Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff: 58 days

We are now only 58 days until the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 season under new coach Kevin Sumlin.

When Arizona hosts BYU on Sept. 1, it will mark the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats joined the Pac-12 (went from the Pac-8 to the Pac-10 then) and also the 20th anniversary of the 1998 team with the best record in school history, 12-1, and the 25th anniversary of the 1993 team that went 10-2 with a win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

To get ready for the upcoming season, All Sports Tucson offers another countdown, which will include memories from former Wildcats, history notes and a look ahead to the season. Think of it as a way to keep Arizona football on the mind in the summer months leading up to fall camp in early August and then kickoff against the Cougars marking the start of the Sumlin Era.

To catch up on the countdown click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.

A look back

— With it being the 58th day until kickoff, the best player to wear No. 58 for Arizona? That would be defensive tackle Ivan Lesnik, who stood out in Larry Smith’s first four seasons from 1980 to 1983. He is one of Arizona’s top scholar-athletes among football players, with 14 career sacks and two Academic All-America awards.

Ivan Lesnik when he was starring for the Arizona football program …

Lesnik is now an accomplished anesthesiologist in Seattle. After receiving his M.D. from the University of Arizona College Of Medicine, he completed a residency in anesthesiology before joining the faculty at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. He then completed several clinical and administrative leadership assignments at overseas military hospitals in Asia and Europe and served as vice chairmen and education director of anesthesiology at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences as well as acting chairmen of the Department of Anesthesiology at National Naval Medical Center during the Iraq and Afghanistan war.

… and Ivan Lesnik now as an accomplished anesthesiologist in Seattle.

He served as specialty leader to the Navy Surgeon General, providing worldwide management of anesthesiology and pain management services for the Navy and Marine Corps during the height of the conflict. After completion of a pain medicine fellowship, he was assigned as deputy program manager for the Navy Comprehensive Pain Management Program as well as operational lead for Navy and Marine Corps program execution in western United States and the pacific theater.

He developed and served as director of Navy Medicine’s first operationalized Functional Restoration Pain Program. He retired from the U.S. Navy and joined the University of Washington as an associate clinical professor and chief of pain services at Harborview Medical Center in September 2014.

A look ahead

Wearing No. 58 for Arizona this season is fifth-year senior left tackle Layth Friekh, who has started 33 games in his career and played in 38 games overall, including only one as a true freshman in 2014 at Utah. Friekh appealed the NCAA for another year of eligibility after last season. He was granted that extra year but he must sit out the first two games, so he will miss the BYU and Houston games. The NCAA determined that Friekh must miss two games for every one he participated in that season.

Friekh represented the offense as a game captain for the Houston, California and Arizona State games last season. Anchored left side of offensive line that led the Pac-12 for fewest sacks allowed in regular season.

Embed from Getty Images

They tweeted it

Sumlin has three career seasons with at least 10 wins in his 10 years as a coach — 30 percent of his career. Chris Petersen has enjoyed 10-win seasons in almost 70 percent of his career, but remember most of that was with Boise State in the WAC and Mountain West without consistent top-notch competition. Petersen does however have two seasons of at least 10 wins in his five seasons with Washington. Sumlin had one in his six years with Texas A&M in the SEC.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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