No. 11 Wrestling Opens Home Slate with Portland State

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Dec. 2, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz.- The No. 11 Arizona State wrestling team (1-1, 0-0 Pac-10) opens its home dual schedule when it plays host to the Vikings of Portland State (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10) in a Pac-10 dual at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Wells Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils will then trek north to Las Vegas for the Las Vegas Invitational held Friday and Saturday in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Fans can get in free for the Arizona State-Portland State dual Thursday by bringing a canned food donation to any entrance. All donations will be given The Society of St. Vincent DePaul. Also, all fans in attendance can pick up the 2002-03 Sun Devil wrestling team posters.

The Sun Devils hold a 26-13 all-time record in their first dual action of the year at home, with one result unknown. Arizona State opened its first year with a 40-0 forfeit loss to Long Beach State on Dec. 1, 1962, and lost eight of its first 15 home openers before winning 11 of its last 18. On Nov, 29, 1989, the Sun Devils opened their home slate with a 40-7 defeat of Portland State on their way to an 18-2-2 record a national runner-up finish at the NCAA tournament.

With some fierce competition ahead of him at the Las Vegas Invitational this week, Eric Larkin will have a challenge as he looks to remain undefeated in 2002-03. He stands 7-0 on the year and is four wins shy of the 100-win plateau. Larkin is 96-12 on his career and ranks 20th all-time in school history for wins. His two wins by fall have also moved him into a tie for sixth all-time.

Eight Sun Devil wrestlers were selected to the preseason Top 6 rankings as voted on by the conference coaches with four earning the top spot. Eric Larkin (149), Nick Frost (165), Curtis Owen (174) and Kellan Fluckiger (285) all earned top billing with Rocky Smart (165) being chosen No. 2. Dana Holland and Evan Larkin were both voted for the No. 4 spot at 141 while Mike Simpson (133) and Ryan Bader (197) were chosen No. 5.

As a team, the Sun Devils, as voted upon by the conference coaches, were selected to finish second in the Pac-10 this year. Boise State, the defending conference champions, were chosen to repeat at the annual championship meet. Following ASU is No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 California-Davis, No. 5 Cal-Poly, No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 Cal State Fullerton, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 9 Portland State and No. 10 Cal State Bakersfield.

Arizona State stands 398-213-13 all-time in its 41-year history as a varsity program and needs just two wins to break the 400-win plateau. With a win over Portland State this week, ASU would have to wait until Dec. 28 for a chance to win No. 400 when it battles Embry-Riddle and Pima in Tucson.

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.

The Vikings of Portland State have not competed this year, in duals or tournament action. Marlin Grahn, the 19th-year head coach of the Vikings, returns with two NCAA qualifiers on the mats. Randy Davidson (197) and Quinn Collett (174) will look to improve upon their performances from a year ago to lead the team this year.

The Dec. 5 dual between the two Pac-10 teams will be the first since the 1991 season...the Sun Devils hold a 5-1-0 record in the series with wins in the last five meetings...PSU won the inaugural match with a 31-10 decision on Jan. 14, 1971, in Portland...ASU's record at home: PSU: neutral sites: 1-0-0...ASU streak: five wins in a row.

Along with Arizona State and Portland State, several of the top teams in the nation will be on hand to compete in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Some of the teams include No. 2 Minnesota, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 9 Illinois, No. 10 West Virginia, No. 13 Missouri, No. 14 Boise State, No. 23 Purdue and No. 24 Wisconsin. Small school powers such as North Dakota State and Montana State-Northern also will compete.

This year marks the 18th trip to the Las Vegas Invitational for the Sun Devils...have finished at least 9th in every appearance...won the events in 1992, 1989 and 1987...runners-up in 1997 and 1988...took third in 1998, 1994, 1991 and 1990...finished in the Top Five 12 times...finished ninth in 1983 and eighth in 1982 at the Caesars Palace Invitational, ASU's only other trips to Las Vegas.

The Sun Devils returned to the road for two tough contests, going 1-1 with a win over No. 12 Northern Iowa, 17-16, in Cedar Falls before dropping a 32-7 decision to No. 2 Iowa in Iowa City.

Eric Larkin was the only two match winner on the weekend as he extended his unbeaten streak this year to 7-0. Jeremy Mendoza, in his first collegiate dual, came up with a 9-5 win at 125 to help the team defeat UNI Saturday. Also defeating a Panther opponent were Kellan Fluckiger, Mike Simpson and Dana Holland.

Against the second-ranked Hawkeyes, Larkin was joined by Nick Frost with victories on the evening as the hosts won the first three matches before winning five of the final seven for the victory.

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.

After a dual with the Vikings and a trip to Las Vegas, the Sun Devils will take a week off before returning to action at the Reno Tournament of Champions. Action is set for Dec. 19 in Reno, Nev. ASU does not return to home competition until Jan. 5.

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