Townsend Saunders Named ASU Assistant Wrestling Coach; Aaron Simpson Retained As Second Assistant

June 11, 2001

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Former Sun Devil wrestler Townsend Saunders has been named the head assistant wrestling coach at Arizona State University while Aaron Simpson has been retained as the second assistant, ASU wrestling head coach Thom Ortiz announced Monday.

Saunders, an Arizona native who wrestled with Ortiz at ASU for two seasons (1988-89, 1989-90), was a two-time All-American and a two-time Pacific-10 champion in a Sun Devil uniform. With a 77-9 overall record, Saunders is tied for fourth in ASU history with an .895 winning percentage. He is also tied for fourth on ASU's list for dual victories in a season (20 in 1989-90) and is tied seventh on ASU's single-season overall-victories list (40 in 1988-89).

'We're excited to have Townsend on our staff,' Ortiz said. 'He will help provide an atmosphere that embodies education as a first priority, as well as taking our athletes to the next level athletically. Townsend is representative of the Sun Devil wrestling tradition and coaching philosophy.'

Following his outstanding ASU career, Saunders went on to become a two-time Olympian in 1992 and 1996, including a silver medal winning performance in '96. He was a two-time gold medalist at the Pan American Games in 1991 and 1995, and in 1994 earned a gold medal at the Goodwill Games. Saunders also won a U.S. Open National Championship title at 68 kilograms (149.5 pounds).

'I'm excited about rebuilding the strong tradition ASU wrestling has had in the past and filling the role of ASU coaches before me,' Saunders said. 'I'm looking forward to passing along the tradition they instilled in me to take the right path.'

This is Saunders' first collegiate coaching position, but he has served as a coach for the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club since 1991. A member of the board of directors of U.S.A. Wrestling, Saunders earned his undergraduate degree in sociology from ASU in 1990 and his MBA at the University of Phoenix in October of 2000. He transferred to ASU prior to the 1988-89 season after wrestling two years at Cal State Bakersfield.

Aaron Simpson enters his fourth year as an assistant after serving the last three years under Lee Roy Smith. During Simpson's tenure, ASU produced eight All-Americans, including three-time All-American Steve Blackford and two-time All-American Eric Larkin, and two Pac-10 Wrestlers of the Year (Blackford - 2000, Larkin - 2001).

'Aaron was highly recommended to me by the athletic department, the wrestling community and the student athletes,' Ortiz said. 'He is going to be a necessary component during this transitional phase between head coaches.'

Before serving on the coaching staff, Simpson was a two-time All-American at ASU and graduated in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in broadcasting. During his Sun Devil career he collected 110 wins, 11th on ASU's all-time list. He won two straight Pac-10 titles (1997-98) and three times earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors.

A native of Wellton, Ariz., Simpson continues to pursue his freestyle wrestling career, most recently qualifying for the World Team Trials June 22-24 in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a fifth-place finish at the U.S. National Freestyle Championships. He was the 1997 Pan-American silver medalist at 187 pounds and last summer placed fifth at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Simpson is training for the 2004 Olympic Games.

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