Michigan gets three consecutive pins, finishes seventh
The No. 9 Michigan wrestling team didn’t leave Las Vegas as the big winner, but the Wolverines had a strong showing nonetheless this weekend, pinning three straight wrestlers on their way to a seventh-place finish at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. Michigan placed four wrestlers during the event.
The Wolverines’ first pin came in the 184-pound class, when junior Domenic Abounader used a leg turk to defeat Northern Idaho’s Chase Campbell 2:33 into the match. The win advanced Abounader into the quarterfinals, where he topped Ohio State’s Kenny Courts, 3-0.
Abounader notched another victory in the semifinals over Virginia Tech’s Zack Zavatsky, 5-4, before he fell short against Cornell’s Gabriel Dean, 15-6. This year was the first time Abounader placed in the Cliff Keen Invitational.
“(Domenic) was right there with some of the best wrestlers in the country,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “He had a great tournament even though I know he was kind of disappointed with his final match. That will stoke your fire a little bit.”
Not to be outdone, fifth-year senior Max Huntley got a pin of his own in the 197-pound division when he double-legged Kent State’s Kyle Conel at 4:24. Huntley went on to grab another convincing win against Northern Colorado’s Trent Noon, 7-2, before he fell to Minnesota’s Brett Pfarr, 13-3. Huntley’s loss was his first of the season.
Michigan’s third pin came in the wrestlebacks as heavyweight redshirt sophomore Payne Hayden defeated Gateway Bible Institute’s Damien Davis a mere 0:24 into the match. Hayden’s win came following a loss to San Francisco State’s Sam Alnassiri in which Hayden was pinned at 2:20.
“It was good to see three pins in a row, and hopefully we can get better in that area,” McFarland said. “We’ll focus on that a little bit this week.”
Sophomore Alec Pantaleo had a strong tournament performance in his own right, beating Oregon State’s Joey Delgado, 5-3, in the round of 16. While Pantaleo came up short against Oklahoma’s Davion Jefferies, 8-1, he rebounded to top Ohio State’s Cody Burcher, Kent State’s Mike Depalma and Arizona State’s Matt Kraus to claim the third-place consolation prize.
“This tournament is something to build off of (for Pantaleo),” McFarland said. “It’ll give him a lot of confidence.”
Rounding out the Wolverines’ placewinners was redshirt freshman Davonte Mahomes in the 174-pound class. Mahones bounced back from a round of 16 defeat at the hands of Iowa State’s Lelund Weatherspoon to defeat Utah Valley’s Ross Taylor and Binghamton’s Jack McKeever to claim eighth place.
The Cliff Keen Invitational was Michigan’s final tune-up before the Big Ten season starts. Michigan will face Michigan State at home Thursday to open conference play.
“We need to come out with more of a sense of urgency and more determination,” McFarland said. “We need to make a quick turnaround.”