Three Minnesota wrestlers reach the finals against a loaded field featuring a dozen ranked teams
Minnesota wrapped up two days of wrestling in Las Vegas with a third-place finish at the Cliff Keen Invitational against a field that included 12 ranked teams, finishing behind only Missouri and Cornell in the team race. Three Gophers turned in runner-up finishes, with Jake Short, No. 6 Brett Pfarr and No. 9 Michael Kroells all reaching the finals at their respective weights, while No. 9 Tommy Thorn placed third at 141 pounds.
“It showed our guys that we’ve made some progress,” said Head Coach J Robinson as he reflected on his team’s performance over the past two days. “We come out here, and with all the other good teams out here, it showed if we wrestle hard and we wrestle focused and we get better, we still have three-and-a-half months to get better. That’s what we keep preaching. This is a good confidence-builder.
“It’s good for our guys,” Robinson added. “They wrestled hard. They should feel good about what we’ve done. So let’s feel good about it tonight and then tomorrow, let’s get up and go back to work.”
Short reached the 149-pound title match by upsetting No. 9 Mike Depalma (Kent State) in the semifinals, scoring the first six points in a 10-6 victory. In the finals, Short fell to No. 5 Lavion Mayes (Missouri), 8-6, after Mayes took the lead on a pair of second-period takedowns.
In his semifinal match at 197, Pfarr faced an opponent ranked higher than him for the first time this season when he challenged No. 5 Max Huntley (Michigan). Pfarr not only beat Huntley, but did so in convincing fashion, routinely scoring off counters to Huntley’s shots in a 13-3 major decision. In the finals, Pfarr dropped a 4-1 decision to 2014 national champ, No. 2 J’den Cox (Missouri).
Kroells reached the final match at heavyweight after a 2-1 semifinal decision over Tanner Hall (Arizona State) in tiebreakers. The two finished regulation tied at one, but Kroells was able to escape Hall during the first tiebreaker before riding out Hall in the second 30-second period. Kroells advanced to take on No. 2 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech), a match he lost 5-3.
All three Gopher finalists improved on their finishes from last year’s Cliff Keen Invite. Kroells finished fourth in last year’s tournament while Pfarr placed fifth wrestling at 184. Short’s jump was the most significant after not placing last year. Short also dramatically outperformed his seed in this year’s field, finishing second after being seeded eleventh.
Thorn took third thanks to his second victory in as many days against Matt Manley (Missouri). After defeating Manley in a 6-5 decision in Friday’s quarterfinals, Thorn dominated much of his 11-5 win in the third-place match. Thorn was bumped to the consolation side of the bracket by a last-second takedown from No. 13 Todd Preston (Harvard), who won their semifinal contest, 5-4.
Two Gophers began the day in wrestlebacks after dropping a match during the tournament’s opening day. Both No. 20 Brandon Kingsley (157) and Brandon Krone (165) lost their opening matches on Saturday to higher-ranked wrestlers – No. 14 for Kingsley and No. 4 in Krone’s case. For Krone, the match was his second in his last seven contests against a top-five opponent.
Missouri took home this year’s team title with 154 points, outpacing second-place Cornell by 41 and the Gophers by 49. Oklahoma placed fourth with 102 points, three short of the Gophers’ total, and Ohio State rounded out the top five with 96.5.
Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Results
The Cliff Keen was the first of two in-season tournaments in which the Gophers will wrestle this season. The team will kick off the New Year at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Jan. 1 and 2.
Minnesota has one competition left before the Scuffle, which follows a three-week break in the schedule for finals and the holidays. That match, the team’s Big Ten opener, is next Friday (Dec. 11) against Indiana at the Sports Pavilion. The dual begins at 7:30 p.m. Central.
Gopher Match Results (Day Two Only)
Semis: No. 13 Todd Preston (Harvard) dec No. 9 Tommy Thorn, 5-4
Cons Semis: No. 9 Tommy Thorn dec Tyler Smith (Bucknell), 14-8
3rd Place: No. 9 Tommy Thorn dec Matt Manley (Missouri), 11-5
Semis: Jake Short dec No. 9 Mike Depalma (Kent State), 10-6
Finals: No. 5 Lavion Mayes (Missouri) dec Jake Short, 8-6
Round of 12: No. 14 Dylan Cottrell (West Virginia) maj dec No. 20 Brandon Kingsley, 14-2
Round of 12: No. 4 Cooper Moore (Northern Iowa) dec Brandon Krone, 6-0
Semis: No. 6 Brett Pfarr maj dec No. 5 Max Huntley (Michigan), 13-3
Finals: No. 2 J’den Cox (Missouri) dec No. 6 Brett Pfarr, 4-1
Semis: No. 9 Michael Kroells dec (TB-1) Tanner Hall (Arizona State), 2-1
Finals: No. 2 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech) dec No. 9 Michael Kroells, 5-3
View More College News
Click Here: United Kingdom Rugby Jerseys