Two stars were shining for the Wolverines this past weekend as Josh Churella and Eric Tannenbaum each placed first in their respective weight classes. The Star of the Desert Arena was the host for the No. 8 Michigan wrestling team as they finished second at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Primm, Nev.

Morgan Morel
Co-captain Ryan Churella was one of two wrestlers to win individual titles at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. The team finished second. (EMMA NOLAN-ABRAHAMIAN/Daily)

At 149 pounds, Churella is now one of just five Wolverine wrestlers ever to have won two Cliff Keen Invitational individual titles. Churella also improved his Cliff Keen Invitational record to 10-0.

“Josh Churella made great adjustments with Cornell’s Jordan Leen,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “He really wrestled a perfect match today in the semifinals. He’s really paying attention.”

Churella’s semi-final match with Leen was more than just a match; it was a second chance. Leen beat him in the previous match between the two. After that, Churella spent time working to correct his mistakes. Luckily for Churella, he got another opportunity to wrestle Leen and took full advantage of it.

“I think I did a good job correcting those mistakes,” Churella said, “I used a different strategy, and it worked in this tournament. So hopefully I’m on the right track.”

Churella used the momentum from the win against Leen in the finals against Harvard’s J.P. O’Conner. In the first half of the match, Churella’s single-leg shots were not working, which forced him to make some adjustments. So Churella used his double-leg takedown, which helped him enough to take the match and the title.

At 165 pounds, Tannenbaum was in complete control throughout the majority of his final match and eventually took down Missouri’s top-seeded Matt Pell. The match did tighten up toward the end when Tannenbaum had difficulty getting up off the mat. But Tannenbaum found a way to escape just as time was expiring.

“The biggest accomplishment, I always think, is beating people ranked above me,” Tannenbaum said. “But here this weekend there really wasn’t anyone ranked above me. It justified that my placing should be above (Matt) Pell. Rankings don’t matter, but for NCAA seeding they obviously do matter at the end of the year. So it’s definitely good to knock off the guys ranked above you.”

Missouri went on to win the tournament by an astounding 48 points over Michigan, but the Naperville, Ill. native Tannenbaum beat Missouri’s top wrestler.

Other Wolverines had success as well. Red-shirt sophomore Tyrel Todd finished second in the 184-pound weight class, and fifth-year senior Mark Moos took fifth in the 125-pound weight class. Also finishing well was fifth-year senior Nick Roy, who finished sixth in the 197-pound weight class, and red-shirt sophomore Steve Luke, who finished eight in the 174-pound weight class.

The Wolverines’ success this season is partly because of their performance in this type of tournament.

“I think from an individual standpoint it gives us a much better picture of what each wrestler needs to work on, and that varies from person to person,” McFarland said. “We as a coaching staff will sit down with each of the guys who were out here this weekend and go over some things that we think they need to work on. We definitely made some good improvements from a couple weeks ago. I think these individual tournaments are going to be really important for us this year.”

Churella and Tannenbaum will try to follow McFarland’s lead and continue their success.

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