Weekly Release #3: U-M Takes Annual Trip to Cliff Keen Invite in Vegas

Dec. 1, 2009

Sat-Sun., Dec. 4-5 -- at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Primm, Nev.), 9 a.m. PST

The University of Michigan wrestling team will take its annual trip out west, heading to Primm, Nev., to compete in the 28th annual Cliff Keen Invitational on Friday and Saturday (Dec. 4-5) at the Star of the Desert Arena.

This year's field at the Cliff Keen Invitational will feature 43 of the top collegiate wrestling programs in the nation, including 11 teams ranked in the most recent NWCA poll. Headlining the participating teams are No. 4 Ohio State, No. 7 Boise State, No. 9 Cornell, No. 11 Nebraska and No. 13 Indiana. [ Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Site ]

Michigan's Projected Starting Lineup

Wgt. Name Year/Elig. Hometown (High School)
125 Sean Boyle Fr./Fr. Lowell, Mass. (Blair Academy)
133 Zac Stevens So./So. Monroe, Mich. (Monroe)
141 Mark Weber So./So. Goodrich, Mich. (Goodrich)
149 Mark Beaudry Sr./Jr. Pueblo, Colo. (South)
157 Dave Johnson Jr./So. Jenison, Mich. (Jenison)
165 Aaron Hynes Sr./Jr. Mt. Morris, Mich. (Flint Kearsley)
174 Justin Zeerip Jr./So. Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
184 Erich Smith Jr./So. Ishpeming, Mich. (Westwood)
OR Hunter Collins So./Fr. Gilroy, Calif. (Gilroy)
197 Anthony Biondo Sr./Jr. Clinton Twp., Mich. (Chippewa Valley)
Hwt Eddie Phillips Sr./Jr. Woodland, Mich. (Lakewood)
OR Ben Apland So./Fr. Woodridge, Ill. (Downers Grove South)

Michigan has competed in the annual tournament 27 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 15 seasons at the annual tournament, including first-place showings in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2007. U-M has never finished lower than 10th place in its 26 appearances. The Michigan starting lineup will feature five grapplers with experience in the tournament and five newcomers to the invitational, including true freshman Sean Boyle and sophomore/freshman Ben Apland.

Behind three placewinners, including 174-pound individual champion Steve Luke, the Wolverines claimed sixth place (82.5 points) at the 2008 Cliff Keen Invitational. U-M drew scoring performances from eight members of its 10-man squad. Luke captured the second Cliff Keen Invitational title of his career, adding to his 157-pound crown at the 2005 event, with a 3-1 sudden-victory decision over Nebraska's second-seeded Brandon Browne. Kellen Russell similarly needed extra time to knock off Virginia Tech's Chris Diaz in the third-place contest at 141 pounds, using a single-leg effort in the sudden-victory period to win 3-1, while Anthony Biondo lost a wild one in the 184-pound third-place contest, falling to Wyoming's Joe Leblanc 8-7 on riding time.

Complete Statistics: Through Nov. 28


Justin Zeerip, Junior/Sophomore
Proving more comfortable up a weight class at 174 pounds, junior/sophomore Justin Zeerip has already surpassed his win total from last year and enters the weekend tournament with a 10-5 season record. Zeerip posted two wins in the Wolverines' appearance at the Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals, including a dominant 20-5 technical fall against American's Phillip Bairrierro.

Michigan rebounded in the final session of the Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals (Nov. 28), earning a 19-12 victory over Pennsylvania after narrowly falling to Bloomsburg, 18-17, and American, 20-19, in the opening two rounds. The Wolverines' captains -- sophomore Zac Stevens and senior/junior Anthony Biondo -- posted perfect 3-0 records at 133 and 197 pounds, respectively, to headline their team's performance.

Zac Attack -- Sophomore captain Zac Stevens carries a six-match winning streak into this weekend's Las Vegas tournament. The Wolverine captain is 9-2 on the season and a perfect 4-0 in dual meets at 133 pounds. Stevens outscored his Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals competition 21-6 and kicked off the 2009-10 dual campaign with a 7-5 upset against Lehigh's 12th-ranked Matt Fisk. Stevens stayed on the attack throughout the match, scoring takedowns in the first and third period while accumulating 1:02 of riding-time advantage. His lone defeats have come to defending NCAA champion Franklin Gomez of Michigan State and an injury default Navy's Pat McCaffrey.

Captains' Log, Stardate 23.9 -- Senior/junior Anthony Biondo and sophomore Zac Stevens were named wrestling co-captains for the 2009-10 season. It is the 18th time in Michigan wrestling history that two individuals will share the distinction. Biondo is the Wolverines' lone returning two-year starter and qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season at 184 pounds. Stevens, who claimed eighth place at 133 pounds at last season's Big Ten Championships, is the first Wolverine sophomore to hold captaincy in program history.

Calling the Shots -- Head coach Joe McFarland is in his 11th 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 133-52-5 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.

Every Thursday, head coach Joe McFarland will offer insider access to his program in the rapid-fire Thursday Throwdown audio podcast. McFarland will touch on topics ranging from his wrestlers, Michigan's opponents, strategy and the other events of the season in each weekly feature. [ Check out the latest episode on or subscribe to Michigan Athletics on iTunes ]

Michigan wrestling is now on Twitter. Sign up and follow the Wolverines (Michigan_wrestl) with up-to-the-minute news and information throughout the season and beyond. Twitter is a free casual, online social network that is designed to connect businesses, organizations and individuals. Each Twitter post (or "tweet") can be received on a user's cell phone via text or on the web.

Beginning with the 2009-10 academic year, the University of Michigan athletics department will no longer print media guides. U-M fans and media can still obtain all the information they're used to, only now it's available online. If you're looking for in-depth historical information, statistics, records, archives, etc., the Record Book is what you'll need. For more of a general overview of a team, the staff and student-athletes, check out the Yearbook. [ Check them both out in our new publications section ]

The Wolverines remain just outside of the top 25 in the latest national poll, released Tuesday (Dec. 1) by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. U-M boasts one nationally-ranked wrestler in senior/junior Anthony Biondo, who lists 14th at 197 pounds.

Sunday, Dec. 13 -- vs. Newberry (Kent, Ohio), 1 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 13 -- at Kent State (Kent, Ohio), 3 p.m.

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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