No. 11 Wrestling Battles for Pac-10 Championship Title This Weekend

Feb. 21, 2001

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This Week: Aiming for its third conference title in five years, Arizona State's 11th-ranked wrestling squad will travel to Eugene, Ore. for the 2001 Pac-10 Championships, Sunday, Feb. 25 through Monday, Feb. 26 hosted by the University of Oregon. ASU is the highest ranked team in the conference, and will be challenged by No. 16 Boise State, No. 17 Oregon State and No. 20 Oregon for the 2001 Pac-10 title. Coming off a 31-7 loss in their regular season finale to No. 2 Oklahoma State last Friday, the Sun Devils end the regular season with a 10-5 overall record and 4-0 mark against their Pac-10 opponents.

Probable Sun Devil Lineup:  			Overall	       Dual
125: Chris Knox, RS-Fr. 2-16 1-10
133: #11 David Douglas, Jr. 19-8 11-3
141: #3 Eric Larkin, So. 19-1 13-1
149: Dana Holland, Jr. 19-10 8-7
157: #11 Rocky Smart, So. 22-9 11-4
165: #4 Steve Blackford, Sr. 26-4 13-2
174: #14 Curtis Owen, Jr. 20-11 11-3
184: #12 R.D. Pursell, Sr. 25-13 10-5
197: Andy Swanson, RS-Fr. or 7-14 2-7
Mike Marshall, Sr. 7-5 1-4
HWT: #12 Kellan Fluckiger, So. 20-8 10-4

Pac-10 Championship Format: The two-day tournament is divided into four sessions, culminating with the championship finals Monday. In addition to ASU, those teams competing in the Pac-10 for wrestling are defending champion Boise State, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, UC Davis, Oregon, Oregon State, Portland State and Stanford. Not only will conference titles be on the line this weekend, but national qualifying hopes will be at stake as well. The top four wrestlers in each weight class, along with three at-large selections, will earn berths to the NCAA Championships, hosted by the University of Iowa, March 15-17 in Iowa City.

Pac-10 Championship Schedule:
Sunday, Feb. 25 (Please note all times PST)
Session I 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Pigtails and Quarterfinals
Session II 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. Consolation and Semifinals

Monday, Feb. 26
Session III 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Consolation Semis and 5th place matches
Session IV 6 p.m. Parade of Champions
6:30 p.m. Champ. Finals and 3rd place matches

Last Year at the Pac-10 Championships: Juniors Steve Blackford and Quinn Foster captured individual titles, leading the Sun Devils to a second-place finish at the 2000 Pac-10 Championships at UC Davis' Recreation Hall. ASU finished with 125.5 points, just eight points behind champion Boise State with 133.5. Blackford, who was named the 2000 Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year, turned in a 5-2 decision over defending Pac-10 and NCAA champion Kirk White of Boise State to win the 165 pound title. Foster won the 149 pound title with a 15-7 major decision over Cal State Fullerton's Joey Calavitta. Also coming away with top honors was senior Michael Kawamura, earning runner-up honors at 125 pounds. Taking third-place finishes were sophomore David Douglas (141), sophomore Erik Gladish (197) and redshirt-freshman Kellan Fluckiger (HWT). ASU qualified a total of seven wrestlers for the NCAA Championships, as sophomore Curtis Owen took fourth at 174 pounds.

ASU Pac-10 Wrestling Championship History:* As a team, Arizona State has captured 14 conference titles including 11 of the past 16 Pac-10 crowns.* ASU head coach Lee Roy Smith has guided the Sun Devils to four Pac-10 titles in eight years, including back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998.* Smith has also mentored 22 individual conference champions.* A total of 61 Sun Devils have captured 103 conference titles in the 38-year history of the program.* This year's ASU roster includes two former Pac-10 champions: Steve Blackford (165, 2000) and Eric Larkin (133, 1999).* ASU holds the Pac-10 record for most points scored at the conference championships when the Sun Devils tallied 152.75 points Feb. 28 to March 1, 1983.* The Sun Devils crowned a school record seven individual Pac-10 champions in 1985.

Last Time Out:The second-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys spoiled ASU's hopes of an upset in its regular season finale, blowing past the Sun Devils 31-7 in front of over 2,000 fans at Wells Fargo Arena Friday, Feb. 16. The Sun Devils were only able to muster two wins, those coming from All-Americans Eric Larkin and Steve Blackford. OSU rattled off six wins and led 25-0 before Larkin put the Sun Devils on the board with a 3-2 decision over eighth-ranked Charles Walker. Wrestling his final match at Wells Fargo Arena, Blackford closed out the meet with a 10-0 major decision over Chris Pendleton.

Sun Devils in the National Polls:The Sun Devils are ranked 11th for the second straight week according to the latest NWCA national poll released Feb. 21. 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: 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. 10 by both), David Douglas at 133 pounds (No. 11 by both), Kellan Fluckiger at HWT (No. 12 AWM, No. 14 IM), R.D. Pursell at 184 pounds (No. 12 AWM) and Curtis Owen at 174 pounds (No. 14 by AWM, No. 17 IM).

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 26 wins this season, giving him 129 career victories and sole possession of fourth-place on the all-time win list (18 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 (62) and is fifth on the career falls list (30).

Bonus Points: Five Sun Devils have at least 20 wins under their belts: Steve Blackford (26-4), senior R.D. Pursell (25-13) sophomore Rocky Smart (22-9), sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (20-8) and junior Curtis Owen (20-11)...Seven Sun Devils have at least 10 dual wins: Blackford (13-2), Larkin (13-1), Douglas (11-3), Smart (11-4), Owen (11-3) and Fluckiger (10-4)...Blackford leads the team in pins with seven...Juniors Dana Holland and Owen share the team lead in technical falls with Blackford with three...Owen leads the team with 10 major decision victories while Larkin is second with eight.

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 91-58-1 (.607) and is assisted by Tony Quinones, Aaron Simpson and his younger brother Mark Smith.

ASU Nearly Upsets No. 4 Iowa State: After rattling off five straight dual victories, including wins over Pac-10 opponents Oregon and Oregon State, ASU nearly extended that streak to six, falling to No. 4 Iowa State by just three points, 19-16 in Ames, Feb. 11. Junior Curtis Owen and sophomore Rocky Smart turned in individual upsets of No. 9 Perry Parks and No. 7 Cole Sanderson, respectively.

Sun Devils Fail to Place at National Duals: ASU was dealt a tough hand at the National Duals at Penn State Jan. 20. After opening with a 35-8 win over Montana State Northern, the Sun Devils drew No. 1 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys sent ASU to the consolation bracket with a tough 26-12 win, only to have the Sun Devils upset by the host school 19-16. Steve Blackford, Eric Larkin and Rocky Smart went undefeated in their three dual matches.

ASU Takes Second at Reno Tournament: Senior All-American Steve Blackford won the 165-pound title and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger won the heavyweight crown, leading ASU to a second-place finish at the Reno Tournament of Champions Dec. 20. The Sun Devils placed second only to No. 1 Oklahoma State, a team which produced six individual champions and won its sixth-straight Reno Tournament of Champions title. Sophomore Rocky Smart also earned runner-up honors at 157 pounds for the Sun Devils.

Larkin Lifts ASU to 4th Place at Las Vegas Inv.: Sophomore All-American Eric Larkin won six straight matches to capture the 141 pound championship title, leading ASU to a fourth-place finish at the 19th annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Dec. 2. The Sun Devils ended the two-day tournament with 89.5 points, finishing behind Illinois (156 pts.), Nebraska (113.5) and Lehigh (105.5).

Larkin Places 4th at World University Champs: Eric Larkin placed fourth in the 138.75 pound weight class at the 2000 World University Freestyle Championships in Tokyo, Japan, helping the United States to the freestyle team title Sunday, Nov. 5. Larkin won his first three matches but fell 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.

Up Next: Those ASU wrestlers who qualify for nationals will have some time off before traveling to Iowa City, Iowa for the 2001 NCAA Wrestling Championships, held Thursday, March 15 through Saturday, March 17 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on the campus of the University of Iowa. Saturday's competition will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis by ESPN2.

ASU Wrestling Bios

CHRIS KNOX * 125
RS-Freshman
Timonium, Md./Calvert Hall College HS

Making first Pac-10 Championship appearance...took over as the starter at 125 pounds at the Midlands Championships...has an overall record of 2-16 with both wins coming versus Iowa State's Jacob Moore...pinned Moore in 1:25 at Midlands and earned a 10-1 major decision in the dual with ISU Feb. 11...faced three straight top-10 opponents from Jan. 26 through Feb. 2, including No. 1 Stephen Abas (Fresno State) and No. 5 Shaun Williams (Oregon)...faced a total of seven ranked opponents on the season.

DAVID DOUGLAS * 133
Junior
Harvey, Ill./Thornridge HS

A second-year starter, making second straight appearance at the Pac-10 Championships...last year placed third in the conference at 141 pounds, qualifying for the NCAA Championships...has compiled a 19-8 overall record, 11-3 dual...opened the season winning five straight matches, all via bonus points...placed sixth at the Las Vegas Invitational and third at the Reno Tournament of Champions...faced six ranked opponents, upsetting No. 9 Brian Watson (Oregon) Feb. 2...has won six of the last eight matches, nine of the last 12...has turned in five pins, two tech. falls and six major decisions.

ERIC LARKIN * 141
Sophomore
Tucson, Ariz./Sunnyside HS

Making second appearance at the conference championships, having won the 133 pound title as a freshman...also earned All-America honors as a freshman in 1999...redshirted last season to train for the Olympics...has compiled an outstanding 19-1 overall record, 13-1 in dual action...ranked third in the nation at 141 pounds all season...has won a string of 10 straight matches...only loss this season came to No. 2 Michael Lightner of Oklahoma Jan. 12, in his first match back since being sidelined over a month after minor knee surgery....went 6-0 to take first place at the Las Vegas Invitational, earning major decision victories over No. 8 Donnie DeFillippis (George Mason) and No. 4 Sean Gray (Virginia Tech) in the semifinals and finals...has faced seven ranked opponents, including No. 9 Zach Roberson (Iowa State) and No. 8 Charles Walker (Oklahoma State) in his last two matches...one of two Sun Devils to pick up wins vs. Oklahoma State Feb. 16...placed fourth at the World University Freestyle Championships in Tokyo, Japan in early November...has recorded five wins by fall, one by technical fall and eight by major decision...his first 10 victories of the season came via bonus points.

DANA HOLLAND * 149
Junior
Glendale Heights, Ill./Iowa Central

A transfer from Iowa Central, making first Pac-10 Championship appearance...starter at 149 pounds all season...has compiled an overall record of 19-10, 8-7 in dual action...in first tournament of ASU career, went 3-1 to place second at the Cal Open Nov. 12...also placed fifth at the Reno Tournament of Champions...upset 14th-ranked Joe Henson of Pennsylvania, 12-9, Feb. 9...has faced seven ranked opponents, including three top-15 wrestlers in his last three matches...nearly upset No. 1 Reggie Wright of Oklahoma State Feb. 16, losing by a slim 4-2 margin...has turned in four wins by fall and two by major decision...shares team lead with three win by technical fall.

ROCKY SMART * 157
Sophomore
Pleasant Grove, Utah/BYU

Making first appearance at Pac-10 championships, as a transfer from BYU...ASU's starter at 157 pounds all season...has compiled an impressive 22-9 overall record in first year as a Sun Devil, 11-4 in dual action...opened season winning six straight matches, before falling to No. 3 Kirk White of Boise State, 3-2...placed seventh at the Las Vegas Invitational, losing only to White and No. 5 Shaun Shapert of Edinboro...went 3-1 to place second at the Reno Tournament of Champions, upsetting No. 14 Shane Roller (Oklahoma State) 4-3 in the semifinals before falling to White once again, 5-1...one of three Sun Devils to go 3-0 at the National Duals...has faced 13 ranked opponents, five in his last seven matches...nearly upended No. 2 Yoshi Nakamura of Pennsylvania, barely losing 2-1 in overtime Feb. 9...upset No. 7 Cole Sanderson of Iowa State 5-3 in overtime Feb. 11...has taken three of last five opponents into overtime...has tallied one fall, one tech. fall and three major decisions.

STEVE BLACKFORD * 165
Senior
Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling HS

Defending Pac-10 champion at 165 pounds and 2000 Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year...two-time Pac-10 runner-up as well...on pace to finish career as one of the best wrestlers in ASU history...ranks fourth on ASU's all-time win list with 129 victories...also ranks third in career dual victories (62) and fifth in career falls (30)...leads team with 26-4 overall record, 13-2 in dual action...ranked in the top-five all season...opened season winning seven straight matches, before being upset by No. 14 Matt Lackey (Illinois) 6-3 at the Las Vegas Invitational...finished sixth at the Las Vegas Inv...went 4-0 to win the 165 pound title at the Reno Tournament of Champions, posting a 6-5 decision over No. 7 Ty Wilcox of Oklahoma State...tallied a 5-1 record, facing four ranked opponents, to place third at the Midlands Championships...was pinned by No. 9 Ben Shirk of Iowa in 4:26, his only loss at Midlands...went on to win nine straight matches after the upset...shut out No. 6 Robbie Waller of Oklahoma, 6-0, Jan. 12...went 3-0 in the National Duals, including a 6-2 win over No. 7 Wilcox...was upset by un-ranked Jed Pennell of Oregon State, 7-6 in overtime, Jan. 26, his first dual loss of the season...second dual loss came at the hands of No. 2 Joe Heskett of Iowa State, 10-8...has faced 11 ranked opponents...leads team with seven falls, shares team lead with three technical falls and has tallied five major decision victories.

CURTIS OWEN * 174
Junior
Coeur D'Alene, Idaho/North Idaho CC

Making second appearance at the Pac-10 Championships after finishing fourth last season at 174 pounds...reliable starter for ASU all season...has compiled an overall record of 20-11, 11-3 in dual action...has won seven straight matches dating back to Jan. 26, including three by major decision...placed fourth at the Cal Open Nov. 12...failed to place at the Las Vegas Invitational, despite turning in two wins via tech. fall...took fifth place at the Reno Tournament of Champions...upset No. 6 Nathan Coy of Oregon State, 5-4, Jan. 26 and No. 9 Perry Parks of Iowa State, 5-1, Feb. 11...nearly upset No. 11 Michael Barger of Oklahoma, losing by a slim 8-7 margin Jan. 12...faced seven ranked opponents..leads the team with 10 major decision victories...has tallied one win by fall and shares the team lead with three tech. fall wins.

R.D. PURSELL * 184
Senior
Tempe, Ariz./Phoenix College

First Pac-10 Championship appearance...ASU's starter all season at 184 pounds...second only to Blackford on the team with 25 wins...has compiled an overall record of 25-13, 10-5 in dual action...has faced 13 ranked opponents, including No. 1 Cael Sanderson (Iowa State) and No. 3 Daniel Cormier (Oklahoma State) in his last two matches...opened the season placing third at the Cal Open, posting a 4-1 record...placed fifth at the Reno Tournament of Champions, despite an opening round major decision loss to then-No. 8 Cormier...turned in a 5-3 record to place sixth at the Midlands Championships, losing twice to No. 4 Doug Lee (Oregon)...has won four of his last seven matches...has won four matches by fall, two by tech. fall and five by major decision.

MIKE MARSHALL * 197
Senior
Dracut, Mass./UMass-Lowell

Making first Pac-10 appearance...transferred from UMass-Lowell last year...opened the season as ASU's starter at 184 pounds at the Cal Open before being moved up to 197...was sidelined most the season due to a broken foot...compiled a 7-5 overall record, 1-4 in dual action...has taken over as the starter at 197 since Feb. 2, going 0-4...in last four matches, has faced three top-seven ranked opponents including No. 2 Zach Thompson (Iowa State) and No. 3 Mark Munoz (Oklahoma State)...went 6-1 to place fourth at the Cal Open...has tallied three major decision victories.

KELLAN FLUCKIGER * HWT
Sophomore
Preston, Idaho/Preston HS

Making second Pac-10 appearance after placing third at heavyweight as a freshman last year...ASU's starter at heavyweight all season...has compiled an overall record of 20-8, 10-4 in dual action...opened the season rattling off seven-straight wins before falling to No. 1 John Lockhart (Illinois) 3-1 at the Las Vegas Inv....placed fourth at the Cal Open Nov. 12...went 3-0 to capture the heavyweight crown at the Reno Tournament of Champions Dec. 20, including wins over No. 15 Bart Johnson (Boise State) and No. 20 Eric Webb (Oregon)...upset No. 9 Mark Knauer of Iowa State 5-0 at Midlands...also pulled an upset over No. 7 Jason Cooley of Oregon State with a 6-4 decision Jan. 26...has faced 11 ranked opponents...nearly defeated No. 2 Billy Blunt of Fresno State, losing 5-3 Jan. 28...has won two matches by fall, two by tech. fall and five by major decision (tied for third best on team).

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