Week #3: at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

Nov. 30, 2010

Fri-Sat., Dec. 3-4 -- at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Las Vegas, Nev.), 9 a.m. PST
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The No. 21-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team will take its annual trip out west this weekend, heading to Las Vegas, Nev., to compete in the 29th annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Friday and Saturday (Dec. 3-4) 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 36 of the top collegiate wrestling programs in the nation, including 12 teams ranked in the most recent NWCA poll. Headlining the participating teams are No. 1 Cornell, No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 6 Boise State, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 9 Illinois and No. 10 Virginia Tech.

Michigan's Projected Starting Lineup

Wgt. Name Year/Elig. Hometown (High School)
125 Sean Boyle So./So. Lowell, Mass. (Blair Academy)
133 Zac Stevens Jr./Jr. Monroe, Mich. (Monroe)
141 Kellen Russell Sr./Jr. High Bridge, N.J. (Blair Academy)
149 Eric Grajales So./Fr. Brandon, Fla. (Brandon)
157 Aaron Hynes 5th/Sr. Mt. Morris, Mich. (Flint Kearsley)
165 Dan Yates So./Fr. Hesperia, Mich. (Hesperia)
174 Justin Zeerip Sr./Jr. Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
184 Hunter Collins Jr./So. Gilroy, Calif. (Gilroy)
197 Anthony Biondo 5th/Sr. Clinton Twp., Mich. (Chippewa Valley)
Hwt Ben Apland Jr./So. Woodridge, Ill. (Downers Grove South)

Michigan has competed in the annual tournament 28 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 12 of the last 16 seasons at the annual tournament, including first-place showings in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Wolverines took 16th place at last year's event -- their only finish outside of the top 10 in 27 appearances. The Michigan starting lineup will feature seven grapplers with experience in the tournament and three newcomers to the invitational, including sophomore/freshmen Eric Grajales and Dan Yates.

Complete Statistics: Through Nov. 20

The Wolverines claimed two of the opening three matches against No. 13-ranked Lehigh and kept things close early before letting the dual slip away late as the Mountain Hawks won the last seven bouts to seal a 25-6 home victory on Nov. 19. Junior Zac Stevens and senior/junior Kellen Russell earned back-to-back decisions at 133 and 141 pounds, respectively, to provide U-M a temporary early advantage. Stevens rallied with two third-period takedowns to claim a 7-6 decision over 20th-ranked Frank Cagnina in the former bout.

What Happens in Vegas -- Senior/junior Kellen Russell returns to this weekend's Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational as a former champion and two-time placewinner at the prestigious tournament. Russell captured the 141-pound crown as an unranked true freshman in 2008, knocking off the No. 3, No. 5 and No. 9- ranked wrestlers in the process, including a 4-3 decision over Ohio State's J Jaggers in the championship match. A year later, the Wolverine captain rallied from a major decision loss in the semifinals to take third place with a 5-1 record.

Dual Domination -- Senior/junior Kellen Russell held off a late charge against Lehigh's Stephen Dutton on Nov. 19 to secure a 6-5 decision and extend his dual winning streak to 18 consecutive matches. The Wolverine captain sat out last season with injury but, after starting 1-1 in 2008-09 dual meets, won 16 consecutive dual appearances to close out the season. Russell boasts an impressive 38-6 dual record over his collegiate career. Russell owns a perfect 5-0 mark on the season.

Boy O Boyle -- Sophomore Sean Boyle netted Big Ten Co-Wrestler of the Week accolades in recognition of his 8-5 upset victory against Pittsburgh's 14th-ranked Anthony Zanetta at 125 pounds on Nov. 14. The win was the first of Boyle's career against a ranked opponent and subsequently earned him his first collegiate ranking -- No. 17 in the InterMat poll. Boyle dropped from the rankings, however, a week later after a disappointing 9-5 loss to Lehigh's Mitch Berger on Nov. 19.

Calling the Shots -- Head coach Joe McFarland is in his 12th season as head coach of the Michigan wrestling team. Since taking over the reins in 1999, McFarland has helped mold Michigan into a highly-touted national contender, guiding the U-M wrestling squad to three Big Ten dual-meet championships (2004, '05, '06) and eight consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships (2001-08), including an NCAA runner-up performance in 2005. He is the third-winningest coach in program history with a 137-65-5 record at the helm and has led 18 different student-athletes to three NCAA individual titles, 39 All-America citations and 17 Big Ten individual crowns.

Coupling their loss at Lehigh (Nov. 19) and the movement of several other teams, the Wolverines dropped several spots -- to the No. 21 position -- in the latest NWCA/USA Today Division I Team Coaches poll, released Tuesday, Nov. 30. Michigan also boasts five individuals ranked among the top 25 wrestlers in their respective weight classes in the InterMat, Amateur Wrestling News, WIN Magazine or Division I College Wrestling polls:

125Sean BoyleNRNRNR23
133Zac StevensNR20NR20
141Kellen Russell3323
174Justin ZeeripNRNRNR22
197Anthony Biondo15121919

Sunday, Dec. 12 -- at Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.), 1 p.m. CST
Wed-Thu., Dec. 29-30 -- at Southern Scuffle (Greensboro, N.C.), 9 a.m.

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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