It was as dramatic an ending as anyone could’ve hoped for.
The bout neared its final moments and redshirt junior 174-pounder Myles Amine desperately clung to a one-point lead over Missouri’s Daniel Lewis. It was the championship match at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas (CKLV) Invitational — arguably collegiate wrestling’s toughest tournament outside of the NCAA Championships — and Amine wanted the crown.
Using a strong approach on top, Lewis controlled Amine for the majority of the third period, close to securing the additional one point of riding time to send the match to overtime. Wanting to end the bout in regulation and seal his place as one of the weight classes’ most feared competitors, Amine took advantage of some awkward positioning to score a two-point reversal right at the match’s close. The clock read zeros, and Amine had once again downed a ranked opponent.
Strung along by Amine’s heroics, the Michigan wrestling team (2-0) placed fifth at the tournament despite lackluster outings from a few of the team’s other contributors. For Amine, though, this victory was a long time coming after he placed third in the last two years’ CKLV Invitationals.
“It feels really good to be able to bring home one,” Amine said. “Placing third the last two times, it’s kind of a bittersweet taste when you finish winning your last match, but you still feel like you came up short.”
Besides Amine, redshirt sophomore Kanen Storr, redshirt junior Logan Massa and sophomore Drew Mattin all had solid outings in Vegas, placing third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Despite entering as the tournament’s top seed and fifth-ranked wrestler nationally, Massa finished fourth after dropping two close matches. In the semifinal match, Massa fell to the eventual champion, Nebraska’s Isaiah White — an opponent he defeated at last year’s dual meet.
As the two wrestlers went head-to-head, the match ended up being one of the tournament’s closest, with Massa falling 6-2. On two separate occasions, Massa had White dead to rights on two takedown attempts, but due to some awkward positioning, he was unable to secure the points.
“I think Logan did a tremendous job wrestling hard for all of his matches,” said Michigan coach Sean Bormet. “He wrestled hard, and I like right now how hard he’s competing. He’s just got some fine tuning to do. Continuing to improve some mat strategy. It was great to see him back in competition. He’s enjoying it, he’s enjoying the work he has to do to make gains, so it’s definitely great to get him back in a big tournament setting.”
Despite the losses, getting experience wrestling ranked opponents is crucial for the Wolverines, particularly this early in the season, and there’s no better place to get that experience than at the CKLV Invitational.
With ten ranked wrestlers per weight class for a total of 110 wrestlers out of 200 possible, the road to the finals leads through multiple ranked opponents.
Win or lose, Michigan used the meet as an opportunity to both demonstrate its dominance and to see what areas need improvement. As a team, Bormet asserts that his team needs to develop in two key areas — mental composure and bottom positioning.
“There’s always a lot of mental errors to work on, just composure and wrestling wide open in all three positions, so there’s a certain mental component to it,” Bormet said. “Then from a technical standpoint, I think we need to continue to improve our set-ups on bottom position wrestling a little as a team.”
Seemingly having the least room for improvement, Amine insists there is still work to be done even while basking in his most recent achievement.
“It’s good to see all the hard work and dedication that I’ve put into the room this summer and am continuously putting in is starting to pay off,” Amine said. “And so yeah, it means a lot, but at the same time, it’s right back to the drawing board. The season’s far from over. It’s a big stepping stone, but still a lot to improve on.”