There are few Division I collegiate athletes that would turn down the opportunity to face the best opponents in their sport. This past weekend, the Michigan wrestling team had the opportunity to compete against the best of the best at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
The Wolverines faced wrestlers from 46 elite Division I programs in Sin City. Despite the strong competition, Michigan’s nine entries performed well enough to finish second in the tournament. Fifth-year senior Adam Coon and redshirt junior Alec Pantaleo each came away with the titles in the heavyweight and 157 pound weight classes, respectively. All nine of Michigan’s representatives boasted scoring performances, with six individuals placing in their weight class.
“It was a good step forward,” Coon said. “We took a couple steps back against a really tough Lehigh team, so it was really nice to see everyone bounce back and have a really good showing out here.”
En route to his second title at the CKLV, the second-ranked Coon defeated the fourth-and 13th-ranked wrestlers in the heavyweight class and claimed his title over No. 4 Tanner Hall of Arizona State. The final round was his closest match of the day, as he came away with a last-second overtime takedown to win the tournament.
Equally as dominant, the 11th-ranked Pantaleo took down two top-10 opponents on his path to a title. In the championship round, Pantaleo had a decisive win against Ohio State’s sixth-ranked Micah Jordan, a wrestler who had won the CKLV the two years prior. Pantaleo won the match, 10-3, highlighting the blowout win with a four-point suck back in the third period.
“I think we wrestled well enough to get second, but I think we’re capable of a lot more,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “I don’t think we had everyone firing as much as they can, but we had some really good individual performances.”
In order to facilitate greater performances from the team as a whole, the Wolverine coaching staff will now sit down and regiment individual training workouts for the Michigan starters. McFarland will use the performances at this event to see exactly what his wrestlers need to improve.
“We’re gonna start what we call individual workouts coming up soon,” McFarland said. “Overall, we just need to continue to work on the mat.”
Whether for designing custom training programs or for capturing the title in a major Division I tournament, the importance of a large tournament like the CKLV is not lost on the wrestlers or the coaches.
“It’s a great tournament,” Coon said. “It’s almost like a preseason national, so it is really nice to see where I stand and everything. There are still a lot of areas that I need to work on, but it was just a really great tournament getting my offense going.
Added McFarland: “For a lot of our guys, it’s sort of like a mini NCAA championship. It gives us a really even look at the competition that we’ll see later in the season. It also gives us an idea of things we can work on in our upcoming workouts.”