Veteran Sun Devils Advance at Sunkist International

Oct. 18, 2002

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The first day of the 2002 Sunkist Kids/ASU International Open came to a conclusion Friday with four Sun Devil wrestlers advancing out of pool action into the semifinals. Of the 19 Arizona State wrestlers that entered the 18th annual event, only Eric Larkin (Tucson, Ariz.) and Christian Staylor (Chesapeake, Va.) made the quarterfinals with Staylor falling, 9-1, in that round. Staylor went 2-0 in the 'ASU bracket' with wins over teammates John Espinoza (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Jeremy Mendoza (Temecula, Calif.).

Joining the senior captain for the second day of competition are three former standouts in Tempe; two-time national champion Marcus Mollica (1993-96), three-time All-American Steve Blackford (1998-01) and Aaron Simpson, a two-time All-American and current assistant coach for the Sun Devils.

Larkin, competing in a talent-filled 66kg (145.5 lbs.) weight class, advanced to the second round with Pool 2 wins over teammate Chris Smith (Gilbert, Ariz.), 10-0 tech fall at 1:09, and the nation of Columbia's Diego Echeverri, 11-0 in 1:32. Larkin defeated the champion of Pool 1, Doug Schwab, 8-5, before punching his ticket to the semis with a 10-4 decision over John Fisher. The three-time All-American for the Sun Devils will face Jose DeAnda Saturday for a shot at the finals.

Mollica, Simpson and Blackford all are competing at 84kg (185 lbs.) and have earned a spot in the semifinals. At least one of the three will be in the final with Mollica and Blackford squaring off in one semifinal while Simpson will face Randy Pugh in the other.

Seventeen other Sun Devils competed with six of them earning one win in their pool competitions. Those ASU grapplers were Mendoza and Curtis Ray (Mesa, Ariz.) at 55kg (121 lbs.), C. Smith and Dana Holland (Glendale Heights, Ill.) at 66kg (145.5) and Nick Frost (Tucson, Ariz.) and Mazi Burke (Hawthorne, Calif.) at 84kg (185 lbs.).

Action concludes tomorrow starting with the women's freestyle at 9 a.m. at Wells Fargo Arena. The semifinals for the men begin at 3 p.m. with the finals slated for 4:15 p.m.

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