( will simulcast Friday morning). Saturday, the medal rounds will air on ESPNU while ESPN will provide live coverage at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. Arizona) for the finals that night ( simulcast). Todd Harris, Tim Johnson, Jeff Blatnick and Quint Kessenich will be the on air talent throughout the weekend.

As with every NCAA Championship event, the stakes couldn’t be higher as the NCAA will crown one team champion, 10 individual champions and 80 All-Americans at the end of the tournament. Individuals will have to win five matches (six if you are in a championship pig-tail) to become a champion while those eight individuals at each weight class that place in the Top 8 will become All-Americans.

Since becoming a varsity program in 1962-63, Arizona State has had at least one wrestler represent the program at 46 of the possible 49 NCAA Championships (which includes the 2011 tournament), including the last 37 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 (22), 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 2011 Championships mark the third time ASU has competed in the national event in the state of Pennsylvania with the other two times coming in 1968 and 1999. ASU finished tied for 28th in 1968 at Penn State with Gary Seymour finishing sixth at 190 to become an All-American. In 1999, also at PSU, Eric Larkin (133) and Steve Blackford (165) both finished fourth to become All-Americans.

Arizona State automatically qualified six individuals to the Championships as each of the six finished within the allotment places at the Pac-10 Championships on February 27. Pac-10 champions Anthony Robles (125) and Jake Meredith (184) will be joined by runners-up Bubba Jenkins (157) and Luke Macchiaroli (197) while both Eric Starks (174) and Levi Cooper (285) finished third to earn the final spots at their respective weights. Meredith had to win his weight class as it was the only way to earn an automatic berth at 184.

The NCAA released the tournament brackets and seeds for each weight class last week with Anthony Robles earning the No. 1 spot at 125 pounds and Bubba Jenkins securing the No. 4 position in the 157 bracket.

With his top-seeding at 125 pounds, Robles is the eighth different Sun Devil (10th time overall) to be selected as the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Championships at his weight and is the first to earn that distinction since 2003 when Eric Larkin capped a perfect 36-0 season with his lone title at 149 pounds. Current Sun Devil head coach Shawn Charles also was one of those top seeds in program history, earning that position in 1993 at 126 pounds before finishing second. Overall, when a Sun Devil is the No. 1 seed, he is has won the title six times and placed second, third or fourth one time each.

With Robles and Jenkins both being seeded in their weight classes, Arizona State has earned a Top 12 seed 139 times in program history, dating back to the 1966 Championships where Glenn McMinn Sr. (#4 at 115), Buzz Hayes (#3 at 147) and Charlie Tribble (#3 at 177) all earned seeds in the tournament. The selections this season also give ASU at least on seeded wrestler in the NCAA Championships for 36 years in a row.

Here are some quick notes on each of the six Sun Devils that will compete in the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Philadelphia this weekend, including who their first round match is against:
Anthony Robles (125 pounds)
Notes: Robles is seeded #1 and is 31-0 on the year... won the Pac-10 (third time in a row) to automatically qualify... is 15-0 against NCAA qualifiers this year and 31-2 all-time against those competitors... is 5-0 against Top 12 seeds this year... has won 24 in a row against 2011 qualifiers, including eight in a row by major or tech fall... last loss to an NCAA qualifier was a 3-1 loss for third place at the 2009 NCAA event against Northwestern’s Brandon Precin, the No. 3 seed this year... Robles is 12-6 all-time in the NCAAs with four majors, one tech and one fall among his wins... making his fourth NCAA appearance, earning All-America honors in 2009 (4th) and 2010 (7th).
First Round Match: #1 Robles will face Matthew Snyder (23-9) of Virginia... Robles won, 16-1, when the two met at the Virginia Duals earlier this year (January 8).

Bubba Jenkins (157 pounds)
Notes: Jenkins is seeded #4 and is 16-3 on the year... took second in the Pac-10 to qualify for his fourth NCAA event... is 9-2 all-time against 2011 NCAA qualifiers, including 6-2 this season... only losses this year against a national qualifier came to top-seed Adam Hall (Boise State)... was the 2008 runner-up at 149 pounds for Penn State (lost 14-8 to No. 1 Brent Metcalf of Iowa in the final).
First Round Match: #4 Jenkins will face Alex Medved (29-9) of Gardner Webb... the two have not met.

Eric Starks (174 pounds)
Notes: Starks is unseeded and is 17-9 on the year... finished third to earn final automatic berth in the Pac-10 at 174... making his NCAA debut... is 2-6 all-time against 2011 qualifiers, including 2-4 this season with all four losses coming to Top 12 seeds (#4, #5, #7 and #12)... has placed in three of four tournaments, including winning the Fullerton Open and taking third at the Reno TOC and Pac-10s.
First Round Match: Starks will face #5 Chris Henrich (32-2) of Virginia... Henrich won, 10-2, at the Virginia Duals on January 8, the last match he wrestled until returning at the Pac-10 Championships (sustained an injury after Henrich match).

Jake Meredith (184 pounds)
Notes: Meredith is unseeded and is 22-14 on the year... won the Pac-10 title at 184 for the league’s only auto qualifier at that weight... making his NCAA debut... is 4-16 all-time against qualifiers... is 3-10 against qualifiers this season with all three wins over Brice Arand (Oregon State)... has faced three seeded foes this year (#5, #7, #10)... took second at the Fullerton Open and was eighth at the tough Las Vegas Invitational.
First Round Match: Meredith will face fellow unseeded foe Richard Shafer (10-17) of Iowa State... the two have not met.

Luke Macchiaroli (197 pounds)
Notes: Macchiaroli is 12-11 on the year and unseeded... Pac-10 runner-up by upsetting two foes after not winning a match vs. a Pac-10 foe all year... is 3-10 against national qualifiers, including 0-5 against seeded foes (#2, #4, #11, #12, #12)... this is only the third tournament Macchiaroli has been in this year after not placing in Reno and taking second at the Pac-10s event.
First Round Match: Macchiaroli will face #2 Clayton Foster (22-0) of Oklahoma State... Foster won, 16-3, in a dual held in Tempe on January 2.

Levi Cooper (285 pounds)
Notes: Cooper is unseeded and stands 24-9 on the year... took third in the Pac-10 for final automatic qualifying spot... was 11-15 two years ago at Portland State before program was dropped (redshirted at CS Bakersfield last year)... is 4-8 all-time against national qualifiers... 4-7 against qualifiers this year, including 1-1 against seeded foes (upset #11 seed Tucker Lane, 3-1sv, in dual at Nebraska)... Cooper won the Reno title, was second at Embry-Riddle and third in the Pac-10s (did not place at Las Vegas).
First Round Match: Cooper will face #4 Dominic Russo (30-6) of Rutgers... the two have not met this year or in collegiate competition.

With his title at 125 pounds on February 27 in Corvallis, Ore., Robles became the program’s 14th different wrestler to capture the Pac-10 title three times in his career. The Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships, Robles became the first Sun Devil to win three Pac-10 titles since Patrick Pitsch secured his third at 165 in 2008. Including ASU’s Western Athletic titles, Robles is the 18th different three-time conference champion.

While he successfully captured his third Pac-10 title, Robles now heads to the NCAA event looking to become the 13th Sun Devil to earn three All-America honors in a career with four of those men earning four honors in their career. The last name added to the list came in 2003 when Eric Larkin earned his fourth honor with the national title at 149 pounds. The last three-time All-American on the list came in 2001 when Steve Blackford finished fifth at 165 pounds after taking fourth and third in the years before.

With his title in Reno, Robles not only remained undefeated on the season, but he also collected the 100th victory of his stellar career, moving to 100-23 all-time at Arizona State. Following the Pac-10 Championships, Robles is now 117-23 all-time and ranks tied for 10th in career wins while his 53-6 record in dual matches gives him the 10th-most wins in a career. If Robles posts a 5-0 record this weekend and wins the national title at 125 pounds, he will cap his career with 122 wins and rank eighth on the all-time list at ASU, leaving him one win shy of tying 2003 NCAA Champion Eric Larkin (the last ASU national champion) who is sixth all-time with 123 wins.

So far this year, Robles has won 31 matches with 29 producing bonus points for the team, including 22 wins by technical fall. Excluding his two wins by fall, Robles has outscored his opponents 439-20 in the other 29 matches, having not been scored on in 18 of those wins, and defeating his foes by an average of 14.45 points. On average, Robles is scoring 15.14 points in his matches while allowing just 0.69 points per match to his opponents. Looking back at the previous three seasons, Robles’ margin of victory was 5.21 as a freshman, 7.96 as a sophomore and 8.12 as a junior, more than five points less than this season. And, his 22 wins by technical fall this year are fewer than only one of his teammates’ overall wins (Levi Cooper, 24-9).

Those 22 wins by technical fall stand as the most in the nation. The next closest wrestler in technical fall wins this year is David Taylor (Penn State, 157), who has 14. When looking at the 125 weight class, Robles has won 22 tech falls with the second most belonging to Brad Pataky (Penn State), who has five.

When Bubba Jenkins takes to the mats in Philadelphia, it will mark a pair of returns for the senior. Before coming to Tempe, Jenkins competed for three years at Penn State, which is about four hours away from Philadelphia. Jenkins also will be returning to the national stage after sitting out the 2010 tournament. He was the runner-up at 149 in 2008 and will look to go out on top this year as the No. 4 seed.

In Reno, Eric Starks opened the tournament with a loss by fall (4:06) to Andre Petrosky of North Carolina. Despite the loss, Starks bounced back and ripped off seven wins in a row, including three bonus-point victories, to finish third overall at 174 pounds, his first tournament placement of the season. The closest match he had in the consolations was a three-point decision (10-7) before defeating Nick Purdue of Ohio, 6-1, for third place.

Jake Meredith is starting to get noticed, thanks in large part to his performance at the Las Vegas Invitational, where he finished eighth overall at 184 pounds with a 4-3 record, including an upset victory (3-1) over No. 18 Tommy Spellman of Virginia Tech to reach the medal rounds. Nationally ranked this week, Meredith’s lone losses came to a pair of nationally ranked foes, including one to No. 4 A.J. Kissel of Purdue and twice to No. 15 Luke Reburtus of Navy (a pair of 3-1 decisions).

Heading into this season, heavyweight Levi Cooper was starting to compete for his third Pac-10 team in as many years, starting with Portland State in 2009 (program was cut after the season) and CS Bakersfield last year (redshirted). The last time he took the mat for PSU was at the 2009 Pac-10 Championships where he finished seventh and with an 11-15 overall record. This year, Cooper currently holds a 24-9 record, has upset to national Top 15 wrestlers and is ranked among the Top 20 in four ranking services. After falling in the quarterfinals as the top seed in the Pac-10, Cooper rebounded to win two in a row, finish in third place and automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships.

Although the results don’t count toward their season and career records, both Anthony Robles and Bubba Jenkins dominated at the 45th NWCA All-Star Classic in Fresno, Calif., as the Sun Devil posted the only two wins by something other than a decision. First up was No. 3 Robles, who scored a 20-2 technical fall over No. 4 Zach Sanders (Minnesota) at 125 pounds. Then, Jenkins took to the mat at 157 pounds as the No. 6 Sun Devil upset No. 1 Adam Hall (Boise State) with a 12-4 major decision. Only three other matches contested saw a wrestler win by four or more points at the annual exhibition event.

The NCAA Championships marks the conclusion of the 2010-11 collegiate season. Fans are invited to attend the team’s banquet at Dave and Buster’s at Tempe Marketplace on March 30. More information is available on web site.