Eric Larkin Wins National Wrestling Championship, 10-8, Over Lawrence
March 22, 2003
TEMPE, Ariz. - Eric Larkin (Sr., Tucson, Ariz.) walked away from the 2002 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Albany, N.Y., as the national runner-up at 141 pounds, falling shy of winning a national championship. After a year of hardwork, Larkin posted a 10-8 victory over No. 2 Jared Lawrence of Minnesota at 149 Saturday at the 2003 NCAA meet to capture his first national title and lead the Arizona State wrestling team to fifth place.
'Honestly, I feel relaxed, but also very excited,' Larkin said after his win moved him to 34-0 on the year. 'I am just really happy about getting this win. I feel good that I could do this for my family. They went through a long season and a long career just like I have and it makes it worth it to win for them. I owe a lot of credit to them.'
Larkin, who earned his fourth All-America honor this year, also earned a distinction that no other Sun Devil wrestler has as he was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the 2003 NCAA Championships. The sixth ASU grappler to win a national title, Larkin also is just the fourth four-time All-American at ASU.
'Everything just came together out there today,' Larkin said. 'I came out of the first scramble and got on top. I think scoring that takedown was the deciding point in the match. I knew I had to pace myself and stay with the scrambles because I felt that is where I would win the match. I just kept wrestling and finally won this title.'
Nearly a minute into the match, Larkin scored the takedown with Lawrence, the 2002 champion at 149, escaping 18 seconds later. Less than 30 seconds later, Larkin took down the Golden Gopher again, but gave up a two point reversal to bring the score to 4-3. Larkin escaped at the end of the first for a 5-3 lead. In the second, Larkin escaped and was taken down moments later. After a Larkin reversal, the period ended with two minutes left to compete and the Sun Devil ahead 8-5.
In the final period, Larkin scored another takedown for a 10-5 lead. Lawrence would escape and then took Larkin down with five seconds left, but it was not enough as Larkin joined Curley Culp (1967), Eddie Urbano (1985), Dan St. John (1989 and 1990), Ray Miller (1993) and Markus Mollica (1993 and 1995) as ASU's national champions. Larkin also moved into a tie for sixth on the all-time ASU wins list with Casey Strand (1995-99) with 123 victories compared to just 12 losses. His .911 winning percentage also ranks him third all-time.
'I am very proud of Eric and of the entire team,' Thom Ortiz, ASU head coach, said. 'They stepped up and finished in the Top 5, achieving a goal higher than what I thought we were capable. They represented the school well and really made a name for this program.. To see Curtis Owen (Sr., Coeur D'Alene, Idaho) and Kellan Fluckiger (Sr., Preston, Idaho) also get All-America honors was a nice way for these three to end their careers.'
Oklahoma State won the team title, the 31st for the storied Cowboy program, with 143 points. Minnesota was denied their third national title in a row, settling instead for second with 104.5 points. Oklahoma (78), Lehigh (69) and ASU rounded out the Top 5. For the Sun Devils, their 65 points and fifth-place finish marks the best team placing since the 1995 event where ASU accumulated 65.5 points and took fourth.