Dec. 1, 2005
Greetings Sun Devils! I am going to try something new this season. I know the year is already underway, so I'll start with a little recap and, for you die-hard "Wrestling with the Devil" fans, I will try to give some insight into our program. Not just the normal knowledge, but the behind-the-scenes, back stage pass information you want to know. I envision keeping a weekly journal for you to read, informing you of upcoming events, past events and maybe little funny stories. I may even include some funny stories from past seasons!
Do you have a question for Coach Simpson or one of the wrestlers? Send him an email here and your question and response may end up in one of the weekly installments of the Wrestling Journal! Also, did you miss one of the earlier entries this season? Click here for all the entries!
11/30/05 (heading into Las Vegas Invitational weekend)
We are into our first phase of wrestling thus far. Pre-season training began for us in late August. It is pretty safe to say, and any former Sun Devil will agree, track and stadium workouts in August and September are nothing less that completely brutal. Mix the intense track workout with 100+ degree heat and you have pain in the making! We had the guys on the track in the mornings for one and one-half hours. We would begin with some sort of distance running that would last the entire 30 minutes. From there, we move into partner conditioning drills. This includes hand fighting, buddy push-ups, buddy pull-ups and anything else Sergeant Ortiz can come up with to make you want to puke. This lasts for another 30 minutes. Now, if you have not tossed up last nights dinner yet (and several have!), you will surely feel a little nauseous for the last stage of the workout. Yes, it is stadium time! For the last 30 minutes, we have the guys running full speed up Sun Angel Stadium anywhere between 5 to 10 times. From that, we mix in buddy carries to the top and/or wheel barrow carries to the top. Throw in some feet together hops and some bear crawls and you have yourself a good time!
(I'll never forget the first time Ortiz put the team through this workout during his first season. Former wrestler Ron Renzi can attest to this: 17 guys threw up before training was over. I think that is a record!)
Well, pre-season was finally over and we could take to the mats. We had some struggles early on trying to get into the new Riches Family Wrestling Facility, but it was all taken care of and we moved into our new home! Anyone who knew where we used to train can fully appreciate the new state of the art wrestling room. We can actually wrestle a full match without running into a pillar in the middle of the room! I will miss the old room. I think back to the history of that old room. We had some greats come through there. This sounds cliché, but if only those walls could talk, they'd have some great stories. Anyway, back to the new room. We felt a new sense of freedom and excitement when we officially began training. Guys were wrestling with a great sense of confidence and enthusiasm. Seniors like Ryan Bader and Jeremy Mendoza who have been with us from their days as freshmen, really can appreciate it like Eric Larkin, Thom Ortiz and myself. We just need to remind these young kids what we had to go through. Make sure they know their history. If you have yet to see the new building, stop in and take a look. You are always welcome.
I know this is getting long. I promise the next entries will not be so lengthy, but I want to get you caught up on the start of what we feel will be another successful season of Sun Devil Wrestling!
So, where was I? Okay, we are into the season. October flew by and then came November. It is time to hit the road and see what we are made of. Now, I am not one for excuses, but we may not be up to full speed until January. We have had some unfortunate happenings and must sit some of our starters. But, let's stay positive. We traveled to Portland State for three duals and faced Pacific University, Southern Oregon and Portland State. We had a tough time gauging our performance, due to the fact that we were competing against lesser caliber teams. Our guys looked okay, but we weren't sure how they'd match up against the top individuals in the country. We had reason to be concerned. Lehigh was next on our schedule.
After nearly eight hours of travel, we competed in Lehigh the next day in a rowdy Pennsylvania wrestling town. It looked like fun. The fans packed the arena and brought their wrestling knowledge with them. It is no wonder teams back East do so well. The tradition in those states goes back for generations. We ended up winning only two matches that evening. Two former Sun Devil wrestlers attended the meet; All-American (1997, 158lbs.) Dr. Matt Suter and Adam Friedman ('93-'98) came to show their support. Both live in the area and were excited to see the Sun Devils. Too bad we didn't perform overly well. Needless to say, we lost some close bouts, two overtime decisions and a last second takedown! We were close to splitting five matches to five matches, but you've got to win the close ones! There is no excuse to lose in OT or in the last seconds of a match. I must say I was impressed with sophomore Jason Trulson. He is a walk-on from Fountain Hills, Ariz., who is in his third year here. He battled a tough seasoned kid to an overtime match and really had it won up until the end of the third period when he was hit with two stalling calls in the last 30 seconds (questionable?) but still should have not let it happen. Jason is one of those kids who gives you everything he has every time he competes. He is currently filling in for senior C.B. Dollaway, but don't tell him that!
We then traveled up the road to East Stroudsburg, Pa. We stayed in a motel that smelled of smoke and arm-pits; Perfect place for some wrestlers! We had an open tournament the next day that saw 450 wrestlers compete on just 10 mats. Talk about a long day. At one point we sat in the bleachers for three straight hours before one of our guys wrestled. It was completely miserable Tempe! Some guys were done earlier than others. Cain dominated his guys so bad the guy in the finals defaulted for risk of being carried off on a stretcher for total lung failure. Cain goes harder than any heavyweight that I have ever seen compete. He is truly a specimen when it comes to conditioning and mental toughness. Before we got too many injuries, we decided to pull some guys out and head back down the road to Philly. It was getting late and we as coaches/van drivers were worried that we would not make it.
Next was Iowa. For those of you who attended the dual, I thought we did mediocre. I was impressed with Brian Stith for making his debut six and one-half months out of ACL reconstruction against returning NCAA runner-up Joe Johnston. Brian is unbelievable when it comes to self motivation. From the day he arrived on this campus, he has been fixated on one thing: becoming a national champion. I do not doubt for one second that he will not reach this goal. He, along with Cain, carries so much confidence on the mat. I just wish the other guys would follow suit. Mendoza and Bader each went out there and got the job done. They were picked to win and they did. They both know how long the season can be and both promise to be there at the end. Onto one of the coaching staff favorites, Patrick Pitsch. Sporting a new mustache, Pat took to the mat with an utmost confidence. I forgot to mention that he battled NCAA Champ Troy Letters in Lehigh, giving everything Letters wanted. At one point, Pat had Letters on his back for what we thought was a two count, but the referee got there a bit late. Pat was in on several shots not caring who he was wrestling. He just wanted to win. Anyway, Pat is a stud!
Well, this is way longer than I once thought. But, I still have more. We are now moving onto Las Vegas. We are taking a full line-up, with only one change. We are subbing Jaime Robbins in for Alex Pavlenko at 174. We know how long the season can be on a freshman, so we want him ready by March. Robbins has some experience and can hold his own out there. We look for a big weekend out of Ryan Bader. He will be trying to reach the 100 career victories mark. He is also a senior and a two-time runner-up in Vegas. He needs to finish this weekend with a tournament title! We also see Cain bringing home the title at heavyweight, hoping to revenge last year's loss to Michigan's Greg Wagner. Pitsch will have his work cut out for him at 165. He placed here last year. We want to see him in the finals. Stith was also a placer and will look to knock off Illinois great Alex Tirapelle for the title. Mendoza will also be bringing in a little added aggression. He placed here last year and will look to win a title himself.
Now, if we could just get Pat Payne to start wrestling out there and stop thinking, I think he will surprise some people. He missed all last season due to an injury, so I believe that he is still getting some timing back and trying to figure some things out. We've just got to be patient.
Well, that is all for now. Whew! Anyway, hope to see some of you in Vegas. Look for my next entry sometime next week. Make it a great one and GO DEVILS!
Assistant Coach Aaron Simpson