ASU Wrestlers Return To Action Wednesday

Dec. 18, 2000

This Week: After taking the past two and a half weeks off for finals, the 10th-ranked Arizona State wrestling squad (3-0 overall, 0-0 Pac-10) returns to action Wednesday, Dec. 20 at the Reno Tournament of Champions in Reno, Nev. The Sun Devils will be competing against No. 11 Boise State, UC Davis, Cal Poly, Cal State Bakersfield, Central Michigan, Indiana, Lassen Junior College, No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 17 Oregon, Penn State, Portland State and Stanford. Last year at the Reno Tournament of Champions, ASU finished third for the second-straight year with 118 points. A total of nine Sun Devils placed in the tournament, led by All-American Steve Blackford who captured the 165 pound title.

Probable Starters:
125: Jeff Charlebois (8-3), So./Chris Knox (0-2), RS-Fr.
133: David Douglas (5-2), Jr.
141: Dan Hyman (5-2), Sr.
149: Dana Holland (10-3), Jr.
157: Rocky Smart (7-2), So.
165: Steve Blackford (7-1), Sr.
174: Curtis Owen (7-4), Jr./Ron Renzi (2-2), RS-Fr.
184: R.D. Pursell (7-2), Sr.
197: Andy Swanson (3-4), RS-Fr./Mike Marshall (7-1), Sr.
HWT: Kellan Fluckiger (7-3), So.

Larkin Out For Three Weeks:Due to nagging injuries, sophomore Eric Larkin will not be a part of the Sun Devil lineup for the next three weeks. 'Now is the time to let Eric heal up so he can be healthy for the second half of the season,' ASU head coach Lee Roy Smith said. 'We expect to have him back at full speed in about three weeks and then those injuries will be behind him.' Larkin, who won the 141-pound title at the Las Vegas Invitational Dec. 2, has a perfect 9-0 record this season, including three wins by fall, one by technical fall and five by major decision.

ASU Ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10:The Sun Devils are the top team in the Pac-10 according to the most recent conference poll released Dec. 14th. Seven individuals also rank among the top four wrestlers in the Pac-10 including No. 1 Eric Larkin (141), No. 1 Steve Blackford (165), No. 2 David Douglas (133), No. 2 Dana Holland (149), No. 2 Curtis Owen (174), No. 3 Rocky Smart (157) and No. 4 Kellan Fluckiger (HWT). ASU opens its Pac-10 season Friday, Jan. 5 with Cal Poly in Wells Fargo at 7 p.m.

Sun Devils in the National Polls:ASU is ranked 10th for the second-straight week according to the lastest National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll released Dec. 13. Four Sun Devils are also included in the individual rankings released by InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News. Eric Larkin (141) is ranked third by both polls, while Steve Blackford (165) is ranked third by AWM and fourth by InterMat. Rocky Smart (157) checks in at No. 16 according to AWM and No. 17 according to InterMat. In the 133 pound weight class, David Douglas is ranked 15th in both polls.

Last Time Out:Sophomore All-American Eric Larkin won six straight matches to capture the 141 pound championship title, leading the 10th-ranked Arizona State wrestling squad to a fourth-place finish at the 19th annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational at the Desert Star Arena in Primm, Nev. Dec. 1-2.

Larkin was untouchable throughout the two-day tournament, winning his first match by technical fall over Ryan Montanez of Air Force (19-3, 6:15) and taking his second bout by pinning North Carolina's Jonathon Williams at 4:38. He then went on to win his next four matches by major decision, including a 11-3 victory over Sean Gray of Virginia in the championship bout.

The Sun Devils finished only behind Illinois (156 points), Nebraska (113.5 points) and Lehigh (105.5 points). ASU ended the two-day affair with 89.5 points, while Pac-10 opponents Oregon State (fifth, 88.5), Oregon (seventh, 83.5) and Boise State (eighth, 78.5) rounded out top-10 team finishers.

Senior All-American Steve Blackford (165) won his first four matches (including by a fall and major decision), while junior David Douglas (148) won his first three (including by a fall, technical fall and major decision) until semifinal defeats sent them both to the consolation bracket. Then Blackford was forced to withdraw due to an injury, and Douglas fell in a close 3-2 match to Shawn Kegal of Buffalo.

Sophomore Rocky Smart was the fourth ASU wrestler to advance to quarterfinals in the championship bracket with three straight wins, only to suffer his first loss of the tournament to Kirk White of Boise State, 3-2. Smart tallied a victory in the fourth wrestle-back, but ended his tournament action with a loss in the fifth wrestle-back round.

Sun Devil Team Leaders:Larkin's prescence in the lineup will be greatly missed, as he leads the team in falls (3-0) and is tied for the team lead in major decisions (5-0) with sophomore Kellan Fluckiger. Larkin is the only undefeated Sun Devil this season with a flawless 9-0 record and he is also the only ASU wrestler to win a tournament title this season . Junior Curtis Owen holds the team lead in technical falls (3-0), while junior Dana Holland owns the most victories on the squad with a solid 10-3 record.

Blackford Closing in on the Record Books:Senior Steve Blackford, the 2000 Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year and two-time All-American, moves into a 10th-place tie with current assistant coach Aaron Simpson on the ASU career victory list (110) with his seven victories this season, 37 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 is also tied for eighth on the career dual victories list (52), and is seventh on the career falls list (25).

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 owns a career slate of 84-53-1 (.609) and is assisted by Tony Quinones, Aaron Simpson and his younger brother Mark Smith.

Up Next: The Sun Devils will compete for the last time in 2000, when they travel to Evanston, Ill. for the Midlands Tournament hosted by Northwestern Friday, Dec. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 30. ASU will return to Tempe to open its Pac-10 schedule with Cal Poly Friday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena, before welcoming national powerhouse Oklahoma to the Valley of the Sun, Friday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.

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