Wrestling Heads to Reno Tournament of Champions Thursday

Dec. 17, 2001

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This Week --
After a two and a half week break, Arizona State wrestling (2-0 overall, 2-0 Pac-10) resumes competition this week as the Sun Devils head to the Reno Tournament of Champions held at the Reno Livestock Events Center, Thursday, Dec. 20. The tournament begins at 9 a.m. PST, with finals scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ASU is coming off a fifth-place finish at the Las Vegas Invitational which wrapped up Dec. 1, and a 25-10 Pac-10 win over Oregon State Nov. 29.

Probable Arizona State Lineup --
125: #9/#19 Mike Simpson, Freshman, Anaheim, Calif. (12-3)
133: #4/#3 David Douglas, Senior, Harvey, Ill. (10-0) or
Evan Larkin, Freshman, Tucson, Ariz. (6-5)
141: #5/#1 Eric Larkin, Junior, Tucson, Ariz. (9-1)
149: Joey Ortiz, Freshman, Phoenix, Ariz. (3-2) or
Danny Alcocer, Freshman, Aurora, Ill. (2-1)
157: #9/#8 Rocky Smart, Junior, Pleasant Grove, Utah (10-2)
165: #13/#14 Nick Frost, Sophomore, Tucson, Ariz. (7-3)
174: Jason Conine, Sophomore, San Antonio, Texas (1-6)
184: Will Carr, Freshman, Columbia Heights, Minn. (2-5)
197: #10/#7 Erik Gladish, Senior, Kentfield, Calif. (10-3)
HWT: #17/#15 Kellan Fluckiger, Junior, Preston, Idaho (8-4) or
Hector Torres, Junior, Rosemead, Calif. (0-2)
Rankings according to AWM/InterMat (12/12/01), nr - not ranked

Reno Tournament of Champions --
This year's Reno Tournament of Champions will feature 16 teams including No. 8 ASU, No. 2 Oklahoma State, Cal State Bakersfield, Portland State, Lassen Junior College, Oregon, UC Davis, Cal State Fullerton, No. 17 Missouri, Boise State, Cal Poly, No. 23 Central Michigan, No. 20 Penn State, Stanford, the Citadel and No. 4 Michigan. Competition runs all day beginning with first round action at 9 a.m. PST, while first and third-place finals at 5 p.m.

Last Year at the Reno Tournament of Champions --
ASU earned a runner-up team finish at last year's Reno Tournament of Champions, led by title-winners Steve Blackford (165) and Kellan Fluckiger (HWT). The Sun Devils finished second only to top-ranked Oklahoma State, a team which produced six individual champions and won their sixth-straight tournament title. Blackford edged Oklahoma State's Ty Wilcox 6-5 for the 165 title, while Fluckiger earned a 6-3 decision over Oregon's Eric Webb at heavyweight. Rocky Smart was the runner-up at 157, losing a tough 3-2 decision to Boise State's Kirk White.

Last Time Out --
Redshirt freshman Mike Simpson earned a third-place finish at 125 pounds and junior Rocky Smart finished fourth at 157, leading the Sun Devils to fifth-place at the two-day Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational that concluded Saturday, Dec. 1. A total of six Sun Devils advanced to finals, including top-ranked junior Eric Larkin who suffered a surprise 8-4 semifinal loss to Harvard's Jesse Jantzen. Larkin, who pulled out of the sixth-place match, had pinned his first three opponents prior to the loss. Also picking up sixth-place finishes were senior David Douglas (141) and sophomore Nick Frost (165), while senior Erik Gladish placed seventh (197). Prior to the tournament, ASU hosted Oregon State in a Pac-10 dual which the Sun Devils won 25-10.

Sun Devils in the National Polls --
The National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll was released in early December with ASU ranking eighth in the first two polls. Seven Sun Devils are ranked individually, featured by junior Eric Larkin, ranked No. 1 at 141 pounds by InterMat and No. 5 by AWN, while senior David Douglas ranks third at 133 according to InterMat and is fourth according to AWM. Additional rankings include junior Rocky Smart at 157 (eighth-IM, ninth-IM), sophomore Nick Frost at 165 (13th-AWM, 14th-IM), senior Erik Gladish at 197 (10th-AWM, seventh-IM), junior Kellan Fluckiger at heavyweight (17th-AWM, 15th-IM) and redshirt freshman Mike Simpson at 125 (ninth-AWM, 19th-IM).

Pac-10 Rankings --
ASU is still ranked No. 1 in the second Pac-10 Wrestling Poll released Dec. 4. The defending champions sit atop No. 2 Oregon State (host of this year's Pac-10 tournament), No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Boise State, No. 5 Caly Poly, No. 6 UC Davis, No. 7 Cal State Bakersfield, No. 8 Stanford, No. 9 Portland State and No. 10 Cal State Fullerton. ASU wrestlers are ranked among the top-four in eight weight classes, including five Sun Devils ranked No. 1: Mike Simpson (No. 3, 125), David Douglas (No. 1, 133), Eric Larkin (No. 1, 141), Rocky Smart (No. 1, 157), Nick Frost (No. 4, 165), Erik Gladish (No. 1, 197) and Kellan Fluckiger (No. 1, HWT).

Lineup Juggling --
ASU All-Americans Eric Larkin and David Douglas opened the season wrestling up one weight class, Larkin at 149 pounds and Douglas at 141 pounds. Ranked No. 1 and No. 3 at 141 and 133 pounds, respectively, both wrestlers expect to make the move back down to those weight classes at the Reno Tournament of Champions, Thursday.

Owen Out for the Season --
Senior Curtis Owen, a two-time NCAA qualifier and co-captain, suffered a season-ending elbow injury and is petitioning for a medical redshirt. Surgery on the left elbow will require five to six months of rehabilitation. Owen has not competed this season.

Missouri Open Highlights --
No. 11 ASU made its season debut Sunday, Nov. 18, at the Missouri Open, with three Sun Devils taking home individual title wins. Senior David Douglas won the 141-pound title, junior Eric Larkin captured the 149-pound title and junior Rocky Smart won the 157-pound crown. Senior Erik Gladish came just shy of becoming the fourth Sun Devil to post a tournament victory, falling 3-1 in overtime to Ohio State's Nick Preston in the final bout. Also placing for ASU were sophomore Nick Frost (fourth at 165 pounds) and junior Kellan Fluckiger (fifth at heavyweight).

Sun Devils Impressive at Sunkist Open --
Junior Eric Larkin captured the freestyle 63 kg. championship title, while freshman Evan Larkin, junior Kellan Fluckiger and assistant coach Aaron Simpson each earned freestyle runner-up honors as the 17th Annual Sunkist Kids/ASU International Open that concluded at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz., Sunday, Oct. 28. Larkin went 5-0 during the two-day tournament, highlighted by a close 5-4 decision over Jamill Kelly in the championship bout. His title was one of five freestyle titles captured by the United States, while Canada came away with two champions. Eric's younger brother Evan, took second at 58 kg., losing to Canada's Saelo Azarbayjami by technical fall (12-2, 4:10) in the title match. Fluckiger finished second at 130 kg., losing by technical fall (10-0, 2:07) to Tolly Thompson, while Simpson, last year's winner at 85 kg., fell to Randy Pugh 4-2 in the title match.

Head Coach Thom Ortiz --
Becoming the fifth head coach in the 39-year history of ASU wrestling, Thom Ortiz returns to his alma mater where he was a three-time All-American, a three-time Pac-10 champion and a strong contributor to three of the most successful teams in ASU wrestling history. Ortiz helped ASU win four straight Pac-10 titles and its only NCAA crown in 1988, a season followed by two-straight national runner-up finishes in '89 and '90. Ortiz returns to ASU after serving nine years as the head assistant coach at Iowa State under his former Sun Devil coach Bobby Douglas. In 1992, he followed Douglas from Tempe to Ames, Iowa, for an assistant coaching position. With the Cyclones, Ortiz helped mentor three national champions and numerous All-Americans, while bringing in some of the top-ranked recruiting classes in the nation. Ortiz was also the runner-up for the 2000 National Wrestling Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year Award. Prior to his stint at Iowa State, Ortiz was an ASU graduate assistant in 1991, before taking over as the Sun Devils' interim head coach while Douglas was coaching the U.S. Olympic wrestling team in 1992.

ASU Ties --
Not only is head coach Thom Ortiz a former Sun Devil, both of his assistant coaches, Townsend Saunders and Aaron Simpson, are ASU alums. Saunders is in his first season as an assistant coach, hired by Ortiz in June 2001. Saunders wrestled for two seasons at ASU (1988-89, 1989-90), both years earning All-America honors and winning Pac-10 titles. Since his collegiate career, he went on to compete as a two-time Olympian, including a silver-medal winning performance in 1996. Saunders, recently named the executive director of the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club, was also a two-time gold medalist at the Pan-American Games and a 1994 gold medalist at the Goodwill Games. Simpson enters his fourth year as an assistant, after working the previous three years under Lee Roy Smith. Simpson graduated from ASU in 1998 where he was a two-time All-American and two-time Pac-10 champion. Simpson continues his wrestling career competing for the Phoenix-based Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club. He was the 1997 Pan-American Games silver-medalist at 187 pounds and in June 2000, he placed fifth at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Last summer he qualified for the World Team Trials with a fifth-place finish at the U.S. National Championships.

Up Next --
Following the Christmas holiday, ASU will hit the road again, traveling to Evanston, Ill. for the Midlands Tournament, Saturday, Dec. 29 through Sunday, Dec. 30.

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