Tod Surmon, a former all-American wrestler from Stanford who hoped to compete in the Olympics, fell to his death on the Las Vegas Strip after climbing a light pole above a crowd of 300,000 revelers.

Surmon, 26, of Menlo Park, Calif., landed on his head and died shortly after midnight on New Year's morning. He fell after apparently grabbing an electrical wire attached to the pole near the Paris Las Vegas Hotel, witnesses told police.

His family and friends said Surmon, who grew up in Albany, Ore., had always been a daredevil.

"He had an invincible attitude," said his sister, Dawn DeFord.

Surmon graduated from Stanford in 1996 with a degree in computer science and engineering, and worked as a programmer at a communications firm in San Jose.

Surmon was celebrating with friends a day after winning at the Midlands wrestling championships in Chicago, a major national tournament that put him in contention for the U.S. Olympic team, Stanford Coach Chris Horpel told the San Jose Mercury News.

Horpel, who coached Surmon to his recent victory, went with him Friday morning to a Chicago airport, where Surmon caught a flight to Las Vegas.

"I said to him, 'People are going to be doing crazy things. Be careful,' and he looked at me and smiled and said, 'You know I won't,' " Horpel said.

"I don't know if Tod was simply someone who didn't feel fear the way some people do or if he just enjoyed the adrenaline rush that fear gave him."

At Stanford, Surmon went to the NCAA championships three times and in his senior year was rated first in the Pacific-10 Conference and fifth nationally in the 142-pound class.

He was an all-American as a senior.


Lehman Triumphs

Tom Lehman birdied five of the last six holes to win the $3.5 million Williams World Challenge by three shots over David Duval in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Lehman, 40, who is winless on the PGA Tour since 1996, earned $1 million. He closed with a 3-under 67 for a 13-under 267. Duval, ranked second on the PGA Tour, shot 70--270. Play was halted by rain and hail for about 65 minutes.

Top-ranked Tiger Woods shot 41 on the front nine and finished at 76. It was his worst round since a 76 in the 1998 Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the third time he has failed to match or break par in his last 36 rounds. He finished 10th at 282.


Spartan Arrested

Michigan State football player Siitupe Peko and his brother were arrested early yesterday after a purse-snatching incident.

Peko, a 21-year-old starting offensive tackle, and Milton Peko, 28, were arrested hours after the Spartans beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

They are charged with robbery and battery. Siitupe Peko also is charged with battery on a police officer, and his brother is charged with resisting arrest without violence. The brothers were being held without bail.


Van Exel's Incentive

The contract Denver Nuggets point guard Nick Van Exel signed in August could give him as much as $77 million over seven years if he can make all of his incentives, the Denver Rocky Mountain News reported.

The deal is worth a guaranteed $50.5 million over five years and up to $77 million if Van Exel achieves incentives to guarantee two more years, the newspaper reported, citing two unnamed sources close to the NBA.

When the Nuggets signed Van Exel, the Denver Post, also citing unidentified NBA sources, reported the contract was worth at least about $8 million a year and somewhere between $60 million and $80 million over seven years with incentives. . . .

WNBA star Suzie McConnell Serio of the Cleveland Rockers had surgery to repair a fractured left foot but will continue coaching a high school team in Pittsburgh.

McConnell Serio, the Rockers' point guard, had a plate inserted with four screws and also had a bone graft. She must wear a cast for four to six weeks.



Larry Bearnarth, the Colorado Rockies' first pitching coach, died of a heart attack at his home in Seminole, Fla. He was 58.

Bearnarth, who died on New Year's Eve, was hired by the Rockies in 1992 to scout for the expansion draft and served as pitching coach from 1993 to '95. He left after Colorado won the National League wild card in its third season.


Rhodes Needs Surgery

Atlanta Thrashers goalie Damian Rhodes, who has been out since Nov. 18 with a severe ankle sprain, needs arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Rhodes injured his knee by overcompensating for his ankle during conditioning workouts. He might be out until next month's all-star break, but Rhodes hopes to return in two to three weeks. . . .

Cammi Granato had two goals and an assist as the United States women's hockey team beat Sweden, 5-0, in the championship game of the Christmas Tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y. The United States finished the tournament 5-0.


Martinez Rolls

Third-seeded Conchita Martinez of Spain beat Sylvia Plischke of Austria, 6-3, 6-4, in the opening day of the Australian women's hard-court championships. In other first-round matches, Barbara Rittner of Germany beat 10th-seeded Magui Serna of Spain, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, and Rita Grande of Italy defeated Annabel Ellwood of Australia, 2-6, 6-0, 6-2.