Northern Iowa, Iowa Await ASU Wrestling This Week

Nov. 27, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz.- The No. 11 Arizona State wrestling team, following a tough 20-19 loss to No. 8 Nebraska on the road last week, returns to America's Heartland to do battle with No. 12 Northern Iowa and No. 2 Iowa this weekend. The Sun Devil meet the Panthers at 2 p.m. CST Saturday and the Hawkeyes at 6 p.m. CST Sunday.

Two seniors opened their final campaigns over the weekend with great success. Eric Larkin, wrestling at 149, went 5-0 during competition at Nebraska and the Kaufman Brand Omaha Open while heavyweight Kellan Fluckiger posted a 4-1 mark in the same events. Larkin opened the year with a win via fall in the UN dual, needing just 1:09 to put his opponent, No. 12 Travis Shufelt, on his back. The next day, Larkin went 4-0 at the Open and won the title at 149.Fluckiger won a 6-4 decision in dual competition before heading to Omaha to post a 3-1 record. He advanced to the finals where he met Steve Mocco of Iowa, the 2002 NCAA runner-up. Mocco scored a 9-1 major decision win to give Fluckiger his lone blemish on the year.

In the latest national rankings, Iowa has been ranked as the No. 2 in all three major national polls (The Wrestling Mall, Amateur Wrestling News and InterMat). In the same polls, the Sun Devils are No. 11, 14 and 17, respectively, while Northern Iowa is No. 16, 12 an 16.

Arizona State stands 397-213-13 all-time in its 41-year history as a varsity program and needs just three wins to break the 400-win plateau. After falling to No. 8 Nebraska over the weekend, the Sun Devils will try to reach the milestone with matches at No. 12 Northern Iowa and No. 2 Iowa this week.

Though a rarity among collegiate wrestling, teams have ended dual meets in a tie. Ties will now be a thing of the past.The NCAA has administered a set of criteria, similar to the system employed for the NWCA National Duals. Twelve tiebreaking criteria have been set in place and, if a tie remains after those 12 have produced no winner, the referee's green-red disc will be flipped with the color showing being declared the winner.

An independent team competing in the NCAA West Region each year, the Northern Iowa Panthers are 0-0 on the year and will play host to ASU in its season opener this week. Coached by Brad Penrith, the Panthers have four of its members ranked in the Top 20 at their respective weights. Dylan Long is No. 4 at 141, Sean Stender is No. 7 at 197, Eric Hauan is No. 8 at 174 and Jordan Holm is No. 15 at 184.

The 2002 edition of the series will be the sixth meeting between the two squads...ASU leads the series 4-1-0...the Sun Devils won the last meeting, a 20-13 decision Jan. 9, 1988...UNI's lone win was one year earlier (Jan. 10, 1987), a 26-10 victory...ASU won the previous three meetings by an average of 12.0 points...ASU's record at home: UNI: neutral sites: 1-1-0.

The Hawkeyes opened their 2002-03 season with an upset win at then-No. 1 Minnesota, the two-time defending national champions. Led by coach Jim Zelesky, Iowa is poised to remain one of the top teams in the nation this year. Of its 10 projected starters for the match this weekend, UI has seven grapplers ranked in the Top 6 nationally, including No. 1 Luke Eustice (125), No. 2 Jessman Smith (184) and No. 2 Steve Mocco (heavyweight). Cliff Moore (133) is No. 3.

Iowa has dominated the series, holding a 17-1-1 record all-time over the Sun Devils...the Hawkeyes have won 11 in a row with the last meeting being a 39-3 victory on Jan. 20, 2002...the Sun Devils' only win was a 22-18 decision in Tempe Dec. 2, 1987...ASU's record at home: Iowa: neutral sites: 0-3-0.

In action last week at the Kaufman Brand Omaha Open, several Sun Devil wrestlers competed against opponents from Iowa and Northern Iowa. Against its Hawkeye counterparts, ASU wrestlers went 2-4. The Sun Devils also were 2-2 against foes from UNI.

The Sun Devils opened the year with a tough No. 8 Nebraska squad in Lincoln, Neb., and nearly escaped with the win. In the end, however, ASU fell to the Huskers, 20-19. Patrick Williams (157), Nick Frost (165), Kellan Fluckiger (285), Dana Holland (141) and Eric Larkin (149) won matches in the dual meet.At the Kaufman Brand Omaha Open, Eric Larkin went 4-0 to capture the 149 title. Fluckiger fell one match short of winning the 285 title, dropping a 9-1 major decision to Iowa's Steve Mocco in the final. Six Sun Devils placed in the tournament, including Mike Simpson (133), Dana Holland (141), Patrick Williams (149) and Nick Frost (165), along with Larkin and Fluckiger.

Eric Larkin is back for his final campaign with the Maroon and Gold and will seek to elevate his standing among the elite wrestlers in ASU history. A three-time All-American and national runner-up a year ago, larkin can become the fourth four-time All-American in school history with another solid year. He also is six wins away from cracking the 100 win plateau. He is currently 94-12.

Former Sun Devil standout Thom Ortiz, a three-time All-American, national runner-up and three-time conference champion, returns for his second year at the helm of the Arizona State program. After compiling a 9-6 record a year ago, the team went on to place second at the Pac-10 Championships and 12th at the NCAA meet. The fifth head coach in the 40-year history of the program, Ortiz knows what it takes to make the Sun Devils a prominent team. He was a member of ASU squads that won three conference team titles, one NCAA championship and two national runner-up finishes. His career coaching record is 9-6-0 (6-0 Pac-10).

Wells Fargo Arena is the home of Sun Devil wrestling, as well as men's and women's basketball and women's volleyball. The arena was completed in 1974 with the ability to seat a capacity of crowd of more than 14,000 and has seen its far share of top competition. The annual Sunkist Kids/ASU International Open has been staged inside WFA and the Sun Devil wrestlers also called the facility home on their way to the 1988 NCAA title. In all, some of the elite teams in the nation have visited the arena. That list includes Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Iowa and Iowa State, to name a few.

The 2002-03 season opener awaits the Sun Devils next time out. ASU will play host to Portland State at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at Wells Fargo Arena. All fans donating a canned food item will receive free admission to the Sun Devils' first Pac-10 action of the year. Team posters also will be available.The two days following the PSU match, ASU will participate in the Las Vegas Invitational at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Action begins each day at 9 a.m.

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