No. 14 Wrestling Hosts No. 2 Oklahoma State Friday
Feb. 13, 2001
This Week: The regular season is drawing to a close as the 14th-ranked Arizona State wrestling squad hosts its final dual of the season Friday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in Wells Fargo Arena against second-ranked Oklahoma State. The Sun Devils split their weekend matches, defeating Pennsylvania at home 25-13 Friday before nearly upsetting but falling to No. 4 Iowa State 19-16 in Ames, Sunday night. ASU brings a 10-4 overall record to the mat, along with a 4-0 Pac-10 mark. The Oklahoma State Cowboys will be a formidable foe, as they are 15-1 overall and 4-0 in Big-12 action. The Cowboys have been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the national polls all season long. Earlier this season at the National Duals, OSU defeated ASU 26-12.
Probable Sun Devil Lineup: Overall Dual125: Chris Knox, RS-Fr. 2-13 1-9
133: #11/#11 David Douglas, Jr. 19-6 11-2141: #3/#3 Eric Larkin, So. 18-1 12-1149: Dana Holland, Jr. 18-10 8-6157: #13/#9 Rocky Smart, So. 21-8 11-3165: #4/#5 Steve Blackford, Sr. 25-4 12-2174: #20/#15 Curtis Owen, Jr. 19-11 11-3184: #13/nr R.D. Pursell, Sr. 21-11 10-4197: Andy Swanson, RS-Fr. or 7-14 2-7 Mike Marshall, Sr. 7-4 1-3HWT: #11/#14 Kellan Fluckiger, So. 20-7 10-3
Probable Oklahoma State Lineup: Overall 125: #8 Matt Brown, Jr. 17-8133: #2 Johnny Thompson, RS-Fr. 24-2141: #8 Charles Walker, Sr. 16-4149: #1 Reggie Wright, Sr. 24-0157: #16 Shane Roller, So. 9-10165: Chris Pendleton, Fr. 13-1174: #6 Tyrone Lewis, RS-Fr. 22-4184: #3 Daniel Cormier, Sr. 20-3197: #4 Mark Munoz, Sr. 17-5HWT: #13 James Huml, Jr. 17-8
A Family Affair:Friday's match will mark a family reunion of sorts, as four Smith brothers will be united, two coaching either team. ASU head coach Lee Roy Smith and his younger brother John, Oklahoma State's head coach, are both in their ninth seasons at their respective schools. Pat Smith is an assistant for John at Oklahoma State, while Mark Smith, who just culminated his wrestling career at OSU last season, is Lee Roy's volunteer assistant coach. Lee Roy also wrestled at Oklahoma State where he was a three-time All-American, earning four Big Eight titles and one NCAA title. The list of accolades for the Smith wrestlers is long, as John was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Pat became the first wrestler to win four NCAA titles and Mark was a three-time All-American at OSU. In 1999, the Smith family was selected as the 'Family of the Decade' by Amateur Wrestling News.
Scouting Oklahoma State:ASU will meet its second top-four opponent in six days, when the Oklahoma State Cowboys come to Tempe Friday. OSU is 15-1 with its only loss coming to Minnesota in the finals of the National Duals Jan. 21. Most recently, the Cowboys had their way with Nebraska, 29-12, in Stillwater, Okla. Saturday, Feb. 10. Nine of OSU's 10 starters are ranked in their respective weight classes, including four in the top-four. OSU is led by top-ranked Reggie Wright at 149 pounds who has yet to lose this season in 24 matches.
Series vs. OSU:Oklahoma State has won 11 straight matches against Arizona State and holds a 32-4 advantage in the all-time series. ASU and OSU have already met once this season at the National Duals Jan. 20, with the then-No. 1 Cowboys earning a 26-12 victory. The last time the Sun Devils pulled out a win was Feb. 3, 1993 in Tempe by just four points, 24-20. That meeting marks the only occasion in which Lee Roy's ASU squad has defeated John's Cowboys.
Farewell Seniors:Seniors Jeff Alexander, Steve Blackford, Dan Hyman, Mike Marshall and R.D. Pursell will be honored prior to Friday's night match for their contributions to Arizona State wrestling. Blackford, Pursell and possibly Marshall will wrestle for the last time on their home mat in Wells Fargo Arena this weekend.
Sun Devils in the National Polls:The Sun Devils moved up a notch this week in the national rankings from No. 15 to No. 14 in the latest NWCA poll released Feb. 7. According InterMat, ASU checks in at No. 13. Seven Sun Devils are also included in the latest individual rankings released by InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News (please not that AWM's rankings have not been updated on their website as of this release): Eric Larkin at 141 pounds (No. 3 by both), Steve Blackford at 165 pounds (No. 4 AWM, No. 5 IM), Rocky Smart at 157 pounds (No. 13 AWM, No. 9 IM), David Douglas at 133 pounds (No. 11 by both), Kellan Fluckiger at HWT (No. 11 AWM, No. 14 IM), R.D. Pursell at 184 pounds (No. 12 AWM) and Curtis Owen at 174 pounds (No. 15 IM, No. 20 by AWM).
Last Time Out:Last weekend, the Sun Devils saw their win-streak extend to five with a 25-13 win over Pennsylvania Friday night, before nearly upsetting but falling to No. 4 Iowa State 19-16 in Ames, Iowa, Sunday. ASU dominated Penn, winning seven of the 10 bouts, including junior Dana Holland's upset of 14th-ranked Joe Henson at 149 pounds. Also turning in big victories were No. 11 David Douglas with a major decision over Jeff Eveleth at 133 pounds and No. 3 Eric Larkin with a pin of Dan Mousetis at 141. A near upset of Iowa State was made possible by individual upsets from junior Curtis Owen and sophomore Rocky Smart. Owen, ranked No. 20 at 174 pounds, upended No. 9 Perry Parks while Smar, ranked No. 13 at 157, took care of No. 7 Cole Sanderson. The only Sun Devil to win a match by bonus points was redshirt-freshman Chris Knox, earning a 10-1 major decision over Jacob Moore at 125 pounds.
Stellar Season: Pending the outcome of Friday night's match with Oklahoma State, the Sun Devils are en route to their best regular season winning percentage since the 1997-98 season. Should ASU lose to the favored Cowboys Friday, the Sun Devils would end the regular season with a .667 winning percentage and a 10-5 record, the best since a .700 winning percentage and 14-6 record in 1997-98. Should ASU upset the Cowboys, the Sun Devils would then finish with a .733 winning percentage and 11-4 record, the best since a .750 mark and 12-4 record in 1992-93. These numbers should bode well for ASU's post-season hopes, as both those years the Sun Devils came away with Pac-10 titles.
Blackford Closing in on the Record Books:Senior Steve Blackford, the 2000 Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year and two-time All-American, continues his climb in the ASU record books as the 2001 season unfolds. Blackford has a team-high 25 wins this season, giving him 128 career victories and sole possession of fourth-place on the all-time win list (19 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 third on the career dual victories list (61) and is fifth on the career falls list (30).
Outstanding Owen: Junior Curtis Owen has won seven straight matches dating back to the National Duals Jan. 20. Amidst those wins, Owen has taken care of two ranked opponents, No. 6 Nathan Coy of Oregon State, 5-4, and most recently No. 9 Perry Parks of Iowa State, 5-1. Owen's rise in the rankings appropriately indicate his latest success at 174 pounds. Last week Owen did not even appear in the rankings according to InterMat, and after this past weekend's performance, he moved up to No. 15.
Model of Consistency: Despite battling a knee injury earlier in the season, sophomore All-American Eric Larkin continues to dominate his opponents on the mat at 141 pounds. Larkin has won nine straight matches, since suffering his only loss of the season to second-ranked Michael Lightner of Oklahoma. With an 18-1 overall record and 12-1 overall, Larkin will be heavily relied upon as ASU enters the post-season. Earlier this year, Larkin took first at the Las Vegas Invitational and as a member of the U.S. National Team, placed fourth at the 2000 World University Freestyle Championships in Tokyo, Japan, leading the U.S. to the team title in November.
Eye of the Tiger: Sophomore Rocky Smart wasted no time finding a home at ASU after transferring from BYU this past year. Smart, an NCAA qualifier last season as a Cougar freshman, has posted a 21-8 overall record, 11-3 in dual action at 157 pounds in his first year as a Sun Devil. Last weekend, Smart took both his opponents into overtime, turning in an upset victory over No. 7 Cole Sanderson of Iowa State Sunday after nearly upending No. 2 Yoshi Nakamura of Pennsylvania Friday. Smart has battled into overtime in three of his last four matches, winning two.
Bonus Points: Four Sun Devils have at least 20 wins under their belts: Steve Blackford (25-4), senior R.D. Pursell (21-11) sophomore Rocky Smart (21-8) and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (20-7)...Six Sun Devils have at least 10 dual wins: Blackford (12-2), Larkin (12-1), Douglas (11-2), Smart (11-3) and Fluckiger (10-3)...Blackford leads the team in pins with seven...Juniors Dana Holland and Curtis Owen share the team lead in technical falls with Blackford with three...Owen leads the team with nine major decision victories while Larkin has eight.
Pac-10 Championships Feb. 25-26: The Pac-10 Championships are just around the corner, hosted by the University of Oregon in Eugene at historic McArthur Court Sunday, Feb. 25 through Monday, Feb. 26. The first session of the tournament will be held Feb. 25 from 11 a.m. through 4 p.m., followed by semifinals and first round consolations from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 26, consolation semis and finals will be held from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m., with the Parade of Champions at 6 p.m. and the championship finals at 6:30 p.m. Please note that all times are Pacific Standard Time.
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 91-57-1 (.611) and is assisted by Tony Quinones, Aaron Simpson and his younger brother Mark Smith.
Up Next: Post-season action is just around the corner, as ASU will travel to Eugene, Ore. for the Pac-10 Championships, Sunday, Feb. 25 through Monday, Feb. 26. Those wrestlers who qualify for nationals will travel Iowa City, Iowa for the NCAA Championships, March 15-17.
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