ASU Wrestling Travels to Las Vegas Invitational

Nov. 29, 2000

This Week:
The 10th-ranked Arizona State wrestling squad (3-0) takes to the road this weekend, as the Sun Devils will travel to the Las Vegas Invitational Friday, Dec. 1 through Saturday, Dec. 2 in Primm, Nev. Competition will be held all day Friday and throughout the day Saturday, with finals scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday night. This weekend poses to be the Sun Devils' biggest test of the season thus far, as they will see competition from many of the top-ranked teams and individuals in the nation.

Probable Starters:
125: Jeff Charlebois (7-1), So.
133: David Douglas (2-0), Jr.
141: Eric Larkin (3-0), So.
149: Dana Holland (6-1), Jr.
157: Rocky Smart (3-0), So.
165: Steve Blackford (3-0), Sr.
174: Curtis Owen (6-2), Jr.
184: R.D. Pursell (3-0), Sr.
197: Andy Swanson (3-3), RS-Fr.
HWT: Kellan Fluckiger (7-1), So.

Last Year:
Last year ASU placed ninth with 60 points at the Las Vegas Invitational, bolstered by a first-place finish by All-American Steve Blackford at 165 pounds. Blackford went 6-0, including wins over No. 9 Ty Wilcox of Oklahoma State in the semifinals and No. 5 Joey Killar of Harvard in the championship bout, to claim his second title of the season.

Sun Devils in the Polls:
The National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll has not yet been released this year, but ASU enters this week ranked 10th by Amateur Wrestling News and move ups one spot to 13th according to Intermat. ASU culminated last season with a No. 13 ranking. Five Sun Devils are ranked nationally by Intermat's rankings released Nov. 29 and Amatuer Wrestling News' rankings released Nov. 21. Senior Steve Blackford is ranked third, while sophomore Eric Larkin is ranked fourth by both polls. Junior David Douglas ranks seventh by AWM and Intermat. Also ranked are sophomore transfer Rocky Smart, 18th by Intermat and 20th by AWM, and junior Curtis Owen, ranked No. 17 by Intermat.

Devils Dominate 2nd Annual Desert Duals:
The Arizona State wrestling squad dominated competition at the second annual Desert Duals, as the Sun Devils defeated Embry-Riddle 39-6, Minnesota-Morris 51-0, and Northwestern 41-0 at Wells Fargo Arena Friday, Nov. 24. In its season home opener, ASU won all but one bout in three contests to kick off the 2000-01 campaign with a perfect 3-0 dual record. Sophomore All-American Eric Larkin led the way for the Sun Devils, as he won two matches by fall and one by a major decision. Larkin pinned his first opponent at 141 pounds, Brian Love from Embry-Riddle, at the 4:48 mark and followed up in his second match with a pin over Joel Fugleberg from Minnesota-Morris at just 2:14. In his final bout, Larkin notched a 10-1 major decision over Northwestern's Josh Ballard. Senior All-American Steve Blackford also put in a good day's work at 165 pounds, defeating Brian Campbell of Embry-Riddle and Kris Hjelmeland of Minnesota-Morris by technical fall, and pinning Ryan Kane of Northwestern at 1:04 in his final bout of the day. Also winning by fall for the Sun Devils were senior R.D. Pursell (184) over Eric Ortegren of Embry-Riddle at 4:17, junior Curtis Owen (174) over Mike Sloneker of Minnesota-Morris at 3:08 and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) over Jeff Stewart of Minnesota-Morris at 3:39. Northwestern finished runner-up in the round-robin dual competition, defeating Minnesota-Morris 37-6 and Embry-Riddle 28-15, before falling to ASU in the final match of the day 41-0. Embry-Riddle lost to ASU and Northwestern, but defeated Minnesota-Morris, who was 0-3 on the day, 43-12.

ASU Opens Season at Cal Open:
The Sun Devils opened the 2000-01 campaign at the Cal State Fullerton Open Sunday, Nov. 12 at Titan Gym in Fullerton, Calif. A total of 12 Sun Devils earned places, including a runner-up finish by junior transfer Dana Holland (149), wrestling in his first Div. I meet at ASU. Freshman Mike Simpson (125) and sophomore Nick Frost (165) also placed second in their respective weight classes, wrestling unattached. Additional placewinners for the Sun Devils included sophomore Jeff Charlebois (third at 125), senior Dan Hyman (fifth at 141), junior Curtis Owen (fourth at 174), redshirt freshman Ron Renzi (fifth at 174), senior Mike Marshall (fourth at 184) and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (fourth at HWT).

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.

Blackford Climbing Career Lists:
Senior Steve Blackford, the 2000 Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year and two-time All-American, moves into 12th-place on the ASU career victory list (106) with his three victories so far in 2000, 41 wins shy of the school record. Should Blackford put together another 40-plus win season, that record could be close at hand. He entered his final season as a Sun Devil tied for 15th (103 wins) with Rod Severn (`85-88) and Shawn Charles (`90-93). 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), tied for eighth on the career dual victories list (52), and tied for seventh on the career falls list (24).

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 owns a career slate of 84-53-1 (.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).

Up Next: The Sun Devils will take the next two weeks off, before going back on the road to compete in the Reno Invitational, Wednesday, Dec. 20.

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