Wrestling Opens Season at Cal State Fullerton

Nov. 8, 2000

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This Week: The Arizona State Sun Devil wrestling squad opens the 2000-01 season at the Cal Open hosted by Cal State Fullerton at Titan Gym, Sunday, Nov. 12 in Fullerton, Calif. The all-day affair beginning at 9 a.m. MST (8 a.m. PST) will feature many Pac-10 foes including Cal State Bakersfield, Stanford, UC Davis, and Cal Poly. Last year at the Cal Open, Steve Blackford (165) and Randy Leydecker (HWT), captured individual titles for the Sun Devils.

Season Outlook: The 2001 edition of the ASU wrestling team, which returns seven NCAA qualifiers, including three All-Americans, begins its quest for a Pac-10 title and a top-10 national finish when the regular season schedule begins this weekend. The Sun Devils will look to improve upon their runner-up finish at the Pac-10 Championships and a 16th-place finish at the NCAA Championships a year ago. Head coach Lee Roy Smith, in his ninth year at the helm of the ASU wrestling program, will look to senior All-American Steve Blackford and sophomore All-American Eric Larkin to lead the Sun Devils in 2001. Blackford and Larkin will start at 165 and 141 pounds respectively, lending their experience to a lineup mixed with returners and newcomers. Juniors David Douglas (133) and Curtis Owen (174), and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) are also starters and NCAA qualifiers who return to solidify the lineup this season. Possible newcomers who may find themselves in a starting role are freshman Mike Simpson (125), junior transfer Dana Holland (149), sophomore transfer Rocky Smart (157), and freshman Quint Swanberg (184).

Sun Devils in the Polls:The National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll has not yet been released this year, but ASU enters the season ranked 10th by Amateur Wrestling News and 14th by Intermat. ASU culminated last season with a No. 13 ranking. Six Sun Devils open the season ranked nationally by Intermat's pre-season rankings released Oct. 26 and Amatuer Wrestling News' rankings released Nov. 5. Senior Steve Blackford is ranked third in both polls, while sophomore Eric Larkin is ranked third by AWM and fourth by Intermat. Junior David Douglas is ranked seventh by both polls, and junior transfer Dana Holland checks in at No. 18 according to Intermat. Also ranked are sophomore transfer Rocky Smart, 20th by both polls, and junior Curtis Owen, ranked No. 17 by Intermat and No. 18 by AWM.

Intrasquad Meet: The ASU wrestling team will hold an intrasquad meet Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena. This will be the first chance for fans to see the 2001 Sun Devils at home, before hosting the Desert Duals Friday, Nov. 24.

Larkin Places 4th at World University Championships: Arizona State All-American wrestler Eric Larkin placed fourth in the 138.75 pound category at the 2000 World University Freestyle Championships in Tokyo, Japan, helping the United States to the freestyle team title Sunday, Nov. 5. Larkin, who won his first three matches of the first and second sessions, lost 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. Larkin, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the U.S. on the Senior Level, used his redshirt year last season to train for the Olympic Trials in which he placed third. In addition to the Olympic Trials, Larkin also placed second in the western regional and fifth at the U.S. National Championships last year.

Sunkist International Open:Bolstered by a first-place finish by Arizona State assistant wrestling coach Aaron Simpson, the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club claimed the freestyle team title at the 16th annual Sunkist Kids International Open at Desert Vista High School Sunday, Nov. 5. Simpson, a two-time All-American at ASU, won the championship match at 85 kilograms with a technical fall over Hidekazu Yokoyma 13-2. ASU volunteer assistant coach Mark Smith was also a top-three finisher, placing third at 76 kilograms, defeating Nate Ackerman by technical fall 10-0. The highest finish for a Sun Devil wrestler was fourth place by redshirt freshman Chris Knox in the 54 kilogram category. Also notching fifth-place finishes were senior R.D. Pursell (76 kg), junior Erik Gladish (97 kg) and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (130 kg).

Blackford Climbing Career Lists: Senior Steve Blackford, the 2000 Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year and two-time All-American, enters his final seasona as a Sun Devil tied for 15th on the ASU career victory list with 103 (Rod Severn, `85-88, Shawn Charles, `90-93), 44 wins shy of the school record. Should Blackford put together another 40-plus win season, that record could be close at hand. 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 also ranks 14th on the career percentage list (.811), 10th on the career dual victories list (49), and ninth on the career falls list (23).

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 enters the 2001 season with a career slate of 81-53-1 (.609) and is assisted by Tony Quinones, Aaron Simpson and his younger brother Mark Smith.

1999-2000 Season Review: Arizona State finished the 1999-2000 season in a tie for 16th-place at the NCAA Championships, with two wrestlers earning All-American honors in juniors Steve Blackford (third place at 165 pounds) and Quinn Foster (eighth place at 149 pounds). A total of seven wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships including senior Michael Kawamura (125), sophomores David Douglas (141), Curtis Owen (174) and Erik Gladish (197) and redshirt freshman Kellan Fluckiger (heavyweight). ASU finished second at the Pac-10 Championships, with a total of nine Sun Devils earning places. Foster and Blackford won conference titles, while Kawamura earned runner-up honors at the Pac-10 meet. Douglas, Gladish and Fluckiger each garnered third-place showings. Blackford won the Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year award, becoming the ninth Sun Devil to earn that distinction and marking the 12th time an ASU wrestler has been awarded the honor. ASU finished the year with a 10-8 dual record and an undefeated 4-0 mark in Pac-10 action. Four ASU wrestlers earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors including first-team honorees Arturo Anaya (senior, 3.2 GPA) and Mark Perryman (senior, 3.24), and second-team honorees Daniel Hyman (sophomore, 3.11) and Randy Leydecker (senior, 3.03).

Next Week: After hosting an intrasquad meet Wednesday, Nov. 15, the Sun Devils will have a week to prepare for their first home meet of the season, the Desert Duals held Friday, Nov. 24 at Wells Fargo Arena.

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