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  • COLLEGE WRESTLING

    Beavers ready to battle for Pac-12 crown

  • Two years have passed since Scott Sakaguchi fell in the finals to Boise State's Jason Chamberlain at the conference wrestling meet.
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  • Two years have passed since Scott Sakaguchi fell in the finals to Boise State's Jason Chamberlain at the conference wrestling meet.
    There was no rematch last year.
    While Chamberlain took an Olympic redshirt season, Sakaguchi got his Pac-12 title.
    Chances are pretty good the two will meet for the championship at 149 pounds in this year's meet today at Arizona State.
    Chamberlain is ranked second nationally and Sakaguchi is No. 8.
    "It'll probably be about my 10th time meeting him in in three years, so we both know each other," Sakaguchi said.
    The rivals have split two matches this season. Sakaguchi won 3-2 when the teams met in Spokane, Wash., and Chamberlain took a 3-1 win in Corvallis.
    "He's good at handfighting and he wants to get points early and hold out," Sakaguchi said. "I've just got to weather the storm at the beginning and I've got to put points on the board myself. I feel like every time I wrestle him I tend to be a little bit more defensive and once you put points on the board it's tough to lose, so that's going to be my biggest thing."
    The Beavers enter the meet with six nationally-ranked wrestlers.
    Mike Mangrum is No. 4 at 141 and heavyweight Chad Hanke is also fourth.
    Taylor Meeks is No. 6 at 197, RJ Pena is No. 10 at 157 and 184-pounder Ty Vinson is 18th.
    Coach Jim Zalesky said the Beavers are ready to go.
    "I like our training, I like the guys with where they're at, their training, what they're doing in the room," Zalesky said.
    "This is what it's all about. This is what you prepare for all year. The Pac-12s is the first step going to the NCAA tournament. You've got to do the job here before you can go to the NCAA tournament."
    A key for the Beavers will be getting a strong contribution from Joey Palmer, Drew Van Anrooy, Seth Thomas, Cody Weishoff and Vinson.
    "Those guys need to step up here, otherwise their season is going to be done and over," Zalesky said. "So you've got to have those five guys step up. The other five have been wrestling all year and I think no matter how they do at the Pac-12s, they'll probably still go to the NCAAs.
    "The other five weights are still up in the air, so it's now or never."
    The Beavers have been a strong tournament team all season.
    OSU finished fourth at the Cliff Keene Invitational in Las Vegas, won the Tournament of Champions in Reno and took fourth in the Midlands Tournament in Evanston, Ill.
    "I think we're a better tournament team than we are a dual team," Pena said. "It showed throughout the season. We did well at Vegas, we won Reno, we did well at Midlands and we had a guy out and not a lot of guys wrestling their best, so if we all wrestle well and wrestle to the best or our ability, we should dominate Pac-12s."
    Pena could wind up facing Boise State's George Ivanov in the finals.
    They met in last year's 157-pound title match with Pena winning 5-2.
    Ivanov took a 10-5 win in Spokane and Pena won 6-0 in Corvallis.
    "He's pretty defensive, so when I shoot he kind of just blocks off my shots. In the past I didn't really finish the match and stopped attacking," Pena said. "If I keep attacking, I'll blow him out of the water."
    Sakaguchi said the Beavers are peaking at the right time.
    "I definitely feel like we're a tournament team," he said. "I feel like we've got all the guys jelled into the right spots now. There were a few weights where we didn't know who was going where for awhile, but now everything's smoothed out and I feel like everyone's ready to go."
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