No. 7 Wrestling Returns to Action With Pair of Duals in Tucson

Dec. 26, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz.- The No. 7 Arizona State wrestling team (2-2, 1-0 Pac-10) returns dual action for the first time in nearly a month as it travels to Tucson's Sunnyside High School for duals with Embry-Riddle and Pima on Sunday, Dec. 29. The action begins at 1 p.m. Also slated for the same weekend is the 40th edition of the Midlands in Chicago, Ill., one of the more prestigious tournaments in the nation annually.

Though nearly two 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.

After opening the year 5-3 and heading into the Las Vegas Invitational, Dana Holland was ranked No. 18 in the nation. Three weeks later, Holland has stormed through the fields at the Las Vegas tournament, as well as the Reno Tournament of Champions, to move to 15-3 and as high as tied for No. 4 in the nation.

On his way to the Las Vegas 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, No. 6 Clint Frease (Brown), in the finals, being the second in line. His first upset was over No. 3 Gabe Vigil of Boise State, 3-2. A week later, Holland won the Reno Tournament of Champions to remain on pace to end his senior year as an All-American.

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 a win this weekend against Embry-Riddle (Pima matches do not count toward a team and individual's marks), ASU will garner the 400th win in its existence.

On Dec. 18, released the first individual rankings based on the input of collegiate coaches rather than that of the poll administrators. Starting in January, the poll will be release biweekly, giving the nation one of the more concise rankings around.

In its first installment, ASU had members ranked in the Top 15 at four weights. Eric Larkin (149) leads the way at No. 1, followed by No. 4 Dana Holland (141), No. 5 Kellan Fluckiger (heavyweight) and No. 12 Curtis Owen (174). Also making the 'others' area (those receiving votes not in the Top 15) were Nick Frost (No. 16 at 165) and Mike Simpson (No. 19 at 133).

With several of the Sun Devils competing at the Midlands this weekend, several key reserves will be in the starting lineup for the duals with Embry-Riddle and Pima at Sunnyside High School. Here are the starters for the duals: Adam Chavira (125), Chris Knox (133), Evan Larkin (141), Eric Larkin (149), Rocky Smart or Mike Smith (157), Nick Frost (165), Curtis Owen (174), Ron Renzi (184), Ryan Bader (197) and Justin Klein (285).

The Eagles of Embry-Riddle compete in the NAIA and are led by coach Steve Glassey. This year, the Eagles finished 22nd at the Reno Tournament of Champions and were led by the sixth place performance of Pat Cadwallader.

The series enters its fourth installment with a meeting in 2002 ... the Sun Devils hold a 3-0-0 advantage in the series ... ASU has won three straight ... the last meeting was a 31-7 win for ASU at Peoria High School ... ASU against Embry-Riddle ... in Tempe: 2-0-0 ... in Prescot: 0-0-0 ... on neutral sites: 1-0-0.

Pima's Aztecs are led by the coaching of Joe Solorio and compete in the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA). The Aztecs enter the year after placing fourth a year ago in the national tournament.

A series record between Arizona State and Pima has not been kept because matches, both team and individually, are not counted for ASU since PCC is not a four-year institution.

The 40th installment of the Midlands Tournament will be competed Dec. 28-29 in Evanston, Ill., and on the campus of Northwestern University. Six Sun Devils will enter the prestigious event including Jeremy Mendoza (125), Mike Simpson (133), Dana Holland (141), Patrick Williams (149), Mazi Burke (184) and Kellan Fluckiger (285).

Portions of the competition at the Midlands will be taped and rebroadcast on Fox Sports Net Jan. 11 (Saturday) from 7-9 p.m. ... Dana Holland was selected as the No. 4 seed in the preseedings released this week ... Kellan Fluckiger also is ranked, taking No. 5 in the preseedings.

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 headed back to Nevada, this time to do battle at the Reno Tournament of Champions. Dana Holland (141), Kellan Fluckiger (285) and Nick Frost (165) each reached the finals with Holland and Fluckiger taking the individual championship. Ryan Bader (197) also fared well, finishing third in his weight class.

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.

Its back to dual action for the entire team next time out as Lock Haven, Embry-Riddle and No. 3 Minnesota invade Wells Fargo Arena for the Sun Devil Duals. Action begins at Noon on Jan. 5. ASU competes at Noon, 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. against LHU, E-RAU and UM, respectively. The Sun Devils also will play host to No. 4 Oklahoma at 7 p.m. Jan. 8.

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