Wrestling Heads to Iowa City for NCAA Championships

March 13, 2001

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This Week:
After capturing its third conference title in five years, the Pac-10 Champion Arizona State wrestling squad looks to take its winning ways to the nation's stage at the 2001 NCAA Wrestling Championships hosted by the University of Iowa, Thursday, March 15 through Saturday, March 17, at the Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. ASU qualified a total of eight wrestlers to compete in this year's NCAA Championships, one short of the school record nine set three times previous (1985, 1987, 1990). The Sun Devils look to improve upon their 16th-place finish from a year ago.

Television Coverage:
The 2001 NCAA Wrestling Championships will be televised by ESPN2 at 6 p.m. Eastern time, Saturday, March 17. This broadcast marks the first time that the wrestling championships will be taped and then aired the same day the tournament occurs.

ASU NCAA Roster				 Overall	       Dual133:	#11 David Douglas, Jr.  (Harvey, Ill.)	22-8	11-3
141: #3 Eric Larkin, So. (Tucson, Ariz.) 22-1 13-1
149: Dana Holland, Jr. (Glendale Heights, Ill.) 21-11 8-7
157: #9 Rocky Smart, So. (Pleasant Grove, Utah) 25-10 11-4
165: #3 Steve Blackford, Sr. (Des Moines, Iowa) 29-4 13-2
174: #15 Curtis Owen, Jr. (Coeur D'Alene, Idaho) 23-12 11-3
184: R.D. Pursell, Sr. (Tempe, Ariz.) 27-15 10-5
HWT: #10 Kellan Fluckiger, So. (Preston, Idaho) 23-8 10-4

Rankings according to Amateur Wrestling News

NCAA Championship Brackets:
Five of ASU's eight qualifiers were granted top-12 seeds as the NCAA announced the brackets for each weight class Monday, March 12. David Douglas received a No. 11 seed at 133 pounds, Eric Larkin is No. 3 at 141, Rocky Smart is No. 10 at 157, Steve Blackford is No. 3 at 165 and Kellan Fluckiger is No. 10 at HWT. Full brackets are available at www.ncaa.org.

How They Got Here:
Arizona State's eight qualifiers earned their trip to the NCAA Championships by finishing in the top four in their respective weight classes at the Pac-10 Championships Feb. 25-26 at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Four Sun Devils captured Pac-10 titles, as junior David Douglas (133 pounds), sophomore All-American Eric Larkin (141 pounds), senior All-American Steve Blackford (165 pounds) and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) went 3-0 to win top medalist honors. Junior Dana Holland was the runner-up at 149 pounds, losing by a slim 4-3 margin in the championship bout. Sophomore Rocky Smart and junior Curtis Owen placed third at 157 and 174 pounds, respectively, while senior R.D. Pursell took fourth at 184 pounds.

NCAA Championship Schedule:
The three-day NCAA Championship tournament is divided into six sessions, culminating with the championship finals Saturday afternoon. The schedule is as follows:

Thursday, March 15 (Please note all times CST)
11 a.m. Session One (First Round)
6:30 p.m. Session Two (Wrestlebacks)

Friday, March 16
10 a.m. Session Three (Quarterfinals and wrestlebacks)
5:30 p.m. Session Four (Semifinals and wrestlebacks)

Saturday, March 17
8 a.m. Session Five (Wrestleback semifinals and Medal Rounds)
1 p.m. Session Six (Grand March and Championship Finals)

ASU NCAA Championship History:
The Sun Devils will be aiming for their first top-10 national finish since 1996 and 12th top-10 national finish in the last 16 years. Under head coach Lee Roy Smith, ASU's highest team finish was fourth in 1993 and 1995. In the program's 38-year history, ASU has captured one national championship (1988) and turned in two national runner-up finishes (1989 and 1990). In the 14 years ASU has captured a conference title, the Sun Devils have tallied 10 top-10 NCAA finishes and six top-five finishes. Five ASU wrestlers have won a total of seven national titles: Curley Culp (1967-HWT), Eddie Urbano (1985-150 pounds), Dan St. John (1989-158 pounds, 1990-167 pounds), Ray Miller (1993-167 pounds) and Markus Mollica (1993-158 pounds, 1995-167 pounds). The 2001 edition of ASU wrestling has two All-Americans onboard in senior Steve Blackford and sophomore Eric Larkin. Blackford is aiming to be just the eighth Sun Devil to be a three-time All-American, after finishing fourth in 1999 and third in 2000 at 165 pounds at the NCAA Championships. Larkin, who redshirted the 2000 season, became the first ASU freshman to earn All-America honors since Markus Mollica won the 1993 national title with a fourth-place finish at 133 pounds in 1999.

Last Year at the NCAA Championships:
Juniors Steve Blackford and Quinn Foster earned All-America honors at 165 and 149 pounds, respectively, leading the Sun Devils to a 16th-place finish at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo., a year ago. Blackford became the 21st Sun Devil to earn at least two All-America honors in his career, taking third place with a 10-2 major decision over Virginia Tech's Chris Martin. Blackford went 5-1 through the three-day tournament, his only loss coming to eventual 165-pound champion Don Prizlaff of Wisconsion, a 4-2 overtime battle. Foster placed eighth at 149 pounds, going 3-3 in the tournament and falling in the seventh-place match to Mike Zadick of Iowa, 7-5 in overtime. Five additional Sun Devils competed at the last year's NCAA Championships but did not place.

ASU Wins Pac-10 Title:
Arizona State's 11th-ranked wrestling squad won its third Pacific-10 Conference title in five years, led by individual conference title winners junior David Douglas, sophomore Eric Larkin, senior Steve Blackford and sophomore Kellan Fluckiger at the University of Oregon's McArthur Court Monday, Feb. 26 The Sun Devils finished the two-day tournament in first place with 123.50 points, followed by defending champion Boise State in second with 110.50 points. Rounding out the top four teams were Oregon State in third with 109.5 points and host Oregon with 103.5 points. Not only did the Sun Devils come away with a team title and four individual titles, but eight ASU wrestlers earned qualifying berths to the NCAA Championships held March 15-17 in Iowa City, Iowa. ASU also advanced a total of five wrestlers to the championship matches in their respective weight classes, as junior Dana Holland earned runner-up honors at 149 pounds. Additional NCAA qualifiers for ASU were sophomore Rocky Smart and junior Curtis Owen who battled back from second round losses to post third-place finishes at 157 pounds and 174 pounds, respectively, while senior R.D. Pursell placed fourth at 184 pounds. Larkin and Blackford took home their second career conference titles Monday. Larkin earned a 12-8 decision over Oregon State's Shane Cunanan in the 141 championship, while Blackford successfully defended his title at 165 pounds with a 9-0 major decision over UC Davis' Burt Pierson. Douglas earned his first career Pac-10 title thanks to an injury default by Oregon's Brian Watson. Fluckiger also picked up his first conference title, upsetting 10th-ranked Jason Cooley of Oregon State, 8-5.

Sun Devils in the National Polls:The Sun Devils are ranked 11th according to the final National Wrestling Coaches Association national poll released Feb. 28. According to InterMat, ASU checks in at No. 14. Six Sun Devils are also included in the latest individual rankings released by InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News: Eric Larkin at 141 pounds (No. 3 by both), Steve Blackford at 165 pounds (No. 3 AWM, No. 4 IM), Rocky Smart at 157 pounds (No. 9 by AWM and No. 10 by IM), David Douglas at 133 pounds (No. 11 by both), Kellan Fluckiger at HWT (No. 10 AWM, No. 11 IM) and Curtis Owen at 174 pounds (No. 15 by AWM, No. 16 IM).

Blackford Returns to Home State in Search of NCAA Title:
Two-time All-American Steve Blackford, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, looks to close out his Arizona State wrestling career by winning an NCAA crown in front of his home-state crowd in Iowa City. Blackford has just about everything besides a national title on his collegiate resume and will culminate his career as one of the best wrestlers to grace the Sun Devil mat. Blackford is a two-time All-American, a two-time Pac-10 Champion and is just three wins away from sole possession of third place (five wins short of second place) on ASU's all-time victories list with 132. He is also third on the career dual victories list (62) and fifth on the career falls list (31). 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).

Larkin Tests Near-Flawless Record at NCAAs:
Sophomore All-American and two-time Pac-10 Champion Eric Larkin will test his near-perfect record and challenge for a national crown when he competes at this year's NCAA Championships. Ranked third in the nation at 141 pounds all season long, Larkin brings an overall record of 22-1 to the mat, along with six falls, one technical fall and eight major decision victories. His only loss this season came to Oklahoma's Michael Lightner, ranked second in the nation, in ASU's home dual with the sooners Jan. 12. Prior to that match, Larkin had been out for six weeks battling a minor knee injury. Earlier this season, Larkin placed fourth in the 138.75 pound weight class at the 2000 World University Freestyle Championships in Tokyo, Japan, helping the United States to the freestyle team title Sunday, Nov. 5. He won his first three matches but fell 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.

Best in the West:
Arizona State is arguably the most successful wrestling program on the West Coast. With its 1988 national title, ASU is still the only program west of the Oklahoma and Iowa to win a national championship. The Sun Devils have finished in the NCAA top-10 at 11 of the last 16 national tournaments and have claimed seven individual titles.

Success in the Classroom:
ASU wrestlers were well-represented at the 16th-Annual Maroon and Gold Scholar Athlete Reception held Wednesday, March 7. Maroon and Gold scholars are those ASU student-athletes who have received a 3.0 GPA or better for the semester or cumulatively. This year, ASU honored 321 Maroon and Gold scholar athletes with 56 earning a 4.0 in the latest semester. ASU wrestler Nick Frost, redshirting this season, was honored for his 4.0 GPA, while 15 additional wrestlers were named Maroon and Gold scholars this season. NCAA qualifers on the list are Steve Blackford, Kellan Fluckiger, Curtis Owen and Rocky Smart.

Bonus Points:
Five Sun Devils have at least 20 wins under their belts: Steve Blackford (29-4), senior R.D. Pursell (27-15), sophomore Rocky Smart (25-10), sophomore Kellan Fluckiger (23-8) and junior Curtis Owen (23-12)...Blackford leads the team in pins with eight...With two match terminations at the Pac-10 Championships, Owen lead the team with five technical fall victories...Owen also leads the team with 10 major decision victories, while Larkin is second with eight.

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 91-58-1 (.607) and is assisted by Tony Quinones, Aaron Simpson and his younger brother Mark Smith.

Complete post-season media guide is available in PDF format at the top of this page.

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