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Wrestling opens season with four duals on the road

November 06, 2007

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State University wrestling team (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10) opens its 46th varsity season this weekend as the Sun Devils are set to battle four teams in dual competition, including a pair of Pac-10 Conference opponents on their home mats. The weekend and the season open Friday night in Davis, Calif., with a 7 p.m. PT (8 p.m. Arizona) Pac-10 dual with the UC Davis Aggies (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10). Two days later, the Sun Devils will face three opponents in the Portland State Duals inside the Stott Center on the PSU campus. ASU opens with Pacific of Oregon (0-0) at noon PT before meeting Southern Oregon (0-0) at 2 p.m. PT and concluding the day in another Pac-10 contest, this time meeting the host Vikings (0-0) at 4 p.m. PT.

Arizona State is opening its dual slate on the road this year and will look to improve upon its 13-7-0 record when the first dual of the season of at it's opponents facility. The Sun Devils also will try to end a three-dual skid that has seen them fall to Iowa in 2004 (29-10), Nebraska in 2002 (20-19) and Oklahoma State in 1997 (22-9) when opening the season on the road. The last time ASU opened the season on the road and won was in 1995 with its 22-12 victory at BYU. ASU is 29-16-0 in its first road dual of the season after losing last year's road opener, 39-3 at Iowa. When the first Pac-10 dual of the year is on the road, ASU is 6-1-0 and has won six in a row, including a 43-6 defeat of Portland State in 2005 as part of the PSU Duals. The Sun Devils are 19-5-0 in their first road Pac-10 dual of the season, but lost their last time out, 31-10 at Oregon State last year. The Sun Devils are 161-110-4 all-time on the road.

In Arizona State's first neutral site dual of the season, the Sun Devils hold a 25-9-2 record and have won their last five first neutral site duals in a row, including a 21-19 defeat of Virginia at the Virginia Duals in Hampton, Va. Overall, the Sun Devils are 91-55-7 in neutral site duals in their 45 years as a varsity program.

Arizona State holds a combined all-time record of 14-1-0 against UC Davis, Pacific (Ore.), Southern Oregon and Portland State, its opponents for this weekend. The Sun Devils are 2-0-0 against UCD and won the last meeting, 25-18, in Tempe during the 2005-06 season. ASU is 1-0-0 against both PU and SOU after recording wins at the PSU Duals to open the 2005-06 season. The Sun Devils defeated the Boxers, 38-6, and the Raiders, 28-9, that day. ASU is 10-1-0 all-time against the Vikings and have won 10 in a row dating back to its lone loss (31-10) in Portland during the 1970-71 season. ASU defeated PSU, 38-12, last year in Tempe and is 4-1-0 in duals held in Portland.

Senior Patrick Pitsch (165) enters the season ranked No. 3 in the nation according to the preseason rankings released by the NWCA and InterMat. Because of his high ranking, the two-time defending Pac-10 champion has been invited to compete in the NWCA All-Star Classic presented by the United States Marine Corps on November 19 in Eugene, Ore. The Classic is an exhibition event that features the ranked wrestlers in each weight class and this year will see No. 3 Pitsch facing No. 2 Eric Tannenbaum of Michigan.

Patrick Pitsch is the 27th different Sun Devil to be selected to compete in the Classic and will be the 24th to compete (three were sidelined due to injury). The last time Arizona State was represented in the competition was last year as No. 1 Brian Stith (157) suffered a 2-1 setback to No. 2 Trent Paulson of Iowa State in Dallas. Overall, Sun Devil wrestlers are 10-12-1 all-time in the Classic with the last win coming in 2000 when the late Steve Blackford scored a 13-1 major decision over Kirk White of Boise State at 165 pounds.

Heading into the opening weekend of the season, the Sun Devils are not ranked among the Top 25 teams in the nation according to the USA Today/NWCA/InterMat preseason team rankings (the primary rankings poll), but are one of several teams receiving votes (UC Davis also is receiving votes this week). Individually in the InterMat/NWCA/NWMA rankings, three Sun Devils are listed among the Top 20 in their weight classes, including No. 3 Patrick Pitsch (165), No. 14 Jason Trulson (197) and No. 19 Brent Chriswell (184).

In other preseason team rankings, the Sun Devils are ranked No. 24 according to and W.I.N. Magazine. Individually, Patrick Pitsch (165) is ranked No. 4 by both Rev and W.I.N. and No. 5 by Amateur Wrestling News while Brent Chriswell (184) is No. 14 according to Rev and Jason Trulson (197) is No. 9 according to W.I.N.

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. 1 at 59kg (130 pounds) in the Collegiate Women's Wrestling Association preseason rankings. She also is ranked No. 5 in's U.S. Senior Women's Rankings (May 2007).

A pair of Sun Devil coaches competed at the Hargobind International Open in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, over the weekend with both Erick Larkin and Zach Roberson reaching the finals of their respective weight classes. Roberson won the title at 60kg as he defeated Yogeshwar Dutt of India while Larkin, competing at 66kg, fell to Jared Frayer of Gator WC to place second overall.

Several former Sun Devils are currently ranked among the Top 10 in's U.S. Senior Freestyle Rankings, released November 2, as well as the Senior Greco-Roman Rankings, released May 16. In freestyle, current coaches Zach Roberson and Eric Larkin are ranked, standing third at 60kg (132) and sixth at 66kg (145.5), respectively, while former Sun Devil Danny Felix is currently ranked No. 6 at 55kg (121). In Greco-Roman, current Sun Devil Kenny Lester is ranked No. 9 at 120kg (264.5 pounds) while former Sun Devil Eric Albarracin is third at 55kg (121).

Over the summer, former Sun Devil Jeff Funicello competed in a trio of World Championship events in Antalya, Turkey, and brought home a bronze medal for the USA in beach wrestling at the 2007 FILA World Championships. Funicello also became the first Sun Devil to compete on the world stage in two newer events, including Sombo (seventh place) and grappling (did not place). His bronze medal is just the fourth World medal earned by a Sun Devil, following a gold (1991) and bronze (1995) by Zeke Jones and silver (1989) by Gary Bohay (Canada) in freestyle wrestling.

This weekend, the Sun Devils' starting 10 will feature a youthful upbringing as half of the starters will debut following their redshirt from competition during their true-freshmen campaigns last year. The rookies making their debuts this weekend include Anthony Robles (125), Todd Schavrien (133), Chris Drouin (141), Preston Pruett (149) and Brent Chriswell (184). All but Chriswell redshirted last year with the ASU program while Chriswell redshirted his freshman campaign with at Purdue before transferring to Tempe this summer.

If the Arizona State roster appears to be filled with freshmen, there is a reason: it is. Of the 38 wrestlers on the roster this year, 24 are freshmen, making up 64 percent of the team. Of those 24 rookies, 12 are true freshmen while the other 12 redshirted last year.

Of the five remaining starters to open the season, all five saw action last year. Alex Pavlenko (157) has dropped down from 174 where he was a starter before the return of this year's starter, Rick Renzi (174). Patrick Pitsch (165) and Jason Trulson (197) both were the primary starter at their respective weights while Quinton Pruett (heavyweight) saw limited action at both 197 and heavyweight.

The Sun Devil roster is comprised of 38 student-athletes this year with nearly all four "corner" of the continental United States represented. From Washington in the northwest to California and Arizona in the southwest to Florida in the southeast and as far northeast as New York, the 2007-08 roster has at least one wrestler from 14 different states. Arizona (13) and California (8) lead the way while multiple athletes hail from Washington (3), Nevada (2), New York (2) and Oregon (2). The remaining states represented include Colorado, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Five wrestlers that were in the starting lineup for much of last year are gone from the roster with four of those Sun Devils graduating. John Espinoza (125), Chris Remsen (149), Brian Stith (157) and Greg Gifford (184) all earned their degrees while 133-pound starter Shawn Jones left the University following his freshman year for his Morman mission.

Seniors Patrick Pitsch, Rick Renzi and Jason Trulson and junior Quinton Pruett have been selected as the team's captains for the 2007-08 season.

Starting next week, Sun Devil senior Patrick Pitsch will be posting his weekly blog on the official home of Arizona State athletics, Pitsch will provide a recap of the events from the previous week and will take you behind the scenes of Sun Devil wrestling.

The Maroon team, led my alumni coach C.B. Dollaway, downed Ryan Bader's Gold team, 60-10, on October 27 in the 14-bout wrestle-off at the Riches Wrestling Complex. The Maroon team scored pin-fall victories in six of their 12 wins on the day, including Rick Renzi's pin in 1:24 of the 174 bout. The fastest fall of the day was recorded by newcomer Brent Chriswell at 184 (one bout after Renzi's fast fall) as he picked up the pin in 30 seconds.

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 enter the season with a ranking among the national Top 25 according the USA Today/NWCA/InterMat poll with three others receiving votes. On the list are No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Iowa, No. 19 Oklahoma, No. 23 Pennsylvania and No. 25 Oregon State. The three teams receiving votes included Stanford, CS Fullerton and one of this weekend's foes, UC Davis.

Arizona State will face a pair of teams this year it has never faced in dual competition during its 45 years as a varsity competition. Both of those squads, Army and Grand Canyon, will be part of the January 6 Sun Devil Duals.

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 (Prescott). 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' 7-0-0 record against ERAU, ASU holds an all-time mark of 52-9-0 against teams from the Grand Canyon 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 (ASU was in the WAC prior to the 1979 meet).

The Sun Devils posted an 8-11 overall record and went 5-2 in Pac-10 duals last year before placing fifth at the Pac-10 Championships and tied for 34th at the NCAA Championships. Brian Stith (157), Patrick Pitsch (165) and Greg Gifford (184) each won individual Pac-10 titles to qualify for the NCAA Championships and were joined by Jason Trulson (197) in the national tournament after he placed third in the conference.

The Sun Devils recorded a pair of milestone victories last year, including the 450th win in program history as well as the 200th home victory. On November 12, 2006, the Sun Devils played host to Embry-Riddle and defeated the Eagles, 31-9, to capture the 200th home victory in program history. Two months later, on January 12, the Sun Devils defeated Virginia, 21-19, at the Virginia Duals in Hampton, Va., to record the 450th win in program history.

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 State on January 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 45 years and scored at least one point in 40 of those tournaments, including each of the last 33 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.

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 (20), Iowa State (8), Oklahoma (7), Minnesota (2) and the following schools with one each: Arizona State, Cornell College (of Iowa), Indiana, Michigan State, Northern Iowa and Penn State.

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.

Next weekend, the Sun Devils will return to the road as they head east to Philadelphia, Pa., for the 2007 Keystone Classic on Sunday, November 19. The University of Pennsylvania and their head coach, former Sun Devil All-American Zeke Jones, will play host to the event inside The Palestra with competitors from American, Appalachian State, Boston University, Brown, Rider, VMI, UT-Chattanooga and Merchyhurst scheduled to compete. The following day (November 19), Patrick Pitsch will compete in the NWCA All-Star Classic presented by the United States Marines Corps in Eugene, Ore.