Feb. 26, 2005
By Jim Gintonio
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 26, 2005
"The way I'm going, I figure I'll be in the finals," said Velasquez, a 6-foot-2, 245-pounder from Yuma Kofa.
It's difficult to fault his logic.
He has put together a 28-3 record and a No. 4 national ranking on the strength of 14 consecutive victories. His lone loss in 2005 came by a 6-1 score against undefeated and No. 1-ranked Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State.
A national title would be his next step, albeit a large one. If successful, he would become the sixth wrestler in ASU history to nab one, the latest being assistant coach Eric Larkin in 2003,and the first heavyweight since Curly Culp won the program's first title in 1967.
But he first has his sights sets on winning a title at the Pac-10 Championships, scheduled Sunday and Monday in San Luis Obispo, Calif. His main competition likely will come from Oregon State's Ty Watterson, a redshirt sophomore ranked No. 14 with an 18-2 record.
Velasquez said this season, on the heels of missing a big chunk of his sophomore year because of academic problems, is no surprise to him.
"Every year, all summer, I'm always working hard," he said. "I expect to be this good or better, always."
He said the time he missed was difficult.
"Mentally, it hurt," he said. "It was tough to stay out. But my intensity is always high, no matter what."
He gets no argument on that point from coach Thom Ortiz.
"He's non-stop," Ortiz said. "The way he trains, a lot of times he does what we do in two hours in an hour and a half. I think he's the most active, hardest training heavyweight in the country.
"He'll be on the same side (of the bracket) as a returning national champion (Mocco), so he'll have his work cut out for him. But if anyone is capable of being in the finals on this team, he's one of them."
Mocco, who won the 2003 NCAA title while at Iowa, redshirted last year to train for the Olympics.
Velasquez won two state titles and posted a 110-10 at Kofa, where he was coached by Shawn Rustad, now the wrestling coach at Mesa Mountain View. Rustad said Velasquez's work ethic is a carry-over from his high school days.
"I'm not surprised at how well he's doing," Rustad said. "I believe him staying so close to Mocco, even though he lost, let him know that he could wrestle with him. He's really a man-child."
Velasquez knows what it takes to win a national championship, winning a junior college crown two years ago at Iowa Central Community College.
"No matter what it is, I try to leave all of myself out there," he said. "Whether it's running, lifting or wrestling, I go as hard as I can. At practice, it's the same thing.
"I've got to believe that everyone is training as hard as me, so I just go out there and try to work as hard as they are," he said. "Or maybe harder."