Wrestling Opens Pac-10 Schedule Friday

Jan. 3, 2001

This Week: The 10th-ranked Arizona State wrestling squad makes its 2001 Pac-10 Conference debut Friday night as the Sun Devils play host to the Cal Poly Mustangs at 7 p.m. in Wells Fargo Arena. ASU brings a 3-0 dual record to its first meet of the new year, while Cal Poly is 0-1 after a 36-3 loss to top-ranked Oklahoma State Dec. 17. Sun Devil wrestlers will be available for post-match autographs and photos in the West Tunnel of the arena following Friday night's action.

The Opponent: The Mustangs will face Embry-Riddle in Tempe at noon Friday, before the 7 p.m. conference matchup, also the Pac-10 opener for Cal Poly. The Mustangs are coming off a fifth-place finish at the Reno Tournament of Champions Dec. 20. Cedric Haymon and Steve Strange were runners-up in their weight classes of 149 and 174 respectively. Haymon, a junior, leads Cal Poly with a 15-4 overall record and four major decision victories. Strange, also a junior, is second in the win column with nine and leads the team in technical fall wins (three). Last year, ASU defeated Cal Poly 22-15 in San Luis Obispo Jan. 30. The Sun Devils lead the all-time series with Cal Poly 23-8 and have an 11-game win-streak vs. the Mustangs. The last time Cal Poly defeated an ASU team was Jan. 14, 1986 (15-34).

Probable Starting Lineups, ASU vs. Cal Poly:
125: Chris Knox (0-4), RS-Fr. vs. Jaime Garza (7-5), Sr.
133: # 16 David Douglas (8-3), Jr. vs. Nate Ybarra (3-3), Fr.
141: Dan Hyman (5-4), Sr./# 3 Eric Larkin (9-0), So. vs. Andrew Gharst (3-5), So.
149: Dana Holland (13-4), Jr. vs. # 12 Cedric Haymon (15-4), Jr.
157: # 17 Rocky Smart (13-5), So. vs. Jesse Reta (3-5), Sr.
165: # 4 Steve Blackford (14-2), Sr. vs. Brody Barrios (8-6), Fr.
174: Curtis Owen (10-7), Jr. vs. Steve Strange (9-4), Jr.
184: # 19 R.D. Pursell (14-7), Sr. vs. Charles Sandlin (7-6), Jr.
197: Andy Swanson (3-8), RS-Fr. vs. David Schenk (7-7), So.
HWT: # 9 Kellan Fluckiger (12-4), So. vs. Dan Leahy (1-2), Jr.

Sun Devils in the National Polls:ASU is ranked 10th for the third-straight week according to the lastest National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll released Jan. 3. Six Sun Devils are also included in the individual rankings released by InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News. Eric Larkin (141) is ranked third by both polls, while Steve Blackford (165) is ranked fourth by AWM and fifth by InterMat. Rocky Smart (157) checks in at No. 17 according to both polls. In the 133 pound weight class, David Douglas is ranked 16th by AWM and 18th by InterMat. Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) also appears in the polls, ranked ninth by AWM and 13th by InterMat. R.D. Pursell ranks 19th (AWM) and 20th (InterMat) at 184 pounds.

ASU Ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10:The Sun Devils are the top team in the Pac-10 according to the most recent conference poll released Dec. 14th. Seven individuals also rank among the top four wrestlers in the Pac-10 including No. 1 Eric Larkin (141), No. 1 Steve Blackford (165), No. 2 David Douglas (133), No. 2 Dana Holland (149), No. 2 Curtis Owen (174), No. 3 Rocky Smart (157) and No. 4 Kellan Fluckiger (HWT).

Last Time Out:Steve Blackford captured the third-place title at 165 pounds while R.D. Pursell took sixth at 184, as No. 10 Arizona State wrestling tied for 10th with Pac-10 foe Oregon in the Midlands Championships at Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill. Saturday, Dec. 30. Blackford, one of five Sun Devils to advance to Saturday's consolation semifinals, completed the two-day tournament with a 6-1 record. The senior All-American defeated unattached wrestler Matt Anderson 6-0 in the third-place match after winning his previous three bouts in consolation semifinal action. Blackford won both first round matches, but lost by fall to Ben Shirk of Iowa in the quarterfinals Friday. In the fifth-place bout at 184 pounds, Pursell suffered his second loss of the tournament to Oregon's Doug Lee, 9-2, but became the second Sun Devil to place at Midlands. A second round loss to Lee sent Pursell into the consolation bracket, only to have the Sun Devil senior win his next four matches. A 10-8 loss to Minnesota's Damion Hahn then put Pursell into the fifth-place championship bout with Lee. Minnesota won the team title with 144 points, while Iowa State and the Hawkeye Wrestling Club followed with 133 and 74 points respectively. ASU and the Ducks ended the tournament in 10th with 53 points, while the only other Pac-10 team to finish higher was Oregon State in ninth (55.5 points). The Sun Devils were without the services of sophomore All-American Eric Larkin and outstanding newcomer Dana Holland, both out with injures.

Sun Devil Wrestling Notes:Newcomers Dana Holland and Rocky Smart have made their presence known in their short Sun Devil careers thus far. Holland, a junior transfer from Iowa Central, and Smart, a sophomore transfer from Brigham Young, have claimed a firm hold on the starting spots at 149 and 157 pounds respectively. Both have 13 wins under their belts going into the dual with Cal Poly, just one win behind seniors Steve Blackford and R.D. Pursell for the team lead...Sophomore All-American Eric Larkin (9-0) is listed as tentative for Friday, recovering from a nagging knee injury. Larkin has not competed since the Las Vegas Invite (Dec. 1-2)...With a 12-4 record, sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) has already surpassed his win total from last season (11)...Pursell (14-7) is also one victory away from his ASU high set last season (15)...Blackford and Pursell lead the team in falls (four), while junior Curtis Owen is tops in wins by technical fall (three)...Larkin and Fluckiger share the team lead in major decision victories (five).

Blackford Closing in on the Record Books:Senior Steve Blackford, the 2000 Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year and two-time All-American, moves into a seventh-place tie with Dave Severn (`75-'79) on the ASU career victory list (117) with his 14 victories this season, 30 wins shy of the school record. 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 is also tied for eighth on the career dual victories list (52), and is tied for fifth on the career falls list (27).

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.

Up Next: The Sun Devils will have their hands full next Friday, Jan. 12, as ASU hosts national powerhouse No. 6 Oklahoma at 7 p.m. in Wells Fargo Arena. Prior to the ASU vs. OU match, wrestling teams from Red Mountain HS and Westwood HS will compete at 5 p.m.

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