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Wrestling hosts Portland State at Maryvale HS

November 12, 2008

For the second dual in a row, the Arizona State University wrestling team (1-0, 1-0 Pac-10) will play host to a Pac-10 Conference foe and, also for the second dual in a row, will hold that dual at a Valley high school as the Sun Devils and Portland State Vikings (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10) will face one another at 7 p.m. Friday at Maryvale High School in Phoenix. The Sun Devils enter the dual following a 26-12 opening-day defeat of Pac-10 foe UC Davis on Saturday at Mesa High School, the alma mater of current Sun Devil Anthony Robles.

On May 13, 2008, the wrestling program was cut from the ASU Athletic Department due to budget constraints (along with men's tennis and men's swimming). Despite the devastating news, the wrestling community pulled together and on May 23, 2008, a mere 10 days later, the program was revived with the promise of endowment. While the team is back on the mats and ready to open the season this week, the efforts to endow the program continues and needs your help. The wrestling program's goal of becoming the first endowed program in ASU Athletics is in need of financial contributions that will help to ensure the survival of one of the top western teams in the history of the sport. For more information and/or to contribute to the fund, please visit

Many of the wrestling publications/web sites have announced their preseason rankings with a pair of Sun Devil individuals finding their names listed highly at their respective weight classes. In the InterMat/NWCA/NWMA Individual Top 20 rankings (November 12), Anthony Robles is ranked No. 8 at 125 pounds while Chris Drouin is No. 8 at 141. Both men are ranked in the Top 15 of the two other polls, including Robles ranking No. 5 and No. 6 in the Wrestling International Newsmagazine and Amateur Wrestling News rankings, respectively, while Drouin was selected No. 9 and No. 15, respectively.

The Portland State Vikings are opening their season this weekend with a pair of duals in the desert as they will face Arizona State on Friday night before taking on Grand Canyon in Phoenix on Saturday. PSU, under the direction of former Viking wrestler Mike Haluska, went 1-14-0 last year and finished 10th in the Pac-10 Championships.

Arizona State holds an all-time advantage of 11-1-0 against Portland State and has won 11 in a row in the series. The last time the two teams met was last year in Portland as part of the PSU Duals with the Sun Devils scoring 45-6 victory over their conference rivals.

There will be no Top 20 battles this week as no Viking wrestler is nationally ranked.

One probable starter in the ASU line-up could be facing his 'hometown' team Friday night. If Jake Cranford gets the starting nod at 184 pounds, the Clackamas, Ore., native would be facing an opponent from the closest Division I wrestling program to his hometown as Portland State is a mere 17 miles away.

Last weekend, the Sun Devils wrestled on the same mat that Anthony Robles competed on in a prep career that saw him go 129-15 with perfect 48-0 seasons as a junior and senior, two Arizona state titles and one national high school crown. This week, the Sun Devils will compete on a mat at Maryvale that was also used for two years by Henry Cejudo (his freshman and sophomore years) before he moved to the U.S. Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. After training there, Cejudo went on to not only win the U.S. Nationals in 2008, he followed that with the 55kg freestyle Gold Medal at the Beijing Olympics.

In Arizona State's 26-12 defeat of UC Davis last week, five wrestlers made their ASU debuts with two having their hands raised in victory. With the dual opening at 149 pounds, the Sun Devil's first four wrestlers on the mat all were competing in their first collegiate bouts, including Vicente Varela (149), Michael Swigart (157), Kyle DeBerry (165).and Eric Starks (174). All four wrestlers competing were redshirt freshmen, except for Starks, who is a true freshman. The final debut came at heavyweight where junior transfer Erik Nye dropped a close decision in his first Division I bout (went undefeated at Sierra College the last two years).

Rookies Kyle DeBerry (165) and Eric Starks (174) picked up the first wins of their collegiate careers against UC Davis over the weekend with both coming in impressive fashion. DeBerry scored a 4-3 decision over Dustin Noack, who has finished as the Pac-10 runner-up in his career, while Starks scored a 17-9 major decision to get his career off on the right foot.

With the Sun Devils trailing, 6-3, after three bouts, Erick Starks took to the mat and soundly won his match with a major decision, giving the Sun Devils a 7-6 lead; a lead they would not surrender. Arizona State took that team lead as Starks scored a barrage of takedowns, bringing his opponent to the mat eight different times in the 17-9 major decision, the first bonus-point victory of the young season for the Sun Devils.

In the lone Top 15 battle of the dual, No. 8 Anthony Robles remained undefeated on the mat inside Mesa High School's gymnasium as he worked a takedown into a touch-fall of his opponent, No. 11 Marcos Orozco, in the 125-pound bout. Leading 2-0 after the first period, Robles chose neutral and worked for the takedown early in the second and, with nearly one minute remaining in the stanza, stacked his Aggie foe to pick-up the fall at 4:05. The victory is Robles' third in as many tries against Orozco, including a 2-0 mark last year.

Chris Drouin, like Robles, finished as the Pac-10 runner-up last year and one win shy of All-America honors. And, like Robles, Drouin opened his season in impressive fashion as the sophomore, who is ranked No. 7 nationally at 141 pounds, stalked his opponent the entire bout for a 12-3 major decision. Drouin's win was the fourth that produced bonus points for the Sun Devils in the dual with UC Davis (two majors, one fall, one forfeit).

With the win, Sun Devil head coach Thom Ortiz was handed his 75th career coaching victory, improving his seven-plus season total to 75-52-1.

The Sun Devils' 26-12 victory over UC Davis improved the program's all-time record in openers as Arizona State is now 33-14-0 all-time in its first dual of the season. The Sun Devils also improved to 25-4-1 all-time in their first Pac-10 dual of the season.

According to the InterMat rankings for teams (ASU is unranked), the Sun Devils will face five teams currently ranked in the national Top 20 in dual competition while also facing opponents from most of the other Top 25 teams at several individual tournaments during the season, including the Las Vegas Invitational, the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Midlands Championships (all of which are in December). On the schedule this year, the Sun Devils will travel to No. 1 Iowa and No. 2 Iowa State in the same weekend (November 21 and 23) and also will host No. 20 Oklahoma (January 18) and No. 12 Minnesota (January 23). Along with always tough conference duals, the Sun Devils will also play host to Embry-Riddle, who is currently ranked No. 5 in the NAIA rankings.

For the second year in a row, the Sun Devils will wrestle against 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. This year, the Sun Devils will once again face Embry-Riddle (November 30) at home before traveling into Phoenix to face Grand Canyon (January 3), marking the first time ASU has visited an Arizona school since it won, 40-0, at Phoenix College on December 17, 1993.

While it is not too usual for the team to wrestle one of its duals at high school gymnasium, the Sun Devils have done so three times in recent years and will do so twice again this year. The dual with UC Davis at Mesa High School marked the second time the Sun Devils have held a dual at MHS in as many years after falling to Oregon State, 27-14, last year and is the fourth different local school ASU has held a dual. In 2004, the Sun Devils defeated Fresno State, 32-12, at Raymond Kellis HS in Glendale before wrestling at Mesa and Copper Canyon HS (Glendale) last year. ASU also will hold a dual at Maryvale High School in Phoenix this week against Portland State.

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 40-18-0. Ortiz' teams also have been nearly perfect against Pac-10 foes as the Sun Devils stand 24-3-0 against league opponents after going 1-2 last year.

The Sun Devils have competed in the Pac-10 Conference for 30 seasons, starting in the 1978-79 season. During that time, Arizona State has won nearly 87-percent (.869) of its Pac-10 duals, recording a mark of 110-16-1 against 13 different schools. Of those 13 teams, eight are still competing in the Pac-10 Conference with the Sun Devils holding a 77-16-1 record against those teams.

Arizona State holds a 42-9-0 record against Pac-10 foes since Thom Ortiz took over the program eight years ago, including a 24-3-0 home record and an 18-6-0 road mark.

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 VarelaMichael Swigart (157) and Kyle DeBerry (165). (149),

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 or 133 after transferring in from Oklahoma State while true freshmen Te Edwards (157) and Michael Hawkins (285) will add depth to a young, but talented roster.

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.

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. Of the probable 10 starters this week against UC Davis, the Sun Devils will send out four freshmen (one true freshman), three sophomores and three juniors. Three weight classes list another possible starter, and those include two sophomores and one true freshman.

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 current TUF Season 8 light heavyweight contestant Ryan 'Darth' Bader.

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 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).

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.

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.

Since becoming a varsity program in 1962, Arizona State has competed in the NCAA Championships all 46 years and scored at least one point in 41 of those tournaments, including each of the last 34 in a row. During this time, the Sun Devils have had 60 different student-athletes secure a combined total of 102 All-America honors while helping the team place in the Top 10 on 18 occasions and in the Top 5 seven times, including a NCAA title in 1988 and runner-up finishes in both 1989 and 1990.

Arizona State will embark on a tough road trip next weekend as the Sun Devils head to No. 1 Iowa and No. 2 Iowa State. The Sun Devils and top-ranked Hawkeyes will meet at 4 p.m. in Iowa City on Friday before ASU and ISU meet at 6 p.m. in Ames.