ASU Wrestlers Head To Boise For Pac-10 Championships

Feb. 25, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz.- With the dual season behind and a 12-7 overall record (5-1 Pac-10) record to show, the No. 13 Arizona State wrestling team is heading to Boise, Idaho, this week to compete in the Pac-10 Championships.

The Pac-10 Championships marks the start of the end of the 2002-03 season. For any student-athlete in the conference to continue his season, he must place fourth or higher in his weight class this weekend, or be selected as one of two at-large selections, to move on to Kansas City, Mo., and the NCAA Championships.

Eric Larkin concluded his final collegiate dual season with an unblemished overall record of 25-0 and 16-0 in dual meets. For his career, Larkin is 114-12 and sits in the No. 10 spot on the all-time list at ASU. His 16 dual wins are tied for 24th-most in a single season and his 48 dual victories are tied for No. 13 all-time.

Not only did Eric Larkin go undefeated in the regular season of his senior campaign, he will now look to sweep through the conference meet for the fourth time in his career. As a freshman, Larkin won the 133 division at the conference meet before taking a year off to train for the Olympics. Larkin returned and entered this season as the two-time defending Pac-10 Champion at 141. He will now look to add a 149 crown to his collection and become the third four-time conference champion at ASU. With a title win, Larkin also would become the first Sun Devil to win titles at three weights.

It is no secret the success Eric Larkin enjoyed this year. Another pair of seniors did, however, fly below the radar this year. Dana Holland, who entered the year with a career 22-13 record with the Sun Devils, went 31-6 overall this year and moved to No. 5 in the nation following tournament titles at the Las Vegas Invite, the Reno Tournament of Champions and a runner-up finish at the Midlands. Holland was aided by a 12-match winning streak that was snapped in the final weekend of action this year.

Kellan Fluckiger, selected in the preseason polls as a Top 10 heavyweight, has slowly moved himself among the Top 4 in the nation. Battling with the likes of Iowa's Steve Mocco, Air Force's Kevin Hoy and defending champion Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State, Fluckiger now sits No. 3 in the polls with his only losses coming to Mocco and Hoy in a 29-5 season. He did defeat Rowlands in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational before falling to Hoy. Fluckiger also finished with his most wins in a year, bettering his 28 of last year, and had his fewest losses since his past two years when he finished with 10 in each campaign.

Along with the success Eric Larkin has enjoyed this year, Kellan Fluckiger has made a place for himself in two record categories. His 91 career wins are just nine shy of him becoming the 21st Sun Devil to break the 100-win plateau. He also has tallied 37 career wins in dual action to tie him with another heavyweight, Curley Culp (1965-68), for 22nd all-time in ASU annals.

Two other seniors will be trying to attain conference and national honors this year after battling though more than tough competition. Rocky Smart and Curtis Owen have both dealt with injuries this year and will have one final shot at attaining All-American honors at the NCAA meet, if they advance to the national tournament.

With five seniors in the lineup for the Pac-10 Championships this year, there also are three starters that will compete in the postseason for the first time. True freshman Jeremy Mendoza at 125, junior Ron Renzi at 184 and redshirt freshman Ryan Bader at 197 will represent the Sun Devils at their respective weights at the tournament this year in Boise, Idaho.

The 10 Sun Devils that will compete in Boise and represent the team are Jeremy Mendoza (125), Mike Simspon (133), Dana Holland (141), Eric Larkin (149), Rocky Smart (157), Nick Frost (165), Curtis Owen (174), Ron Renzi (184), Ryan Bader (197) and Kellan Fluckiger (285). Mendoza earned his spot by defeating Adam Chavira in a wrestle-off.

The Sun Devils won 12 duals on the year with one of those victories holding a lasting effect on the program. With a 21-16 defeat of Lock Haven in the opening dual of the Sun Devil Duals on Jan. 5, Arizona State successfully collected the 400th win in the team's history. The Sun Devils ended the dual season 12-7 to push their all-time record to 409-218-13.

This week, the InterMat poll has the Sun Devils the highest at No. 13 (Feb. 25). The NWCA Coaches and The Wrestling Mall both have Arizona State at No. 14.

The host Broncos of Boise State are out to defend their 2002 Pac-10 team title, won last year in Corvallis, Ore., at Oregon State. BSU has been ranked in the Top 20 for most of the season, as have the Sun Devils, with both Oregon and Oregon State residing just outside the Top 25 all season.

Six weight classes have two Pac-10 grapplers ranked in the national Top 20, according to the coaches' poll conducted by The exceptions are three wrestlers are ranked at heavyweight while only one Pac-10 grappler is ranked nationally at both 165 and 184. The 197 class has no ranked wrestlers. Here is the breakdown:No. 3 Ben VomBaur (Boise State) and No. 13 Vic Moreno (Cal Poly) at 125 ... No. 11 Urijah Faber (UC Davis) and No. 14 Mike Simpson (ASU) at 133 ... No. 6 Dana Holland (ASU) and No. 8 Gabe Vigil (Boise State) at 141 ... No. 1 Eric Larkin (ASU) and No. 6 Collin Robertson (Boise State) at 149 ... No. 12 Jeremiah Jarvis (Cal Poly) and No. 19 Rocky Smart (ASU) at 157 ... No. 18 Nick Frost (ASU) at 165 ... No. 9 Curtis Owen (ASU) and No. 10 Shane Webster (Oregon) at 174 ... No. 18 Ryan Halsey (Cal Poly) at 184 ... no one at 197 ... No. 3 Kellan Fluckiger (ASU), No. 7 Boe Rushton (Boise State) and No. 11 Andy Bowlby (Oregon State) at heavyweight.

The Sun Devils have been a fixture in the Top 3 since first participating in the Pac-10 Championships, starting with the 1979 meet. In the 24 previous championships, Arizona State has won 13 of the team titles, including seven in a row starting with the 1985 meet and concluding with a runner-up finish at the 1992 meet. A year later, ASU rebounded to win the title again while setting the conference's scoring record with 152.75 points. The last time the Sun Devils took top billing in the conference was at the 2001 meet. ASU finished third a year ago.

The final weekend of the dual season saw the Sun Devils split in their two road contests, dropping the first to Fresno State, 25-14, before venturing to Cal State Fullerton and handing the Titans at 30-9 decision.

Eric Larkin won twice to remain undefeated on the year while Curtis Owen and Kellan Fluckiger also secured two wins in the final dual action of the season.

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 21-12-0 (11-1 Pac-10).

Those Sun Devils placing in the Top 4 at the conference meet will head to Kansas City, Mo., for the NCAA Championships to be contested March 20-22. The Top 8 placewinners at the national meet will earn the coveted distinction of being an All-American.

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