The Pac-10 Championships is a launching pad.
It gives top wrestlers momentum going into the NCAA Championships.
It is what ASU coach Shawn Charles has been talking about all season long.
Hosted by UC Davis, the Pac-10 Championships gives ASU a chance to show its depth and improvement over the year.
Last season, the Sun Devils finished fifth by 1.5 points and had three wrestlers in the championships of their respective weight classes.
Junior Anthony Robles will try to defend his title as the 125-pound champion and also as Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year.
He was dominant in all three of his matches last season, recording a technical fall (16-0), a pin in 3:23 and another technical fall in the final (17-1).
On the other end, junior Chris Drouin and sophomore Eric Starks are looking for another shot at the title.
Drouin finished second at 141 pounds in both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
The top three finishers from a year ago — Drouin, Cal St. Bakersfield junior Elijah Nacita (first) and Cal St. Fullerton junior Adin Duenas (third) — are all returning, but none of then are in the top three seeds.
Starks faces the same problem.
Even though he finished second last season, he has been placed in the sixth seed behind defending champion Boise State senior Nathan Lee, and fourth-place finisher Cal Poly sophomore Ryan DesRoches.
The Sun Devils have seven wrestlers seeded in the top five of their weight classes.
This year’s tournament has a champion returning in eight of the ten weight classes, but only five claim this year’s top seed.
Some weight classes have changed and storylines are at every weight class.
125-pound weight class
1. Anthony Robles, ASU (25-2): ASU’s returning Pac-10 champ has not lost in the conference all season.
2. Jason Lara, Oregon State (30-6)
3. Alan Bartelli, Boise State (23-14)
4. Ryan Mango, Stanford (21-12): This upstart freshman has the athletic tools to surprise some people.
5. Andre Gonzalez, CSU Fullerton (20-9)
133-pound weight class
1. Andrew Hochstrasser, Boise State (8-0): The returning Pac-10 champ is also ranked fourth nationally.
2. Brandon Low, UC Davis (7-1)
3. Kelly Kubec, Oregon State (32-7)
4. Boris Novachkov, Cal Poly (21-3)
5. Ben Ashmore, ASU (16-10): This is the chance to put all the pieces together after his first full season wrestling at 133.
141-pound weight class
1. Levi Jones, Boise State (17-3)
2. Filip Novachkov, Cal Poly (21-5): The oldest Novachkov brother finished third in the Pac-10 at 133 last season.
3. Mike Mangrum, Oregon State (26-9)
4. Adin Duenas, CSU Fullerton (17-8)
5. Elijah Nacita, CSU Bakersfield (16-9): Returning champion.
6. Chris Drouin, ASU (18-9): Surprisingly ranked sixth after finishing second in the last two seasons.
149-pound weight class
1. Jason Chamberlain, Boise State (20-7): Returning champion
2. Barrett Abel, UC Davis (18-7)
3. Vicente Varela, ASU (19-10): The hard working Varela has the confidence and mental strength to make a run. Look for him in the finals.
4. Nick Fisher, Cal Poly (15-5)
5. Nick Jordan, CSU Fullerton (11-4)
157-pound weight class
1. Adam Hall, Boise State (24-2): Runner-up last season has switched seeds with defending the defending champion.
2. Chase Pami, Cal Poly (23-5): The returning champ lost to Hall 11-6 on Jan. 24.
3. Keegan Davis, Oregon State (32-8)
4. Lucas Espericueta, Stanford (16-6)
5. Te Edwards, ASU (11-10): It’s hit or miss with Edwards. If he is on his game, he can upset some people.
165-pound weight class
1. Nick Amuchastegi, Stanford (27-4): Last season’s runner-up scored a major decision over ASU’s DeBerry on Feb. 14.
2. Dan Brascetta, Oregon State (12-7)
3. Joey Granata, CSU Bakersfield (18-9)
4. Kyle DeBerry, ASU (9-11): Elbow concerns need to be out of his mind if he wants to score major points for ASU.
5. Steven Vasquez, Cal Poly (16-11)
174-pound weight class
1. Colby Covington, Oregon State (35-5)
2. Nate Lee, Boise State (13-5): The returning champion hasn’t faced OSU’s Covington all season.
3. Ryan DesRoches, Cal Poly (31-7)
4. Todd Noel, CSU Fullerton (22-10)
5. Jake Johnson, Stanford (18-14)
6. Eric Starks, ASU (11-11): Finished second to Lee in last season’s final. He has lost four straight duals heading into this weekend.
184-pound weight class
1. Kirk Smith, Boise State (21-0): The returning champ is undefeated and ranked fifth nationally.
2. Zach Giesen, Stanford (27-4): Knocked off ASU’s Jake Meredith 4-0 on Feb. 14.
3. Mike Larson, CSU Bakersfield (22-13)
4. Brice Arand (16-8)/Ty Vinson (13-8), Oregon State
5. Jake Meredith, ASU (10-11): Came on strong at the end of the season. He defeated No. 10 Iowa State sophomore Jerome Ward on Feb. 7.
1. Riley Orozco, CSU Bakersfield (19-6): Moved up from 184 after finishing second to Smith last season.
2. Chad Hanke, Oregon State (30-9)
3. Ryan Smith, Cal Poly (17-10)
4. Matt Casperson, Boise State (15-13)
5. Richard Kessler, Stanford (15-16)
8. Anthony Hawkins, ASU (1-5): Still learning the weight class after permanently claiming the role in January.
1. Mitch Monteiro, CSU Bakersfield (12-5): The returning champ lost to Nye 5-3 on Jan. 3.
2. Erik Nye, ASU (20-10): The senior will compete in the Pac-10 Championships for the first time, just down the road from his hometown.
3. Clayton Jack, Oregon State (32-8): Split two close matches with Nye during the season, winning the most recent match 7-1.
4. Ricky Alcala, UC Davis (18-6)
5. Kurt Klimek, CSU Fullerton (23-7)
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