No. 17 ASU Heads To Las Vegas Invite This Weekend

Dec. 2, 2003

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The No. 17 Arizona State wrestling team (0-1, 0-0 Pac-10), following a 24-17 loss to No. 3 Iowa in dual competition Nov. 30, travels to the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational Friday and Saturday. The tournament will be contested inside the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The 2003 Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational will mark the 18th time the Sun Devils have competed in the event. The tournament, with wrestling set to begin at 9 a.m. each day, will feature 53 teams including 12 squads ranked in the Top 25 by the NWCA (Nov. 25). Some of the teams include No. 1 Illinois, No. 5 Minnesota, No. 7 Michigan and No. 8 Missouri. Also among the teams are seven Pac-10 teams including No. 22 ASU and No. 23 Boise State.

Six Sun Devils placed in the tournament with Dana Holland (141) and Eric Larkin (149) winning individual titles while the team finished fourth overall. Larkin was seeded third and defeated the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked wrestlers in his weight on his way to earning the top national ranking a week later.

Minnesota won the team title followed by Illinois and Ohio State. Placing in the event were Mike Simpson (133), eighth; Nick Frost (165), sixth; Curtis Owen (174), fifth; and Kellan Fluckiger (HWT), runner-up.

Arizona State has won the team title at the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational three times (1987, 1989 and 1992) and finished in the Top 5 of the standings 12 times. The Sun Devils have finished fourth two of the last three years and since the 1996 tournament, ASU has earned six Top 5 placements in the seven tournaments including a runner-up finish in 1997 and third in 1998.

Team rankings were released by InterMat Tuesday with the Sun Devils climbing from No. 20 to No. 17 this week following a close 24-17 loss to No. 3 Iowa. Arizona State is still No. 22 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association poll (Nov. 26) and are not ranked in the Wrestling Mall's preseason rankings (Oct. 6).

The latest individual rankings were released Dec. 1 and 2 with the Sun Devils seeing a gradual improvement in each of the three ranking services. According to Amateur Wrestling News, five Sun Devils are ranked in the Top 15 in the nation with four of the wrestlers moving higher in the rankings since last week. Nick Frost (184) was the largest mover, climbing eight spots to No. 9. Right behind him is Brian Stith (157) at No. 8, up four spots from last week. Ryan Bader (197) moved to a team-high No. 6 ranking while Patrick Williams (149) is up to No. 15. Cain Velasquez (hwt) is No. 14 for the second week in a row.

Ryan Bader has opened the season with a 5-0 record with a 4-0 mark at the Missouri Open and a 1-0 mark in duals. Bader, the defending Pac-10 champion at 197, won four matches at the Missouri Open to win the tournament title. One week later and ranked No. 8 in the nation, Bader upset No. 7 Ryan Fulsaas, 4-2.

In the dual with No. 3 Iowa, three Sun Devils earned victories via upset with another two Arizona State wrestlers coming very close to upset wins. Brian Stith (157), ranked 12th, handed No. 8 Joe Johnston a 9-7 setback in overtime before No. 17 Nick Frost (184) defeated No. 6 Paul Bradley, 4-1. Ryan Bader (197), ranked eighth, nipped No. 7 Ryan Fulsaas, 4-2, for the third upset.

At 149, No. 17 Patrick Williams nearly upended No. 6 Ty Eustice, falling to the higher ranked Hawkeye, 2-1. The second near upset was at 174. No. 5 and undefeated Tyler Nixt eventually won the match over ASU's Ron Renzi after Renzi almost pinned Nixt in the opening seconds of the match.

Five Sun Devils wrestled the first home matches of their career Sunday against Iowa with three coming away with victories. Christian Staylor earned a 16-0 technical fall victory at 125 while Brian Stith scored a 9-7 sudden victory at 157. Heavyweight Cain Velasquez also won his debut, a 6-1 decision. Curtis Ray (133) and James Terry (165) both dropped their home debuts.

Bonus points got the better of the Sun Devils as the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes used three wins via fall to defeat No. 20 Arizona State, 24-17. Both squads won five matches with the Sun Devils taking the final four, but a 15-0 lead was too much to overcome. Winning matches for the Sun Devils were Christian Staylor (125), Brian Stith (157), Nick Frost (184), Ryan Bader (197) and Cain Velasquez (HWT). Staylor was the lone Sun Devil to earn bonus team points for ASU as his technical fall counted five points while the remaining four earned three points each.

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.

USA Wrestling announce one-third of its Olympic coaching selections with three coaches being picked to guide the men's freestyle contingent to Athens, Greece. Former Sun Devil All-American Zeke Jones will join Kevin Jackson (Louisiana State) and Tom Brands (Iowa) as the coaches for the United States. Jones is currently serving as an assistant coach for West Virginia. The Greco-Roman and women's freestyle teams' coaches will be selected later in December. Up the coaching duties for the women's team are former Sun Devil All-American Townsend Saunders and his wife Tricia.

Six Sun Devils won individual Pac-10 titles as the team edged out Boise State to claim its 14th Pac-10 title at the 2003 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.

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.

Following a week off from competition and final exams, the Sun Devils return for their final pre-holiday event as they participate in the 2003 Reno Tournament of Champions, Dec. 18, in Reno, Nev.

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