Wrestling heads to UC Davis for Pac-10 Championships
The championship portion of the collegiate season gets underway this weekend for the Arizona State University wrestling team as the Sun Devils (9-7-0, 4-2-0 Pac-10) travel to Davis, Calif., to compete in the 48th Pac-10 Conference Wrestling Championships Feb. 27-28. The two-day tournament, which serves as a qualifying tournament to the NCAA Wrestling Championships, will be hosted by UC Davis at the Pavilion on the Aggie campus.
The Conference's web site (pac-10.org) will have all the information and links fans can use for the championships, including brackets, match results and live streaming video on both days of competition. The live stream is free and can be accessed by clicking on the link provided on the Championship Central page on the wrestling page of the pac-10.org site.
Along with team and individual titles to be earned, wrestlers at the Pac-10 Championships also will be competing for positions in the NCAA Wrestling Championships that will be held in Omaha, Neb., March 18-20. Each individual champion at the Pac-10 event will earn an automatic berth into the national tournament while other individuals also will earn berths into the NCAA event based upon the number of qualifiers allotted to each weight class that are determined by the release of the NCAA rankings later this week. The NCAA also will add at-large selections prior to the national tournament once all qualifying tournaments conclude.
Heading into the 2010 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships, three Sun Devils return to the event after reaching the finals last year with one individual, Anthony Robles, returning as the defending champion. Last year, Robles entered as the top-seeded wrestler at 125 pounds and blasted his way through all three opponents for this first Pac-10 title, winning a 16-0 technical fall, a pin in 3:23 and a 17-1 technical fall in the final. Overall, the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler was on the mat for just 13:47 in his three wins, which is 13 seconds shy of two full matches (seven minutes each match).
Last time: 2009 Pac-10 Championships
All 10 Sun Devils placed in the Top 8 of the 2009 Pac-10 Championships with three reaching the finals as the team scored 101 points to place fifth overall. Boise State won the team title with 172.5 points and were followed in the Top 5 by Oregon State (128), CS Bakersfield (124.5) and UC Davis (102.5). Anthony Robles won the title at 125 pounds while Chris Drouin (141) and Eric Starks (174) both finished as tournament runners-up.
Back for more
Of the 10 Sun Devils that competed in the Pac-10 Championships last year, seven return to represent Arizona State this weekend. Those individuals include Anthony Robles (125), Chris Drouin (141), Vicente Varela (149), Te Edwards (157), Kyle DeBerry (165), Eric Starks (174) and Jake Meredith (184).
Last time in Davis: 2000 tournament
This weekend's tournament will mark the second time the Aggies have played host to the Pac-10 Wrestling Championships with the first coming 10 years ago at the 2000 event. That weekend, the Sun Devils placed second as a team with 125.5 points while Boise State won the crown (133.5) and Oregon State was third (102.0). The Sun Devils had nine individuals place, with all in placing among the Top 5, and had three finalists, including champions Quinn Foster (149) and Steve Blackford (165) and runner-up Michael Kawamura (125).
Did you know?
Heading into the Pac-10 Championships, the Sun Devils have competed in 31 Pac-10 events (1979 was the first year) and have won 100 individual titles while Oregon State has won the second-most in that time span with 58. When you include all 47 years the Pac-10 has hosted a wrestling championship, OSU has the overall lead with 117 all-time individual champions. Also, since the 1979 championships, only ASU and Boise State have had at least one individual champion in each of the 10 currently contested weight classes. When including all of the 19 weight classes that have been used in the tournament since 1979, ASU is the only program that has had at least one champion in every weight class.
Since joining the Pac-10 Conference in time for the 1979 Championships, the Sun Devils have seen 57 different wrestlers collect 100 individual crowns. En route to winning 100 titles, the Sun Devils have had at least one individual champion in each of the previous 31 Pac-10 Championship events they have entered. Last year, Anthony Robles was the lone champion for the Sun Devils as he won the 125 title to take the 100th crown for the program and will look to become just the 36th Sun Devil overall (30th when counting only Pac-10 titles) to win two or more individual titles in a career.
In the final set of rankings released by UC Davis (February 16) heading into the Championships, three Sun Devils are ranked among the Top 3 in their respective weight classes while seven total are among the Top 5. Anthony Robles leads the way as he is ranked No. 1 at 125 while Erik Nye is No. 2 at heavyweight and Vicente Varela is No. 3 at 149. Kyle DeBerry is No. 4 at 165 while No. 5 rankings are held by Ben Ashmore (133), Te Edwards (157) and Jake Meredith (184). Both Chris Drouin (141) and Eric Starks (174) are ranked No. 6 and Michael Hawkins (197) is No. 8. Although the Sun Devils enter the tournament with these rankings, they may not be seeded in those positions for the tournament as the coaches of the Pac-10 will meet and seed each weight class on Thursday.
In his three years of competition for the Sun Devils, Anthony Robles has been nearly unbeatable when facing Pac-10 opponents as he holds a career 30-3 record (includes three wins by forfeit) and has not lost to a Pac-10 foe since falling to Stanford's Tanner Gardner in the final of the 2008 Pac-10 Championships and the NCAA Round of 12. Robles is 8-0 this year against Pac-10 competition with all eight producing bonus points, including two wins by major decision, four by technical fall, one by fall and one by forfeit. A winner of 21 in a row against Pac-10 foes (including 13 last year), Robles has won 12 matches in a row with bonus points. That last time he did not win by major decision or better came on February 8, 2009, when he defeated Jake Gonzalez of Oregon State, 8-3, in Corvallis. Overall, in the 28-of-30 career wins have produced bonus points, including six majors, 11 techs, eight falls and three forfeits.
Keeping it close
While Robles has not been involved in too many close scores against Pac-10 foes in his career, heavyweight Erik Nye is just the opposite. In short time Nye has wrestled for the Sun Devils, he has built an 8-4 career record against the Pac-10 (including 7-3 this year) with 9-of-12 matches ending in decisions of two or one point. Heading in to the weekend, Nye is 4-2 all-time in one-point decisions and is 2-1 in two-point decisions.
Tie for second
Prior to the conference tournament, the Sun Devils concluded their dual season on February 14 by coming from behind to defeat visiting Stanford, 24-13. With that victory, the Sun Devils improved to 9-7 on the year (4-2 Pac-10) and helped head coach Shawn Charles equal the second-best win total for a first-year coach at Arizona State behind only Lee Roy Smith, who's 1992-93 team won 12 duals (12-4-0). Two other coaches won nine duals in their first year with the program, including Ted Bredehoft (1962-63) and Thom Ortiz (2001-02).
Try to tie two?
Should the Sun Devils win the Pac-10 Championship this weekend, two records would be tied. A title this weekend would give Arizona State 17 Pac-10 crowns and tie it with Oregon State, who leads the all-time title total with 17. Bringing home a title this weekend also would make Shawn Charles just the second Sun Devil head coach to win the Pac-10 in his first year with the program. The only other coach to accomplish that feat came in 1993 when Lee Roy Smith lead ASU to the ninth title in program history.
For the second week in a row, the Sun Devils are not among the Top 25 team in the NWCA/USA Today Division I Team Coaches Poll that was released on February 16, but they are one of four teams receiving votes, placing them just outside the Top 25. During the 2009-10 campaign, the Sun Devils faced a total of seven teams that were ranked nationally at the time of the dual and all seven are currently still ranked in the Top 25, including: No. 2 Iowa State, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 14 Wisconsin, No. 15 Oregon State and No. 20 Cal Poly.
Three Sun Devils are currently ranked nationally this week with Anthony Robles leading the way as he remained No. 3 at 125 pounds according to Amateur Wrestling News. The same ranking service has heavyweight Erik Nye at No. 17 and Chris Drouin at No. 17 (141).
The NCAA released its second set of Top 33 rankings on February 12 which continues the process of selecting the 33 student-athletes that will compete in each weight class at the national championship event in March. The rankings are based upon the vote of coaches in each of the qualifying conference/regional tournaments and will be combined with a wrestler's winning percentage and RPI to determine the number of qualifiers to the national tournament from each qualifying tournament (if three are in the Top 33 from the Pac-10 at 125 before the Pac-10 Championships, then the conference will send three to the NCAA Championships at that weight class). In the recent release of the rankings, ASU has five individuals ranked in the Top 33, including No. 4 Anthony Robles (125), No. 27 Ben Ashmore (133), No. 13 Chris Drouin (141), No. 31 Jake Meredith (184) and No. 18 Erik Nye (heavyweight). The final rankings and qualifier allocations will be released by the NCAA on Thursday, February 25 (one day before the Pac-10 Championships begin).
With the recent release of the Top 33 rankings, the NCAA also released the Top 33 RPI in each weight class with five Sun Devils standing among the Top 17 in their respective weight classes, including Anthony Robles, who is second at 125. The four others ranked in the Top 33 RPI include No. 17 Ben Ashmore (133), No. 11 Chris Drouin (141), No. 10 Vicente Varela (149) and No. 16 Erik Nye (heavyweight).
Looking at the RPI lists, it is no wonder why any of those Sun Devils listed as all five of those wrestlers have faced at least seven opponents this year ranked in the Top 20 at the time of their matches. Although Vicente Varela is 0-9 on the year against Top 20 foes, he shot up the rankings as he has lost only once to a non-Top 20 foe (18-10 on the year) and has lost close matches to the then-ranked No. 2, No. 2, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 8 individuals. Both of Anthony Robles' losses (24-2 on the year) are to Top 7 wrestlers while Chris Drouin (17-9) is 6-6 against Top 20 foes this year that also includes a win over the No. 1 wrestler at the time.
With a 4-2-0 record against Pac-10 foes this year, the Sun Devils still hold a strong record all-time against schools in the conference. 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 86-23-1 record. When counting in the other schools that no longer compete, ASU is 127-23-1 against 17 teams during that time.
Trailing 13-0 through four matches on Senior Day, the Arizona State University wrestling team needed a spark and got just that as senior Erik Nye pinned his opponent to give the Sun Devils their first of six-consecutive match wins and a come-from-behind team victory as ASU downed visiting Stanford, 24-13, on February 14 inside Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The dual opened at 165 pounds with the visitors taking an early 4-0 lead as Kyle DeBerry dropped a 10-0 major decision to No. 16 Nick Amuchastegui before Eric Starks lost a 5-2 decision at 174 pounds to Jake Johnson to see SU go ahead, 7-0. That lead grew to 10-0 after the 184 match as Jake Meredith lost a 5-0 decision to No. 13 Zack Giesen before Michael Hawkins dropped an 8-2 decision to Richard Kessler at 197 pounds, putting SU ahead, 13-0. Originally announced as a win by forfeit at heavyweight for the Sun Devils, No. 14 Nye walked out to receive his victory when Kyle Hasson stepped onto the mat for the Cardinal. Once the match began, the Sun Devil senior quickly took his foe down and worked for the turn before getting Hasson on his back and sticking him in 2:32 for six team points and a 13-6 deficit for ASU in the team race. Following a short intermission to recognize the program’s seniors - Nye, Angel Alegre, Imanibom Etukeren, Wes Fimbrez, Jake Hannaford and Tony Ruiz - the Sun Devils looked to continue the momentum and received a shot as No. 3 Anthony Robles won his 11th match in a row by scoring an 11-2 major decision over Ryan Mango. At 133 pounds, Ben Ashmore and Justin Paulsen were tied at 6-6 with 20 seconds remaining and Ashmore holding the riding time advantage. Ashmore rode his opponent until the final horn sounded to earn the bonus point and win the match, 7-6, giving ASU another three team points and tying the team score at 13-13. No. 17 Chris Drouin carried the momentum for the team at 141 pounds and used multiple takedowns to score a 13-3 major decision over Bret Baumbach. With his four team points, the Sun Devils were ahead (17-14) for the first time all day and would not look back from there. Vicente Varela locked up the come-from-behind victory for the Sun Devils at 149 pounds as he scored a 6-5 decision over Tyler Parker, putting the hosts ahead by seven with one match remaining. In that final match, Te Edwards scored several takedowns to win an 11-3 major decision over Michael Kent to add four more team points and give ASU the team win, 24-13.
Copper State showdowns
For the third year in a row, the Sun Devils will wrestled two schools hailing from the state of Arizona, which, prior to the 2007-08 season, had not happened since 1981 when ASU won, 34-12, at Arizona and 43-6 at home against Northern Arizona. The Sun Devils won both meetings this year, including a 39-16 victory over Grand Canyon and 41-4 over Embry-Riddle. The dual with ERAU was to be in Prescott, but moved to Tempe because Nebraska was unable to come to Tempe. Has ASU traveled to face the Eagles, it would have been the program's second road dual against another Arizona school since 1993. In that 16 year span, the Sun Devils wrestled another Arizona school 13 times (13-0), defeating Embry-Riddle 10 times and Grand Canyon three times. Overall, the Sun Devils stand 57-9-0 all-time against teams from the state of Arizona, including 10-0-0 against ERAU and 3-0-0 against GCU, the lone remaining programs in the state.
At the Lone Star Duals (January 16), the Sun Devils won three duals in convincing fashion to not only snap a two-dual losing streak by starting a three-dual winning streak, but also bringing the program's all-time win total to 475. The milestone win came in the final of the three duals as Arizona State won 7-of-10 weight classes to score a 27-15 defeat of Utah Valley. The last time the team recorded a milestone victory was No. 450, a 31-16 defeat of Liberty at the Virginia Duals on January 13, 2007. With the recent win over Embry-Riddle, the Sun Devils are now 476-273-13 all-time as a varsity program.
The 41 points put up by the Sun Devils were the most since a 41-6 win at Grand Canyon on January 3, 2009, and came with seven wins by the Sun Devils that produced bonus points, including five that scored six points each for the team. Arizona State won by fall four times, including Anthony Robles at 125 (1:51), Ben Ashmore at 141 (1:50), Eric Starks at 184 (4:18) and Erik Nye at heavyweight (1:13) while Michael Hawkins won at 197 by forfeit. Vicente Varela and Kyle DeBerry added wins by major decision at 157 and 184, respectively, while Jake Hannaford added three more team points with his decision win at 149.
Taking down the top
At the NWCA National Duals, Chris Drouin did something that no one else had done this year and that was defeat Reese Humphrey of Ohio State, who entered the match at 141 pounds as the top-ranked wrestler in the nation and undefeated at 18-0. Despite pushing the action throughout the match, Drouin’s lone score came in the third period on an escape just as Humphrey had done in the second period. With a distinct advantage in shots and offensive moves, Drouin continued to push, but no scoring took place and the match went into overtime. In the one-minute period, Drouin again stalked Humphrey and eventually blasted through on a double-leg attempt and finished the shot with two points for the takedown and a 3-1 win.
See you next year
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.
Three wins down under
Three former Sun Devil All-Americans traveled to the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia, over the weekend to compete in UFC 110 - Noguiera vs. Velasquez with all three winning their fights. In the undercards, C.B. Dollaway won a unanimous decision (29-28 on all three cards) to defeat Goran Reljic before Ryan Bader stopped Keith Jardine with a third round TKO at 2:10. In the main event, Cain Velasquez continued to show he is one of the top up-and-coming heavyweights as he scored a TKO of former PRIDE and UFC champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at 2:20 in the first round.
More away from the team
Here are some other things happening involving former members of the program:
• Former Sun Devil Kelsey Campbell recently competed at the Ivan Yarygin Memorial International in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, at the end of January and brought home the gold medal at 59kg (130 pounds) in an annual event widely considered one of the toughest in the world. Campbell, a 2009 U.S. National Champion and runner-up at the 2009 World Team Trials, went 4-0 in the freestyle tournament and defeated Natalya Smimova (Russia), 0-1, 1-0, 1-0, in the championship match. For her efforts, she was also named this week's TheMat.com Athlete of the Week.
• Dave Schultz Success: four individuals with ties to the Sun Devil program were in action last weekend at the Dave Schultz Memorial with the team's Director of Operations Ben Askren bringing home the gold as he took the 74kg freestyle title by pinning Trent Paulson in the final. Volunteer coach Raymond Jordan took second at 84kg, falling in the final to Chris Pendelton, 5-2, 3-1 while former letterwinner Danny Felix took third at 55kg. Kelsey Campbell took fourth in the women's 59kg freestyle competition after just having returned from Russia (see previous note).
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.
Next time out
Those Sun Devils that qualify will compete at the NCAA Wrestling Championships on March 18-20 inside the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.