Many of Michigan's young wrestlers walked into the biggest event of their careers this weekend, but they were prepared.
Redshirt freshman Logan Massa became the fourth Michigan wrestler to win an individual title at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, and the first to do so since 2007.
During this weekend’s tournament, named after the famed Michigan wrestler Cliff Keen, Massa led a Wolverine squad that notched 73 points to finish ninth out of 36 competing teams.
Despite falling two spots from last year’s seventh-place finish in the tournament, Michigan coach Joe McFarland was still pleased with his wrestlers.
“This is our first two-day tournament, a big test for us,” McFarland said. “(I’m) pleased with some individual performances.”
Massa defeated Wisconsin’s Isaac Joseph to win the title in the 165-pound weight class, finishing with a 6-0 record in the tournament.
“It’s pretty cool, a great experience,” Massa said.
McFarland also had a lot of praise for his wrestler, calling him a “fierce competitor” and “very focused.”
Besides Massa, two other freshmen placed top-three in their respective weight classes. Myles Amine finished third in the 174-pound division, after he was defeated by Iowa State’s Leland Weatherspoon, ending the tournament with a 6-2 record. Stevan Micic finished second in the 133-pound weight class after he was defeated by Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello, the nation’s top-ranked wrestler in that weight class.
Two other Michigan wrestlers, freshman Sal Profaci and senior Brian Murphy, made it past the first day of the invitational. Murphy is also the top-ranked wrestler in the 157-pound weight class.
Propelled by five top-three performances, Ohio State finished first in the invitational with 118.5 points. Wisconsin and Virginia Tech finished second and third, respectively.
With their solid showing at the invitational, the tournament provided another opportunity for the Wolverines to showcase their strong freshman class.
Six of the Wolverines’ starters in the invitational were freshmen, and having so many young wrestlers on the team this year has left an impact.
“We’re all really close as a group, get along great,” Massa said. “(We) push each other to get better.”
McFarland pointed out that having such a young group poses unique challenges to his strategy, but it also provides the group many opportunities to develop. He commented on how he has changed up his coaching style because of the large number of underclassmen.
While Michigan’s coach was satisfied with his team's performance, especially given the fact that the season is still young, he also added that the Wolverines need to work on improving some areas.
“I can’t emphasize enough how important that match readiness is,” McFarland said. “In some cases, our guys just weren’t at that level of intensity and readiness that we needed to be.
“And in some cases I think that was the difference.”