No. 7 ASU Wrestling Readies for Reno Tournament Thursday

Dec. 17, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz.- The No. 7 Arizona State wrestling team (2-2, 1-0 Pac-10) returns to the state of Nevada this week with a trip to Reno for the Tournament of Champions Thursday. Several teams will be on hand for the event including No. 1 Oklahoma State.

Though nearly three weeks away, it is never to early to mark your calenders for an exciting week of action at Wells Fargo Arena. On Jan. 5, Lock Haven, Embry-Riddle and No. 3 Minnesota will be on hand for the Sun Devil Duals. The event is marked as AIA/High School Night, granting free admission for high school teams to the Minnesota-ASU match (with a roster being submitted ahead of time). Free T-shirts will be given to the first 100 children in attendance as well as free Sparky rub-on tattoos.

Three days later, the Sun Devils take on No. 4 Oklahoma on Alumni Night. All former ASU grapplers are invited back and will be honored during the evening. Also, the first 100 fans will receive a free T-shirt.

Eric Larkin, after moving up in weight this year, is making a name for himself already. Heading into the Las Vegas Invitational (Dec. 6-7), Larkin was ranked third in the national polls and sported an 8-0 record. Upon leaving Sin City, Larkin was 13-0, won the 149 weight class, earned the tournament's outstanding wrestler award and propelled himself to No. 1 in the nation. In the semifinals, Larkin met No. 2 Jesse Jantzen of Harvard and upset him, 10-4. In the finals, Larkin faced undefeated and top-ranked Jared Lawrence of Minnesota. He defeated the Golden Gopher, 6-4, for his second upset in a row and the tourney title. For his career, Larkin is 102-12 and became the 20th ASU wrestler to win more than 100 matches in a career.

Looking through the tournament brackets, at No. 5 seed against a No. 6 seed in the tournament final did not seem to likely. But in the Las Vegas Invitational, ASU' Dana Holland (seeded sixth) meet Clint Frease of Brown (fifth seed) in the final, with Holland scoring the 9-2 decision win. On his way to the title, Holland defeated three wrestlers lower ranked than him, including No. 7 seed Jeff Ratliff of Ohio State, a 7-5 Holland win in overtime.

Holland also had to upset two athletes, Frease being the second in line. His first upset was over No. 3 Gabe Vigil of Boise State, 3-2.

Arizona State stands 399-213-13 all-time in its 41-year history as a varsity program and needs just one win to break the 400-win plateau. With its win over Portland State (Dec. 5), ASU has 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 Sun Devils return to the tournament where they had three individual champions a year ago in David Douglas (133), Eric Larkin (141) and Kellan Fluckiger (HWT). Erik Gladish (197) also took second and Rocky Smart (157) rounded out the place winners with sixth place.

This year, ASU will compete with national powers No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 17 Edinboro, No. 23 Boise State and No. 24 Fresno State. Also entered into the 22 team race are Clarion, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Oregon and Cal-Poly.

This year marks the fourth in a row that the Sun Devils have entered the Reno Tournament of Champions ... ASU finished third in both 1999 and last year, squeezing a runner-up finish between the two in 2000.

As a team, the Sun Devils remained at No. 10 in The Wrestling Mall's polls while InterMat bumped ASU up from No. 18 to No. 15. The National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), releasing a poll once a month, placed the Sun Devils at No. 7.Individually, Eric Larkin moved up from No. 3 to No. 1 in all polls while Dana Holland made the largest leap, going from No. 18 to No. 4. Curtis Owen improved from No. 12 to No. 9 and Kellan Fluckiger rose one to No. 5. Nick Frost stayed at No. 16.A newcomer to the polls, Mike Simpson was placed in the Top 20 by two rankings, taking his highest spot at No. 18.

Arizona State had a busy three day stretch that saw them win a home dual and place fourth in a very tough Las Vegas Invitational. The week opened on a Thursday (Dec. 5) with a 36-9 defeat of conference foe Portland State, pushing the Sun Devils' record to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the Pac-10. Kellan Fluckiger (HWT), Ron Renzi (184), Eric Larkin (149) and Evan Larkin (141) picked up six team points each (Fluckiger by pin and the other three by forfeits). Nick Frost (165) added a technical fall as ASU won seven of 10 matches in the team win.

In Vegas, Dana Holland (141), Eric Larkin (149) and Fluckiger (HWT) reached the finals of their respective weight classes with Holland and Larkin winning titles.Fluckiger, in the semifinals, upset defending national champion and No. 1 Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State, 2-2 tb, when he held his opponent to the mat in the second overtime. Larkin added an upset of a top-ranked wrestler as well when he defeated Jared Lawrence of Minnesota, 6-4, in the finals.

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 9-5 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 41-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 11-7-0 (7-0 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.

Following their second trip to Nevada, the Sun Devils will return to dual action with Embry-Riddle and Pima at Sunnyside High School in Tucson, Ariz., the alma mater of the Larkins, Eric and Evan.

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