Oklahoma Heads West For Top-10 Wrestling Battle with ASU

Jan. 8, 2001

This Week: A battle of Top-10 teams will be showcased this week, as the 10th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils play host to national powerhouse and sixth-ranked Oklahoma Friday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. in Wells Fargo Arena. ASU is undefeated in dual action, has yet to lose at home and will bring a 4-0 overall record to the mat. The Sooners are 7-1, having just posted four wins at the Lone Star Duals Jan. 6. The Sun Devils are coming off a 27-14 victory over Cal Poly in the conference opener for both teams.

High School Match Previews Collegiate Dual: Prep wrestling teams from Red Mountain High School and Westwood High School will compete in a dual prior to the ASU/OU match, beginning at 5 p.m. in Wells Fargo Arena. The collegiate dual will immediately follow.

Probable Lineups: The upcoming dual competition between ASU and Oklahoma will feature the nation's top wrestlers pitted against each other in two weight classes. The main event of the night will be the matchup between No. 3 Eric Larkin, a sophomore from ASU, and No. 2 Michael Lightner, a senior from OU. Larkin returns to action on the mat after sitting out for just over a month with a knee injury. Also anticipated will be the match between No. 4 Steve Blackford, a senior from ASU, and No. 6 Robbie Waller, a sophomore from OU. Here are the probable lineups for both teams:

125: Chris Knox RS-Fr. (1-5) vs. #12 Bo Maynes, So. (16-3)
133: #16 David Douglas, Jr. (11-4) vs. #11 Witt Durden, So. (14-6)
141: #3 Eric Larkin, So. (9-0) vs. #2 Michael Lightner, Sr. (19-0)
149: Dana Holland, Jr. (13-5) vs. #7 Jared Frayer, Jr. (16-2)
157: #17 Rocky Smart, So. (14-5) vs. Brian Burrows, Jr. (2-0)
165: #4 Steve Blackford, Sr. (17-2) vs. #6 Robbie Waller, So. (16-1)
174: Curtis Owen, Jr. (11-9) vs. #11 Michael Barger, Jr. (14-4)
184: #19 R.D. Pursell, Sr. (15-7) vs. Josh Lambrecht, So. (7-7)
197: Andy Swanson, RS-Fr. (7-8) vs. #10 Waymon May, Sr. (13-6)
HWT: #9 Kellan Fluckiger, So. (14-4) vs. #14 Leonce Crump, Fr. (15-5)

Sun Devils in the National Polls:ASU is ranked 10th for the third-straight week according to the lastest National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll released Jan. 3. Six 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 fourth by AWM and fifth by InterMat. Rocky Smart (157) checks in at No. 17 according to both polls. In the 133 pound weight class, David Douglas is ranked 16th by AWM and 18th by InterMat. Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) also appears in the polls, ranked ninth by AWM and 13th by InterMat. R.D. Pursell ranks 19th (AWM) and 20th (InterMat) at 184 pounds.

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).

About Oklahoma:The Sooners head West with a 7-1 dual record after recording four wins at the Lone Star Duals Jan. 6. OU downed Wyoming (37-7), Brown (35-6), Harvard (27-15) and No. 24 Northern Iowa (23-15). The Sooners' only loss this season came at the hands of chief rival and top-ranked Oklahoma State 22-13 in Norman, Okla. Eight of OU's 10 regular starters are ranked nationally and are led by No. 2 Michael Lightner (141), a senior who ranks third in career wins (136) in the school record books. Also a tough opponent on the mat is junior Jared Frayer (149), who pinned three of his four opponents at the Lone Star Duals and has recorded 12 this season, the best OU single-season mark since 1998. The Sun Devils have had their hands full with the Sooners over the years, as OU leads the all-time series 17-13-1. The last time ASU recorded a victory against OU was Jan. 18, 1998, a narrow 21-18 margin. After clashing with the Devils in the Desert, OU will continue its western swing with duals at Cal Poly and Fresno State, Jan. 14.

Last Time Out:Bolstered by pins from sophomore Rocky Smart and redshirt freshman Andy Swanson, the 10th-ranked Arizona State wrestling squad defeated Cal Poly 27-14 in the Pac-10 opener for both teams at Wells Fargo Arena Friday night. Smart, ranked 17th nationally at 157 pounds, set the tone for the night with a pin over Cal Poly's Dusty Mauck in 3:57. Then it was All-American Steve Blackford, ranked fourth at 165 pounds, that furthered the momentum in the following match with an exciting 13-3 major decision over Brody Barrios, 13-3. Putting the exclamation point on the night was Swanson (197 pounds), pinning David Schenk in just 1:42, much to the delight of the Sun Devil bench and the 566 fans in attendance. Swanson's fall extended ASU's lead to 20-4 after five matches. Also picking up big wins for ASU were No. 19 R.D. Pursell (184) with a 25-11 major decision victory over Charles Sandlin, No. 16 David Douglas (133) with a 14-5 major decision over Nate Ybarra, and No. 9 Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) with a 5-2 decision over Dan Leahy. The Mustangs took the last two matches of the night, as Andrew Gharst notched a major decision over Dan Hyman (142) and No. 12 Cedric Haymon defeated Dana Holland (149) 5-1.

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 sole possesion of sixth-place on the ASU career victory list (120) with his 17 victories this season, 27 wins shy of the school record. 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 tied for fifth on the career falls list (27).

Sun Devil Notables:Eric Larkin makes his long-awaited return to the lineup Friday night, having been out since early December with a nagging knee injury...Larkin is undefeated at 9-0, with all of his victories coming via fall, technical fall or major decision...Blackford leads the team with 17 victories, including 11 in his last 12 matches...Senior leadership has proven vital as both Blackford and R.D. Pursell lead the team with four pins each...Blackford and junior Curtis Owen also share the team lead for technical fall victories (three), while Owen, David Douglas, Larkin, and Kellan Fluckiger lead ASU with five major decision victories.

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 85-53-1 (.609) and is assisted by Tony Quinones, Aaron Simpson and his younger brother Mark Smith.

Up Next: ASU will pack up and head to University Park, Penn. for the Cliff Keen National Duals hosted by Penn State, Saturday, Jan. 20 through Sunday, Jan. 21.

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