Yates stars at Cliff Keen Invitational; Wolverines falter

By Max Cohen, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 2, 2012

If winning is a sin, then Michigan redshirt junior wrestler Dan Yates sinned all weekend in Sin City, going undefeated on his way to placing second in the 174-pound weight class in the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas.

Yates was the star for the Wolverines before a knee injury forced him to forfeit the championship match. Despite Yates’ performance, No. 14 Michigan did not meet its own expectations, placing 12th out of 32 teams.

“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t wrestle tough, and nobody is satisfied,” said Michigan coach Donny Pritzlaff.

While the Wolverines as a team didn’t demonstrate toughness, two Wolverine wrestlers other than Yates fared well. Freshman Taylor Massa finished fifth in the 165-pound weight class, going 5-2 on the weekend and redshirt sophomore Max Huntley’s 3-2 record earned him eighth place.

Massa rallied in both of his first two matches on his way to a 3-1 record on the day, leading to the fifth-place finish. Huntley won his first match of the day before suffering an injury in his match against Arizona State’s Jake Walsh, causing him to forfeit and locking him into eighth place in his weight class.

Michigan wrestlers competed on Friday and Saturday with multiple matches each day, depending on how they performed — a stark contrast from the dual meets the Wolverines have been competing in as of late.

“It comes down a lot to mental toughness,” Yates said. “You’re preparing for one match at a time, no matter if you’re in a dual setting or in a tournament setting.”

Pritzlaff said he believes the downfall for the majority of the wrestlers on the team was a lack of intensity and toughness.

“This is a wake-up call for everybody,” Pritzlaff said. “I expect that we’ll move forward from there and be a better team for it.”

As the Wolverines progress through the season, Pritzlaff said he hopes that the team will demonstrate an increase in intensity, which he believes will lead to more wins. Yates demonstrated his personal toughness and intensity this weekend, earning the appearance in the Cliff Keen finals for the first time in his career. Yates defeated Arizona State’s Blake Stauffer in the tournament semifinal, boosting his record to 9-0 on the year.

“Dan wrestled with a lot of emotion, a lot of fire and he was excited to be out there,” Pritzlaff said. “He represented Michigan very well and we were excited that he made it to the finals. It was just unfortunate that he wasn’t able to go (in the championship).”

Yates’s status for next weekend’s dual meets at home against Eastern Michigan and Duke is unclear. While Yates said he will monitor how he feels throughout the week, he is not down about the injury which prevented him from competing in the finals. Instead, he has a larger goal in mind.

“Better to win an NCAA title than a Las Vegas title, I guess,” he said.