The Michigan wrestling team wasn”t great, but it was good enough. At the 53-team Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, Nev. this past weekend, the Wolverines didn”t wrestle at their highest level, but they still managed to win big. Michigan scored 163 points, with West Virginia taking second with 127. The Wolverines have been attending the tournament for the past 20 years, but this was their first title.
“Our intensity level is something we have to improve on,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “We have to try and score that first takedown, because it sets the tone for the rest of the match.”
To the extent that the relationship between seeding and finish is a measure of success, the tournament may be deemed a failure for Michigan many of its wrestlers were seeded higher than their finishes. But the fact is that Michigan still placed seven of its 10 wrestlers in the top five, despite not wrestling its best.
Michigan”s 125-pound All-American A.J. Grant was seeded second behind defending national champion Stephen Abas. Last year, Grant wrestled a phenomenal tournament only to fall to Abas in the finals. Grant looked to get some payback this year, but couldn”t get past Nebraska”s Jason Powell in the semifinals. Powell pinned Grant in the first period, and knocked him into the consolation bracket. In his first consolation match, Grant dropped a tough match to Arizona State freshman Mike Simpson, 2-1 in double overtime.
The 30 seconds of a double overtime match are the most intense 30 seconds that a wrestler can experience. One wrestler chooses top or bottom, and the wrestler on bottom has to escape while the goal of the top wrestler is to keep him on the ground.
“We have to do some work on getting out from underneath,” McFarland said. “It cost us in a few matches.”
At 174 pounds, the highly-anticipated match between No. 1 Josh Koscheck from Edinboro and No. 2 Otto Olson from Michigan never came to fruition. Koscheck did not compete, so Olson became the tournament”s No. 1 seed. The All-American won the tournament for the second straight year, and became just Michigan”s second two-time Cliff Keen Invitational champion.
Michigan”s only other individual champion was 184-pounder Andy Hrovat. The All-American had a disappointing loss at the Michigan State Open and looked to rebound in Las Vegas. He did so in a big way by winning three of his matches by three points or more and by winning his other three matches by fall.
Other tournament placers included Grant (125-pounds, fifth place), Foley Dowd (133, second), Mike Kulczycki (149, fourth), Ryan Bertin (157, third) and Kyle Smith (197, fifth). Michigan scored 163 points, with West Virginia taking second with 127.
“I was happy that we won the tournament for the first time, but we have some things to work on before this weekend,” McFarland said.