No. 13 Wrestling Seeks To Defend Title At Pac-10 Championships This Weekend

Feb. 26, 2002

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This Week --
With the regular season now a thing of the past, No. 13 Arizona State wrestling has its sights set on defending its 2001 conference title at the 2002 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships hosted by Oregon State, Saturday, March 2, through Sunday, March 3, at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore. ASU has held the No. 1 Pac-10 ranking all season and will be challenged by Oregon State, Boise State and Oregon. Coming off three straight losses to ranked opponents, the Sun Devils finished the dual season with an overall record of 9-5 and 6-0 against Pac-10 foes. The Pac-10 tournament also serves as ASU's means of qualifying for the NCAA Championships, as the top four individual finishers in each weight class advance to nationals held March 21-23, at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y.

Probable Arizona State Lineup --
125: #16/#13 Mike Simpson, Freshman, Anaheim, Calif. (23-7)
133: #3/#3 David Douglas, Senior, Harvey, Ill. (26-3)
141: #2/#6 Eric Larkin, Junior, Tucson, Ariz. (24-4)
149: Evan Larkin, Freshman, Tucson, Ariz. (10-11)
157: #11/#8 Rocky Smart, Pleasant Grove, Utah (17-3)
165: Nick Frost, Sophomore, Tucson, Ariz. (16-10)
174: Chris Petrie, Freshman, Glendale, Ariz. (2-8)
184: Will Carr, Freshman, Columbia Heights, Minn. (5-19)
197: #7/#8 Erik Gladish, Senior, Kentfield, Calif. (22-10)
HWT: #9/#9 Kellan Fluckiger, Junior, Preston, Idaho (24-7)
Rankings according to AWN/InterMat (2/26/02)

Pac-10 Championship Format --
The two-day tournament is divided into four sessions culminating with the championship finals Sunday at 6 p.m. PT. In addition to ASU, those teams competing in the Pac-10 for wrestling are 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 held at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y., Thursday, March 21 through Saturday, March 23.

Pac-10 Championship Schedule --
Saturday, March 2 (Please note all times PST)
Session I 11 a.m. Prelims, quarterfinals and wrestleback prelims
Session II 6 p.m. Semifinals and consolation quarterfinals

Sunday, March 3
Session III 11 a.m. Consolation semis, fifth and third-place matches
Session IV 6 p.m. Championship Finals

Last Year at the Pac-10 Championships --
Led by individual title-winners David Douglas (133), Eric Larkin (141), Steve Blackford (165) and Kellan Fluckiger (HWT), ASU won its third conference crown in the last five years at last year's Pac-10 Championships hosted by the University of Oregon at McArthur Court in Eugene, Ore. The Sun Devils' 123.5 points led the team race, followed by Boise State (110.5), Oregon State (109.5) and Oregon (103.5). Not only did the Sun Devils come away with a team title and four individual titles, but eight wrestlers earned qualifying berths to the NCAA Championships. In addition the first-place finishers, also qualifying for nationals were Dana Holland (runner-up at 149 pounds), Rocky Smart (third, 157), Curtis Owen (third, 174) and R.D. Pursell (fourth, 184).

Pac-10 Win Streak --
With ASU's 6-0 dual record vs. Pac-10 opponents this year, the Sun Devils are 14-0 in Pac-10 duals since Feb. 6, 1999 (last loss at Oregon State, 23-19).

ASU Pac-10 Championship Quick Facts --
* As a team, Arizona State has captured 15 conference titles, including 12 in the last 17 years. ASU won seven straight Pac-10 crowns under head coach Bobby Douglas from 1985-1991.
* ASU has finished no lower than third at the conference championships since 1975.
* A total of 63 athletes have captured 107 conference titles in the 39-year history of the program.
* This year's ASU roster includes three returning Pac-10 Champions: David Douglas (133, 2001), Eric Larkin (133, 1999, 141, 2001) and Kellan Fluckiger (HWT, 2001).
* ASU set the Pac-10 record for most points scored at the conference championships with 152.75 points in 1983.
* A school record seven Sun Devils won individual Pac-10 crowns in 1985.
* ASU's coaching staff of Thom Ortiz, Townsend Saunders and Aaron Simpson combined for seven Pac-10 titles when they wrestled at ASU. Ortiz was a three-time Pac-10 Champion (1987, '88, '90), while Saunders (1989, '90) and Simpson (1997, '98) each earned two titles.

Last Time Out --
Sixth-ranked Oklahoma proved to be too much for 11th-ranked ASU, as the Sun Devils mustered only two wins against the Sooners, falling 38-6 in their regular season finale at the Howard McCasland Field House in Norman, Okla., Feb. 21. Sixth-ranked David Douglas' upset win at 133 pounds provided ASU's highlight on the night, earning a 7-4 decision over third-ranked Witt Durden. Rocky Smart, ranked 11th, also picked up a big win with a 6-3 decision over 12th-ranked Doug Cieleski at 157. Top-ranked Eric Larkin lost for the second time in his last three matches, falling to 15th-ranked Nate Parker 6-4. OU won the first four matches by two falls and two major decisions, and were aided by ASU forfeits at 125 and 149 pounds.

Sun Devils in the National Polls --
After four straight weeks at No. 11, ASU has dropped to 13th in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll released Feb. 22. ASU is also ranked 13th according to the Feb. 26 InterMat poll. Five Sun Devils are ranked individually, featured by junior Eric Larkin, ranked No. 2 at 141 pounds by Amateur Wrestling News and No. 6 by InterMat, while senior David Douglas ranks third by both at 133 pounds. Additional rankings include redshirt freshman Mike Simpson at 125 (16th-AWN, 13th-IM), junior Rocky Smart at 157 (eighth-IM, 11th-AWN), senior Erik Gladish at 197 (seventh-AWN, eighth-IM), and junior Kellan Fluckiger at heavyweight (ninth-AWN, ninth-IM). This week marks the first time this season that Eric Larkin has not been ranked No. 1 at 141 pounds in either poll.

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

King Pin --
The top-ranked wrestler in the nation at 141 pounds for most of the season, junior Eric Larkin continues to display his dominance on the mat. Larkin has won 14 of his 24 matches by fall this season after beginning 2001-02 with 10 career pins compiled during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Larkin is three pins away from tying for fourth place on ASU's single-season list. The school record for pins in a season is 25 set by Dan Severn in 1980-81. Larkin had a stretch of 10 pins in 13 matches from the Nov. 25 dual with Oregon State through the second round of Midlands.

Owen Out For the Season --
Senior Curtis Owen, a two-time NCAA qualifier and co-captain, has not competed this year after suffering a season-ending elbow injury that required surgery in the fall. Owen is petitioning for a medical redshirt.

Reno Tournament/Midlands Recaps--
Despite competing without wrestlers in three weight classes, ASU placed ninth at the 39th annual Midlands Championships hosted by Northwestern Dec. 29 through Dec. 30. Eric Larkin won the 141-pound title to lead the Sun Devils, while Mike Simpson placed third at 125 pounds. The only other ASU wrestler to place was Erik Gladish who took eighth at 197. David Douglas was the No. 2 seed at 133 pounds, but suffered his first loss of the season in the quarterfinals (5-2 to Iowa's Cliff Moore) and then his second in the consolation bracket (3-2 tiebreaker to Michigan State's Ryan L'Amoreaux). Prior to Midlands, ASU placed third at the Reno Tournament of Champions, Dec. 20, with Larkin (141), Douglas (133), and Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) winning titles, and Erik Gladish (197) earning runner-up honors.

Las Vegas Invitational Recap--
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).

Missouri Open Recap --
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).

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 tocompete 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 --
The top four finishers in each weight class at this week's Pac-10 Championships advance to compete in the NCAA Championships held at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y., Thursday, March 21, through Saturday, March 23.

Anaheim, Calif./Brethren Christian HS

Making first Pac-10 Championship appearance...ASU's starter at 125 pounds all season...tallied impressive overall record of 23-7 and 8-3 dual record in freshman leader with five major decisions...second on team with three technical falls...placed third at both the Las Vegas Invitational and Midlands Championships...after a 3-3 start to the season, has won 20 of his last 24 matches...four of his seven losses have come to ranked opponents including No. 1 Stephen Abas of Fresno State (fall 1:42 at Las Vegas Invite) and No. 2 LeRoy Vega of Minnesota (2-3 at Midlands)...upset No. 3 A.J. Grant (Michigan) 2-1 at the Las Vegas Invitational...4-4 versus ranked opponents.

Harvey, Ill./Thornridge HS
Defending Pac-10 Champion at 133 pounds...also earned All-America honors for first time last season...has compiled overall record of 26-3, 12-1 dual leader with 26 wins, tying a career high...ranks 19th on ASU's career victories list (95)...opened the season winning 16 straight matches...has lost twice to Iowa's Cliff Moore (5-2 at Midlands and 7-4 at National Duals) and once to Michigan State's Ryan L'Amoreaux (3-2 at Midlands)...won titles at Missouri Open and Reno Tournament...opened the season wrestling at 141 pounds, compiling a 10-0 record before moving down to 133 at the Reno Tournament...upset No. 1 Johnny Thompson of Oklahoma State to win Reno title...upset No. 3 Witt Durden in ASU's dual with Oklahoma Feb. 21, just one of two Sun Devils to pick up a victory vs. the Sooners...8-1 versus ranked opponents.

Tucson, Ariz./Sunnyside HS
Two-time All-American and two-time Pac-10 champion...2001 Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year...won 1999 Pac-10 title at 133 pounds and 2001 title at 141...ranked No. 1 at 141 pounds all season by Amateur Wrestling News until falling to No. 2 in the Feb. 26 rankings ...selected to compete in NWCA All-Star Classic but was unable to participate due to injury...has 2001-02 overall record of 24-4, and dual record of co-captain...leads team with career high 14 falls...three falls away from tying for fourth on ASU's single-season list...had a stretch of 10 pins in 13 straight matches, including six in seven bouts...won tournament titles at the Missouri Open, Reno Tournament of Champions and Midlands Championships...suffered four losses this season, two to Iowa State's Aaron Holker (9-5 at National Duals, 8-5 in Feb. 10 dual)...also beaten by Harvard's Jesse Jantzen (8-4 at Las Vegas Invite), and Oklahoma's Nate Parker (6-4)...opened the season wrestling at 149 pounds, moved down to 141 at the Reno Tournament...has also earned two major decisions...6-3 versus ranked opponents.

Tucson, Ariz./Sunnyside HS
Making first Pac-10 appearance...has compiled an overall record of 10-11 and 4-3 dual record in first season as a Sun Devil...has wrestled at 133, 141 and 149 pounds this season...filled in for an injured Quinn Foster at 149 pounds in ASU's duals with Iowa State and Fresno State...was pinned by ISU's Billy Maldonado in 5:45 and fell 10-8 to FSU's Jim Medeiros...was 2-0 at 141 pounds...has tallied one fall and two tech falls...competed at the Missouri Open, Las Vegas Invitational, Reno Tournament and Midlands at 133 pounds...younger brother of Eric Larkin...0-6 versus ranked opponents.

Pleasant Grove, Utah/BYU
Making second appearance at Pac-10 championships...placed third at 157 at last year's conference tournament...two-time NCAA co-captain...ASU's No. 1 starter at 157 pounds all season...compiled overall record of 17-3, 8-1 dual record...suffered hand injury at Reno Tournament Dec. 20 which kept him out of the lineup until Jan. 26...won 157 title at Missouri Open...also placed fourth at the Las Vegas Invitational and sixth at the Reno Tournament...won nine straight matches before suffering first loss of the season to 11th-ranked Joe Carr of West Virginia at the Las Vegas Invite (2-2 tb)...only other losses this season came to No. 6 Ryan Bertin (Michigan), 3-2 at Las Vegas, and No. 1 Bryan Snyder (Nebraska), 25-8 technical fall in ASU's dual with the Huskers...since coming back from the injury has won six of seven bouts...2-3 versus ranked opponents.

Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic HS
Making first appearance at Pac-10 championships...ASU's starter all season at 165 pounds...has compiled an overall record of 16-10, and a dual record of leader with four tech falls...has also tallied three falls and four major decisions...placed fourth at the Missouri Open and sixth at the Las Vegas Invitational...two times this season, has scored a tech fall which proved to be the deciding factor in ASU wins...20-3 tech fall over Ted Dufresne in ASU's match with Lehigh at National Duals gave Sun Devils the team victory when criteria C was used as the deciding factor for breaking 21-21 tie...also with ASU trailing by one point going into the final bout vs. Nebraska, his 18-2 tech fall over Jason High gave ASU the 20-16 win...picked up ASU's only win in its dual with Iowa at National Duals...1-6 versus ranked opponents.

Glendale, Ariz./Mountain Ridge HS
True freshman making first Pac-10 tournament appearance...ASU's starter at 174 since Jan. 12 dual with Embry-Riddle...has compiled overall and dual record of 2-8...picked up a win in his first collegiate match, earning a 10-5 decision over Embry-Riddle's Nathaniel Auguston...also picked up 12-4 win over Cal State Bakersfield's Bryan Travers...0-4 versus ranked opponents.

Columbia Heights, Minn./Columbia Heights HS
Making first appearance at the Pac-10 Championships...29 year-old true freshman who served 10 years in the Marine Corps before coming to ASU this year...ASU's starter at 184 pounds all season...has compiled an overall record of 5-19, and a dual record of 3-11...his last two wins have come via fall, pinning Cal State Bakersfield's Scott O'Rear in 3:34 (Jan. 26 dual) and Oregon's Elias Soto in 4:29 (Feb. 3 dual)...0-7 versus ranked opponents.

Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic HS
Making second Pac-10 tournament appearance after placing third at 2000 championships...ASU's starter all season at 197 pounds...has compiled an overall record of 22-10 and a dual record of 8-3...tied for second on team with Nick Frost for major decisions (four)...also has one pin and one technical fall...placed in all four of ASU's tournaments this season including runner-up finishes at the Missouri Open and Reno Tournament of Champions, along with a seventh place finish at the Las Vegas Invite and an eighth-place finish at Midlands...upset No. 6 Justin Ruiz 7-5 in ASU's dual with Nebraska Feb. 1...has missed ASU's last three matches with a knee injury...4-7 versus ranked opponents.

Preston, Idaho/Preston HS
Defending Pac-10 champion at heavyweight is making third straight Pac-10 appearance...ASU's starter at heavyweight all season...has compiled an overall record of 24-7, 12-2 in dual action...24 wins is a career high...won heavyweight title at Reno Tournament of Champions and placed fifth at the Missouri Open...has won 16 of last 19 matches...tied for team lead with 12 dual wins...has also tallied two falls and two major decisons...has wrestled two top-ranked opponents, falling to No. 1 John Lockhart 5-3 (Illinois) at Midlands and pinned by No. 1 Steve Mocco in 55 seconds (Iowa) at National Duals...4-6 versus ranked opponents.

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