Two Sun Devil Wrestlers Win Titles, Team Takes Fourth at Vegas

Dec. 7, 2002

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The No. 10 Arizona State wrestling team saw three of its members compete for tournament titles with tow taking the crown at the 2002 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Saturday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. No. 6 Dana Holland (Glendale Heights, Ill.) secured the 141 championship one match prior to No. 3 Eric Larkin (Tucson, Ariz.) upsetting No. 1 Jared Lawrence of Minnesota to win the title at 149. No. 4 Kellan Fluckiger (Preston, Idaho) also competed in the finals, but was pinned to finish second. As a team, the Sun Devils accumulated 112 points on the way to finishing in fourth place as a team while Minnesota, ranked third in the nation, won the team title with 131 points.

Eight Sun Devils entered the day still alive in the competition with three advancing to the championship finals. Holland kicked things off scoring an impressive 9-2 decision over No. 5 Clint Frease to claim the championships at 141. Holland built a 4-1 lead after the first period to take control on his way to the win.

Larkin's road to the title was more difficult as he had to endure a flurry of activity in the waning moments of the match. Carrying a 3-2 lead with under a minute left, Larkin took down the top-ranked Lawrence to make the score 5-2. With 15 second remaining, Lawrence scored a reversal and then let Larkin escape for to make the score 6-4. Larkin fended off the late charge to pick up the championship and remain undefeated at 13-0 on the year. For his efforts, Larkin was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler.

Fluckiger advanced to the finals after a shocking 2-2 tiebreaker decision over No. 1 Tommy Rowlands, the defending national champion. After three periods and the match still undecided, neither wrestler could score in the first overtime period setting up the showdown in the tiebreaking period. Rowlands, who scored the only offensive points in the match, was awarded the choice and took down, needing only to escape to win. Fluckiger fought hard and kept his opponent down for the victory. In the final, however, Fluckiger came out against No. 3 Kevin Hoy of Air Force looking to avenge a loss to Hoy in the tournament last year, but was pinned 1:18 into the match.

Holland opened the semifinal portion of the day for the Sun Devils with a dramatic finish. Against No. 7 Jeff Ratliff of Ohio State, Holland led the entire match and was up two heading into the final seconds. Ratliff tied the match with a takedown at the buzzer to send it to overtime. In the extra session, Holland scored a takedown and won the match to send him to the finals of the tournament. Joining Holland in the finals was Larkin, a 10-4 upset winner of the tournament's defending champion No. 2 Jesse Jantzen of Harvard. Larkin took control of the match early and did not relinquish control as he improved to 12-0 on the year.

Mike Simpson (Anaheim, Calif.) was the first Sun Devil to hit the mats Saturday morning, handing No. 12 Joe Malia a 13-5 major decision and avenging a 4-3 loss to the Nebraska grappler in the opening dual of the year. With the win, Simpson guaranteed himself a place in the Top 8 of the tournament. No. 7 Nick Frost (Tucson, Ariz.) followed Simpson's lead by earning a tournament placing after scoring a 14-0 major decision over Wisconsin's Kelly Flaherty at 165. No. 11 Patrick Williams (Homestead, Fla.), at 157, fell four points shy of earning a placement after suffering a 7-3 decision to No. 9 Matt Lebe of West Virginia.

The opening rounds of the consolation bracket for Saturday concluded with ASU's No. 8 Curtis Owen (Coeur D'Alene, Idaho) defeating No. 6 Eddie Gifford of Fresno State, 7-3, to also secure placement in the Top 8. Ryan Bader (Verdi, Nev.), at 197, fell in his bid to place as he was defeated by No. 4 Marico Bothelo of Fresno State, 11-5.

In their second matches of the day, both Frost and Owen won close matches to secure a spot in the consolation semifinals and assure themselves of finishing no lower than sixth place. Frost, trailing by two late in the match, used three takedowns to earn an 8-7 victory while Owen held on to claim a 12-10 decision. Frost went on to lose his consolation semifinal match to No. 4 Tyrone Woodley or Missouri to put him into the match for fifth place where he will meet No. 3 Johnny Clark of Ohio State. Owen also dropped his consolation semifinal, a 3-2 decision.

In battles for fifth place, Owen came out on top with a fall at 3:35 while Frost fell 8-5 and captured sixth place. Owen, trailing 3-0 deep into the second period, locked in a cradle on Tom Meester of Augustana, took him to his back and got the pinfall victory.

The Sun Devils return to action again in two weeks when they travel to Reno for the Tournament of Champions, Dec. 19. ASU's next dual action is slated for Dec. 28 when the Sun Devils meet Embry-Riddle and Pima in Tucson, Ariz., inside Sunnyside High School.

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