Nov. 27, 2012
The No. 14-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team (4-1) will take its annual trip out west this weekend, heading to Las Vegas, Nev., to compete in the 31st annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Friday and Saturday (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Action will begin at 9 a.m. PST both days of competition, with the championship round slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
This year's field at the Cliff Keen Invitational will feature 32 teams, including nine teams ranked in the most recent NWCA poll. In addition to the 14th-ranked Maize and Blue, headlining the participating teams are No. 5 Ohio State, No. 7 Missouri, No. 8 Cornell, No. 9 Nebraska and No. 15 Oregon State.
Michigan's Projected Starting Lineup
|Wgt.||Name||Year/Elig.||Hometown (High School)|
|125||Sean Boyle||Sr./Jr.||Lowell, Mass. (Blair Academy)|
|133||Rossi Bruno||Fr./Fr.||Brandon, Fla. (Brandon)|
|141||Camryn Jackson||So./Fr.||Lansing, Mich. (Eastern)|
|149||Eric Grajales||Sr./Jr.||Brandon, Fla. (Brandon)|
|157||Jake Salazar||Jr./So.||Midway, Utah (Wasatch)|
|165||Taylor Massa||Fr./Fr.||St. Johns, Mich. (St. Johns)|
|174||Dan Yates||Sr./Jr.||Hesperia, Mich. (Hesperia)|
|184||Jordan Thomas||Fr./Fr.||Gowen, Mich. (Greenville)|
|197||Max Huntley||Jr./So.||Emerald Isle, N.C. (Blair Academy)|
|Hwt||Ben Apland||5th Sr.||Woodridge, Ill. (Downers Grove South)|
History Lesson: Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational
Michigan has competed in the annual tournament 29 times dating back to 1983, missing only the first year of the tournament in 1982. Formerly known as the Las Vegas Classic, the tournament was renamed the Cliff Keen Invitational in 1993 to honor former Michigan wrestling coach and collegiate wrestling icon Cliff Keen. The tournament is run by a pair of former Michigan wrestlers -- three-time NCAA champion Mark Churella Sr. (1976-79) and Mark Churella Jr. (2001), who serve as executive director and tournament director, respectively.
Michigan has placed fifth or better in 13 of the last 18 seasons at the annual tournament, including first-place showings in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Wolverines took second place at last year's event -- 13 points behind champion Ohio State -- with seven placewinners, including 149-pound champion Eric Grajales.
Senior/junior Dan Yates and sophomore/freshman Camryn Jackson stand as the Wolverines' lone undefeated wrestlers, boasting perfect 5-0 records through U-M's early dual schedule. Yates has scored bonus points in all five matches this season, boasting two pins and three major decisions, while Jackson owns a pair of major decisions.
Jackson scored two takedowns in the final 30 seconds to upset Oregon State's No. 2-ranked Mike Mangrum, 10-8, in U-M's road win against the Beavers on Nov. 16. It was his second straight comeback after using five third-period takedowns and two late back points to defeat Pitt's Travis Shaffer, 13-12, the previous weekend. Jackson has scored 10 third-period takedowns this season and outscored his opposition, 28-12, in the final frame.
Fifth-year senior Ben Apland will make his season debut at heavyweight at this weekend's Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational after missing the first five duals while coming back from injury. Apland is a three-year starter and two-time NCAA qualifier, posting a 71-48 career record while at Michigan. He has placed at each of the last two Las Vegas tournaments, including a runner-up performance in 2010.
Three of the Wolverines' five duals this season have come down to bonus points with U-M claiming wins over Pittsburgh (16-15) on Nov. 11 and Oregon State (21-18) on Nov. 16 after falling to Central Michigan (21-16) on Nov. 6. Michigan has earned bonus points in 16 individual matches this season -- four pins, two technical falls and 10 major decisions -- while only giving up bonus in three matches.
Michigan has started five freshmen in every dual meet this season -- freshmen Rossi Bruno (133 pounds), Taylor Massa (165) and Jordan Thomas (184) and sophomore/freshmen Camryn Jackson (141) and Justin Dozier (Hwt). Additionally, junior/sophomores Jake Salazar and Michael Carpenter have both made their collegiate dual debut at 157 pounds.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Q: Is there a different approach to wrestling tournaments than dual meets?
A: It feels a little different going into a tournament, knowing that you're going to wrestle more than just one, single match. But I don't think the actual preparation for it is any different. We're still going to do the same things that we do for every one of our others matches. You always just try your best to be ready to go.
Q: You are the defending 149-pound champion at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, so what is your expectation going into the tournament this year? What do you want to focus on match to match?
A: My plan and my expectation is to win it again. It's definitely going to be a really tough bracket for me. I can't go into it thinking that any match is going to easy. I need to be ready to go every round. Looking back at last year's tournament, every match was tough. I want to really focus on remembering what that tournament was like and what was going through my head. Sometimes you have instances where everything is clicking and you perform really well. I did a good job of rising to the occasion last year. I want to replicate that success this year.
Q: You've wrestled several close matches this season. What's the next step to start opening up a little more?
A: I've won most of my matches, so I haven't really fallen short of anything I wanted to do yet this season by any means. But I do need to step it up to the next level. I think I need a little bit of turning point and a tournament like this would be the perfect opportunity for that -- go out there and get some really tough matches in and try to gain confidence through some success.
Q: You admittedly start seasons a little bit slow. Why do you think that is?
A: I couldn't tell you. I certainly agree with that. I've always done it. This year is the first year that I didn't lose my first match of the season. I do think that I've started stronger this year than I have in the past, and I think that's a positive sign. I know I'm going to grow stronger as the season goes on, so in my mind, I'm starting at a higher level. I think it has a lot to do with confidence and seeing that progression throughout the year.
Q: Do you think that same attitude about progressing, improving and growing stronger as the season goes on can apply to this entire team? Is this team only going to get better and better?
A: I definitely think we're building toward a very bright future. To say we have tough practices is a gross understatement. That's not a bad thing. It's great for us as individuals and as a team. You can see this entirely new culture being developed and fostered in our practice. It's exciting to see the payoffs of that work starting to come out in matches and tournaments.
U-M Individual Rankings
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan swept its West Coast trip two weeks ago, upsetting then-No. 10-ranked Oregon State, (21-18, Nov. 16) before cruising past Stanford (26-6, Nov. 18) to extend its dual win streak to three straight. The Wolverines split matches evenly against OSU, earning bonus wins at 125, 165 and 174 pounds to earn the deciding points, while sophomore/freshman Camryn Jackson claimed a 10-8 upset against No. 2 Mike Mangrum at 141 pounds. U-M claimed eight individual matches against the Cardinal, including major decisions from Jackson and senior/junior Dan Yates at 141 and 174 pounds, respectively. [ Recaps: Oregon State | Stanford ]
Saturday, Dec. 8 -- vs. Duke, vs. Eastern Michigan (Cliff Keen Arena), 2/4 p.m.