Wrestling Hosts Second Annual Desert Duals Friday

Nov. 21, 2000

This Week: The Arizona State wrestling squad opens the 2000-01 season at home as the Sun Devils host the second annual Desert Duals Friday, Nov. 24 at Wells Fargo Arena. ASU will welcome teams from Northwestern, Minnesota-Morris, and Embry-Riddle (Prescott, Ariz.) to Tempe for the all day affair. Action on the mat begins at 10:30 a.m. with dual matchups pitting ASU vs. Embry-Riddle and Minnesota-Morris vs. Northwestern. The teams will then rotate, with ASU slated to face Minnesota-Morris and Embry-Riddle paired up with Northwestern at 1 p.m. The Sun Devils will wrap up the day wrestling against Northwestern at 4 p.m., as Embry-Riddle and Minnesota-Morris will face off as well.

The Opponents:Arizona State holds a 2-0 all-time series advantage over Northwestern. The last time these two teams met was last year at the Desert Duals, with the Sun Devils winning the contest 24-20. The Wildcats come to Tempe having opened their season last weekend at the Michigan State Open. ASU has defeated Embry-Riddle in the teams' only dual matchup. The Eagles are ranked ninth in the NAIA by TheMat.com and enter the Desert Duals with a 4-2 dual record. Friday will mark the first time the Sun Devils have competed against Minnesota-Morris.

Sun Devils in the Polls:The National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll has not yet been released this year, but ASU enters the season ranked 10th by Amateur Wrestling News and 14th by Intermat. ASU culminated last season with a No. 13 ranking. Five Sun Devils are ranked nationally by Intermat's rankings released Nov. 15 and Amatuer Wrestling News' rankings released Nov. 5. Senior Steve Blackford is ranked third, while sophomore Eric Larkin is ranked fourth by both polls. Junior David Douglas ranks seventh by AWM and Intermat. Also ranked are sophomore transfer Rocky Smart, 20th by both polls, and junior Curtis Owen, ranked No. 17 by Intermat and No. 18 by AWM.

Last Time Out:The Sun Devils opened the 2000-01 campaign at the Cal State Fullerton Open Sunday, Nov. 12 at Titan Gym in Fullerton, Calif. A total of 12 Sun Devils earned places, including a runner-up finish by junior transfer Dana Holland (149), wrestling in his first Div. I meet at ASU. Freshman Mike Simpson (125) and sophomore Nick Frost (165) also placed second in their respective weight classes, wrestling unattached. Additional placewinners for the Sun Devils included sophomore Jeff Charlebois (third at 125), senior Dan Hyman (fifth at 141), junior Curtis Owen (fourth at 174), redshirt freshman Ron Renzi (fifth at 174), senior Mike Marshall (fourth at 184) and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (fourth at HWT).

Gold Defeats Maroon in Intrasquad Scrimmage: ASU wrestling made its unofficial debut at home Wednesday, Nov. 15, as the Gold team defeated the Maroon team 24-15 in an intrasquad scrimmage at Wells Fargo Arena. Among those picking up big wins for the Gold Sun Devils was freshman Mike Simpson, who opened the night at 125 pounds with a technical fall over sophomore Adam Chavira at 4:11. Junior Dana Holland pinned redshirt freshman Frankie Saenz at 5:40 (149), while junior Curtis Owen earned a major decision over redshirt freshman Ron Renzi (197), 14-6 in the final match of the night. Leading the way for the Maroon team, sophomore All-American Eric Larkin pinned freshman Danny Alcocer, Jr. with just 20 seconds remaining in the 141 pound match, while senior All-American Steve Blackford earned a 6-5 decision over sophomore Nick Frost at 165 pounds.

Larkin Places 4th at World University Championships: Arizona State All-American wrestler Eric Larkin placed fourth in the 138.75 pound category at the 2000 World University Freestyle Championships in Tokyo, Japan, helping the United States to the freestyle team title Sunday, Nov. 5. Larkin, who won his first three matches of the first and second sessions, lost to eventual champion Leonid Spiridonov of Russia 9-3 in the semifinals, and then in the bronze-medal match, fell to Memhet Yozgat of Turkey 4-2. Larkin, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the U.S. on the Senior Level, used his redshirt year last season to train for the Olympic Trials in which he placed third. In addition to the Olympic Trials, Larkin also placed second in the western regional and fifth at the U.S. National Championships last year.

Blackford Climbing Career Lists: Senior Steve Blackford, the 2000 Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year and two-time All-American, enters his final season as a Sun Devil tied for 15th on the ASU career victory list with 103 (Rod Severn, `85-88, Shawn Charles, `90-93), 44 wins shy of the school record. Should Blackford put together another 40-plus win season, that record could be close at hand. Last season, Blackford tied for second on the single-season victory list with 43 wins (Eddie Urbano, `84'85), just two away from the school record. Dan St. John (1986-90) holds both the ASU single season victory record (45) and career victory record (147). Blackford also ranks 14th on the career percentage list (.811), 10th on the career dual victories list (49), and ninth on the career falls list (23).

Season Outlook: The 2001 edition of the ASU wrestling team, which returns seven NCAA qualifiers, including three All-Americans, begins its quest for a Pac-10 title and a top-10 national finish when the regular season schedule begins this weekend. The Sun Devils will look to improve upon their runner-up finish at the Pac-10 Championships and a 16th-place finish at the NCAA Championships a year ago. Head coach Lee Roy Smith, in his ninth year at the helm of the ASU wrestling program, will look to senior All-American Steve Blackford and sophomore All-American Eric Larkin to lead the Sun Devils in 2001. Blackford and Larkin will start at 165 and 141 pounds respectively, lending their experience to a lineup mixed with returners and newcomers. Juniors David Douglas (133) and Curtis Owen (174), and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) are also starters and NCAA qualifiers who return to solidify the lineup this season. Possible newcomers who may find themselves in a starting role are freshman Mike Simpson (125), junior transfer Dana Holland (149), sophomore transfer Rocky Smart (157), and freshman Quint Swanberg (184).

Head Coach Lee Roy Smith: In his ninth year at Arizona State, Lee Roy Smith has continued the unprecedented sucess of one of the nation's premier collegiate wrestling programs. In eight seasons, Smith has guided the Sun Devils to eight NCAA Championship appearances, four top-10 national finishes and four Pac-10 titles. Smith's ASU teams have finished as high as fourth in the nation in 1993 and 1995, and he has mentored 26 All-Americans and two national champions (for a total of three NCAA titles). Smith enters the 2001 season with a career slate of 81-53-1 (.609) and is assisted by Tony Quinones, Aaron Simpson and his younger brother Mark Smith.

1999-2000 Season Review: Arizona State finished the 1999-2000 season in a tie for 16th-place at the NCAA Championships, with two wrestlers earning All-American honors in juniors Steve Blackford (third place at 165 pounds) and Quinn Foster (eighth place at 149 pounds). A total of seven wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships including senior Michael Kawamura (125), sophomores David Douglas (141), Curtis Owen (174) and Erik Gladish (197) and redshirt freshman Kellan Fluckiger (heavyweight). ASU finished second at the Pac-10 Championships, with a total of nine Sun Devils earning places. Foster and Blackford won conference titles, while Kawamura earned runner-up honors at the Pac-10 meet. Douglas, Gladish and Fluckiger each garnered third-place showings. Blackford won the Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year award, becoming the ninth Sun Devil to earn that distinction and marking the 12th time an ASU wrestler has been awarded the honor. ASU finished the year with a 10-8 dual record and an undefeated 4-0 mark in Pac-10 action. Four ASU wrestlers earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors including first-team honorees Arturo Anaya (senior, 3.2 GPA) and Mark Perryman (senior, 3.24), and second-team honorees Daniel Hyman (sophomore, 3.11) and Randy Leydecker (senior, 3.03).

Up Next: The Sun Devils will hit the road for their next three tournaments, beginning with the Las Vegas Invitational Friday, Dec. 1 through Sunday, Dec. 2 in Las Vegas Nevada. ASU will then compete in the Reno Invitational Wednesday, Dec. 20, before traveling to Evanston, Ill. for the Midlands Tournament Friday, Dec. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 30.

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