Sun Devil Wrestling Opens Season at Missouri Open

Nov. 18, 2003

Season Outlook | Weekly Notes (pdf format)

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State wrestling team opens the 2003-04 season Sunday when the Sun Devils take part in the 2003 Missouri Open inside the Hearnes Center Field House in Columbia, Mo. The one-day tournament runs all day.

Arizona State opened the 2001-02 season at the Missouri Open with the Sun Devils leaving the second annual event with three titles and one runner-up finish. David Douglas (141), Eric Larkin (149) and Rocky Smart (157) each captured gold while Erik Gladish (197) finished second.

Two current Sun Devils also competed in the event. Nick Frost finished with a 3-2 record to capture fourth place at 165 while Mike Simpson went 1-2 at 125.

The 2003-04 season starts in Columbia, Mo., this weekend for the Sun Devils. A hope of each member of the team is the completion of the season will take place just 125 miles down the road: St. Louis. The home of the Gateway Arch also will serve as the host of the 2004 NCAA Championships, March 18-20. ASU will battle some of the nation's best before trying to punch its ticket to St. Louis, including duals with several highly ranked teams and returning home to defend its 2003 Pac-10 title.

Arizona State enters the new season as a member of two national Top 25 preseason rankings, released in late October and early November. has the Sun Devils as the No. 20 team in the nation while the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) has ASU slated at No. 22. The third poll used by the team, The Wrestling Mall, does not have the Sun Devils ranked.

In the early stage of the season, three individual polls have been released. Mike Simpson leads the way as he is ranked No. 7 in one poll and No. 8 in another. In all, five Sun Devils have been ranked including No. 11 Cain Velasquez (HWT), No. 14 Ryan Bader (197), No. 15 Brian Stith (157) and No. 15 Nick Frost (184).

When comparing the starting lineup established for the start of this season and the one utilized last year, many names have changed and a few have moved from one weight to another. This year, two starters are staying put with Mike Simpson and Ryan Bader holding on to the starting nod at 133 and 197, respectively. Three starters are moving with Jeremy Mendoza going from 125 to 141, Nick Frost jumping from 165 to 184 and Ron Renzi falling from 184 to 174.

Coupled with the moves, five new starters have emerged with two (James Terry at 165 and Cain Velasquez at heavyweight) earning a spot in their first season with the team.

The Sun Devils' 30-man roster features a wealth of young student-athletes this year, including 17 freshman, five of which used their redshirt season last year. In total, 24 of the 30 Arizona State wrestlers are freshmen and sophomores. The potential starting lineup is young as well with two seniors and two juniors standing along side four sophomores and two redshirt freshmen.

Ten times this season the Sun Devils will do battle in dual competition on the mats inside Wells Fargo Arena. ASU is slated to meet Iowa, Stanford, Embry-Riddle, Iowa State, Oregon State, Cal State Fullerton, Nebraska, Oregon, Fresno State and Northern Iowa in dual competition. The home season extends past duals, however, as the 2004 Pac-10 Championships will be contested at WFA, Feb. 29 through March 1 with the Sun Devils trying to defend their 2003 crown.

Several of the top teams in the nation await the Sun Devils in dual competition this year. Included on the list are home duals with No. 4 Iowa, No. 6 Iowa State, No. 8 Nebraska and No. 16 Northern Iowa. On the road, Arizona State will battle with No. 7 Minnesota and No. 17 Oklahoma. The Sun Devils could meet several other top ranked teams at the Virginia Duals with No. 2 Lehigh, No. 19 Purdue and Wisconsin, No. 21 Edinboro and No. 25 North Carolina set to compete.

On an individual basis, ASU will face some the nation's best at tournaments like the Missouri Open, the Las Vegas Invitational and the Reno Tournament of Champions before trying to qualify for the NCAA meet.

Last year, if the score was tied after regulation, the match would go into a one minute sudden victory period. If the score had not changed, a 30 second tie-breaker was used to determine the winner: bottom man escapes or top man rides his opponent out for the win.

Enter the rule change for this year. Once the tie breaker concludes with either the bottom man escaping or being rode out, the competitors switch positions for another 30 second period. If both wrestlers earn an escape, whoever did so the quickest wins. If both ride out their opponents, riding time from the regulation match will be used to determine the winner.

Now, for the twist. If the riding time is even, the match immediately goes into another one minute sudden victory period and then two, 30 second tie breakers as needed. The cycle will continue as long is takes to determine a winner.

When USA Wrestling named its list of 16 finalists to become the head coaches of the USA Olympic freestyle, Greco-Roman and women's freestyle teams, four people with ties to Arizona State wrestling made the cut. Former coach Bobby Douglas and All-American Zeke Jones are finalists for the men's freestyle discipline while former assistant coach and Sun Devil All-American Townsend Saunders and his wife Tricia are up for the job of guiding the women's freestyle team in Athens. The finals selections will be made and announced in mid-December with team selections being determined May 21-23 in Indianapolis.

Arizona State finished fifth at the NCAA Championships in Kansas City, Mo., with 65 points as Eric Larkin capped his undefeated season with his first national title at 149. Following the tournament, Larkin became the first Sun Devil to earn Outstanding Wrestler honors and would also go on to earn the Dan Hodge Award. Joining Larkin (four times) as an All-American were Curtis Owen (174) and Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) who finished fourth and fifth in their respective weights.

Six Sun Devils won individual Pac-10 titles as the team edged out Boise State to claim its 14th Pac-10 title at the tournament in Boise, Idaho. Mike Simpson (133), Eric Larkin (149), Nick Frost (165), Curtis Owen (174), Ryan Bader (197) and Kellan Fluckiger (HWT) won their weights while Dana Holland (141) took second and Rocky Smart (157) third to send eight ASU grapplers to the NCAA Championships.

Following the meet, Larkin was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships for winning his fourth individual title. He also earned the award for Most Falls in the Least Time while coach Thom Ortiz was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

History was achieved Jan. 5 when Arizona State handed Lock Haven a 21-16 defeat at the Sun Devil Duals to give the program its 400th victory since becoming a varsity program during the 1962-63 academic season. To date, the Sun Devils have won 409 duals for a career mark of 409-223-11. The Sun Devils could reach 425 wins this season. They are scheduled for 15 duals with at least two more at the Virginia Duals.

Arizona State will leap into dual action by taking on perennial power Iowa at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30, inside Wells Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils will look to exact some revenge from the Hawkeyes following a 32-7 defeat in Iowa City, a year ago.

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