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Four champs lead Sun Devils to Pac-10 title



Wrestling fans hoping for a dramatic battle for the team trophy were no doubt disappointed. Especially after being teased for almost two days by the appearance of a tight team race. Upon further review, it was never in doubt. The Arizona State Sun Devils claimed their 12th Pac-10 wrestling championship in the last 17 years. That statistic alone is cause for wonder why anyone thought this year might be different. Oregon State, Boise State and Oregon each entered the breakfast bracket at McArthur Court on Monday with five consolation semi-finalists and hopes of making a move on ASU. No such luck. While Oregon and Boise each won four of five bouts, all three ASU wrestlers alive in consolation also won, and after all the 3rd and 5th place finals at the conclusion of the third session, no one had made up any ground. In fact, entering Monday evening's championship matches, Boise State was the only team with anything better than a slim mathematical possibility of catching ASU. All the Sun Devils needed was to win one of their five individual finals to close the deal. While Larkin and Blackford gave Sun Devil coach, LeRoy Smith, every reason to feel confident, his team cinched it without ever wrestling a match when Oregon's Brian Watson declined to test his sore knee against ASU's David Douglas and gave him a walkover win at 133. Douglas' most difficult task was waiting out 125-pound champ, Boise frosh, Ben Vombaur's 2-1 riding time win over CSB's all-American, Ruben DeLeon. Oh well, so it goes. While it may have been yet another night to render up to Caesar all that is Caesar's, it was also a night to enjoy some stunning performances. The first came at 141, where OSU sophomore, Shane Cunanan, gave ASU's Eric Larkin some things to think about between now and the nationals, like how he got taken down three times by a guy he beat 14-7 just a little over a month ago. The good news for Larkin is that he was able to generate even more firepower himself and hold on for a 12-8 victory. Dana Holland hoped to extend the Sun Devil win streak to three in his 149-pound final versus Cal Poly's Cedric Haymon, outshooting the Mustang roughly five to one. But in a match-up that offered more action than scoring, Cedric made the most of his attempts in securing a 4-3 win. The most eagerly awaited bout came at 157, where OSU's Eric Jorgensen and BSU's Kirk White wrestled this season's rubber match. The seniors had split their first two. Everyone expected it to be close. And close it was-close to a blowout. Jorgy got in deep, lifted White up, switched to a split double and locked tight to White's hips as he controlled the former NCAA champ all the way to his back to jump out to a 5-0 lead. White barely got off his back before he got cheap tilted for another two points and nearly got stuck again. The Beaver faithful roared. It was 9-0 before White scored a late takedown, but that was all he could muster on a night when Jorgensen looked like the guy with all the muscle, winning 10-2 to earn his first conference title and the Outstanding Wrestler award. Jorgensen said it has been his career goal to win the Pac-10. He added that now is a good time to upgrade that goal to include an NCAA title. At 165, the Sun Devils returned to business as usual with Steve Blackford throwing a 9-0 beating on UC Davis junior, Burt Pierson. It wasn't that close. Blackford, last year's OW after beating Kirk White, seemed perpetually on the verge of turning Pierson in cradles. Perhaps Nathan Coy was taking notes as he warmed up for his match with Cal Poly's Steve Strange. After giving up the first takedown to the Mustang, he evened the score at 3-3 in a second period scramble that led to a cradle. Coy locked it up tight and took his time before turning into a fall at 4:54-much to the delight of the Beaver-friendly crowd, still abuzz over Jorgensen. The Ducks finally had their chance to cheer their own, as Oregon senior, Doug Lee, kept his record perfect against in-state rival, Jeremy Wilson of PSU. Ever the technician, Lee exploited the more tentative Wilson's only missteps for two explosive takedowns on his way to a 6-4 triumph. His reward for collecting his third straight conference championship? He got to direct the post-meet breakdown and rolling up of the home mat for one last time. After Lee's win, Oregon fan's were eager for more from Chael Sonnen in his much-anticipated final against his rival, BSU's Rusty Cook. Things heated up quickly. Cook got after it, charging in on a single leg--which isn't always a good thing to grab on Chael. As many times as these two have wrestled, you'd think that Rusty would have more respect for the peril he risked. Scarely an instant later, Rusty was on his back fighting for his life for the next 1:26. Luckily, one shoulder was on the line or the match would have been over there. But Cook is one tough hombre, and once he took liberal injury time to clear his head and breathe in some of the life that was getting choked out, he went back to his heavy-handed assault upside Chael's head. Stern warnings ensued. Then Cook scored a takedown, followed by a knockdown, violently shoving Sonnen off the mat over his corner's folding chairs. Now Sonnen needed injury time. But when he came back, he didn't seem to have it anymore. Rusty tied it up at 6-6, then scored his own nearfall and won going away, 12-6, for his second straight Pac-10 title. The Sun Devils wrapped up the final session by crowning their fourth champ as #1 seed, Kellan Fluckiger took OSU's Jason Cooley down 8-5 in a battle athletic heavyweights. All in all, 43 NCAA qualifiers advanced. Arizona State led all teams with eight, while Oregon, Oregon State and Boise State each have seven wrestlers headed for Iowa. ASU coach, LeRoy Smith was mostly just happy to get all of his big guns through, while another of his staff sighed, "This meet just keeps getting tougher every year." Nice sentiment, that. Then again, after a couple decades of taking home conference trophies, you know a little something about winning graciously. Final Team Scores Arizona State - 123.50 Boise State - 110.50 Oregon State - 109.50 Oregon - 103.50 Cal-Poly - 80.50 Cal-Bakersfield - 70 UC Davis - 60 Portland State - 48.50 Stanford - 19 Cal-Fullerton 15.50
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