One of the best Michigan wrestling teams of the decade heads to the deserts of Nevada this weekend to kick off the season. The season officially begins with the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. The Wolverines have not yet participated in a scored tournament, making this weekend very important.

“This is our first big tournament of the season,” said Michigan head coach Joe McFarland. “We”ll be seeing some good teams and some of the best individual wrestlers in the nation.”

Michigan has been attending the tournament for 18 straight seasons, dating back to 1983. The Wolverines have never won the tournament, finishing no higher than fourth. But No. 4 Michigan is the highest-ranked team at the tournament and is the favorite this season. Competition has always been stiff in the desert for Michigan, and it should be more of the same this weekend, with teams like No. 8 Lehigh and No. 9 Nebraska in attendance.

Last season, Michigan finished in a disappointing 10th-place, with only two champions in Joe Warren at 133 pounds and Otto Olson at 174. Olson is the Wolverines” only returning wrestler that has ever won the Cliff Keen Invitational. Although Olson is the returning champion, he will not be the favorite this time around. Olson will most likely be the No. 2 seed behind top ranked and reigning national champion Josh Koscheck from Edinboro.

A.J. Grant, Michigan”s 125 pounder, has a bone to pick with No. 1 ranked Stephen Abas of Fresno State. At this same venue last season, Grant had a phenomenal tournament, only to be defeated by Abas in the finals. Grant looked tough against Abas last year, and plans to get his revenge on the defending national champion.

This is the first tournament of the year in which the Wolverines will have their roster set. Wrestle-offs are completed, and the team that has emerged looks to be one of the best that Michigan has ever fielded. Of the 10 roster spots, Michigan has filled nine with wrestlers that are ranked in the top ten nationally.

“Our intensity level is at the right level, and our team is ready to go,” McFarland said. “We”re all looking forward to it.”

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