Mizzou traveled down to Las Vegas this past weekend to participate in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Tournament. This is a common destination for Mizzou, who came to Las Vegas as the defending champion. The field was a little stronger this year, with about 8 top 20 teams (this week, we will use whatever MUTigers.com uses and in places, the W.I.N. Magazine rankings since they are the most up to date at 11.20...yeah...early season wrestling rankings do not update all that often). Let’s get to the break down and the commentary.
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Hello wrestling world, my name is Tony Pescaglia. It is nice to meet you, I hope to get to know you over the coming months, as I plan to be here for awhile.
Tony had a wonderful tournament, including wins over two top opponents (not counting the default he received over #1 Paul Donahoe of NU, which is too bad since I would have liked to have seen where he stacked up against him). Tony did well to score all tournament, scoring 7 points or more in every match, only losing the finals to #4 Tanner Gardner of Stanford in what had to be a pretty wild 9-7 match. Gardner registered his 2nd win over a Tiger in this competition, as he pinned John Olanowski last year during John’s run to 7th place. A great weekend for Tony who should only build confidence (and ranking) from here on out.
Tyler McCormick DID actually wrestle in this tournament last year, which did surprise me when I read that since I remember his being kept out of a good amount of duals and other action. McCormick finished in 4th place last year, but did sit this one out. Nick Velliquette saw his first action for Mizzou, and while he did win one match 6-0, he lost two others by a point a piece and was eliminated in the afternoon on day 1. In the end, if you are concerned with why the Tigers were not able to defend their team championship, this class is the most likely reason. With McCormick here, you know we would have gone deeper and taken the few more points we needed to win it outright.
I also found myself to be very pleased with the weekend Marcus Hoehn put forth, getting himself not only a 7th place finish, but potentially of greater use, EIGHT matches on the weekend. Hoehn won a number of close matches over the two days (3 by 1 point) and only lost his two matches to ranked opponents by 5 points combined. Though none of his six wins were over opponents of great name, they are still six wins. For another weight where the building of confidence as the year goes on is going to be important to weight class and team growth, I believe you can put the weekend up there as another success for the team.
I think this is the one class where I came out of the weekend disappointed with the ultimate outcome, and where we likely could have made up the points (and we are talking about less than 6 points) to overcome Michigan win given the lineup we did use (versus the lineup we could have used with McCormick). Josh Wagner is ranked as high as #10 in some polls and lost a close match early to an unranked opponent. He came back fairly strong to get three straight wins, including two pins (one in :26), but then fell to #8 Burroughs of NU to close out his tournament run. Bad luck facing Burroughs in wrestle-backs, but still these are wins that he needs to get for us if we plan on being competitive come Big XII tournament time, as it is very possible there will be four teams in the top 10 nationally from our conference, and we will be third of those four.
Mike Chandler had a really nice tournament run, except against Tyler Shurfey of Boise State. Chandler started strong with a tech fall in his first match before falling to the #20 ranked wrestler 4-3. From there, Chandler won three pretty close matches to end up wrestling the #2 ranked Henning from Wisc. In wrestlebacks and was pinned. However, a nice win over #17 Marsh of Michigan got the #12 Chandler into contention for 7th place, where he met Shurfey again....and lost again, this time 4-0. Looked like a strong weight class at this tournament, and Chandler showed some good potential to be able to possibly AA at the end of the season. 5-3 does not look as good as 7th does, but some good wins in there for him, and likely about what could have been expected coming in.
Nick Marable had a really nice tournament, taking 2nd place. Funny thing is, the champion of this weight class repeated (Eric Tannenbaum of Michigan, ranked #2), and did so by beating a Mizzou wrestler in the finals (Matt Pell last season for Mizzou). However, Marable put up a decent fight and great effort in the finals before falling 7-4, and should look for his ranking to move up just a bit whenever the new rankings come out. Mizzou has to feel good about this weight class and wrestler for a good long time as Chandler is only a sophomore. Also, to take a sneak peak at the rankings, Marable should be the highest ranked wrestler at 165 in the Big XII...will be interesting to monitor that as the season goes on.
I never want to discount what James Williamson does for Mizzou and what the young man has most certainly given up by coming to Columbia and staying when Ben Askren was ahead of him for all that time. His contribution is certainly up there as a team player, and you always need those people on your team. All that being said, James had a nice weekend, taking 3 wins and losing 2 close matches to finish 3-2 on the day and "out of the money" as it were. Right now, the rankings at 174 only hold two conference wrestlers (Mason of OSU and Browne of NU) so Williamson may certainly be able to contribute even more come conference season. Would be a lovely way for him to finish a career.
Ah....Raymond Jordan vs. the Big 10. It always seems to come down to it a couple of times per years...and Jordan unfortunately always seems to come out on the short end of the stick when it does. But I would be curious to go back and see how many times Jordan has lost to Kish of MN, Todd of Michigan and Pucillo of Ohio State (and Caputo of Harvard, which those 4 and Varner of ISU make up the top 5 with Jordan 6th). Jordan had a nice tournament, finishing 3rd after losing in the semis to Pucillo 7-2. Included in the five wins Jordan had was a major decision over #10 Trevor Brandvold (ironically from Wisc.). All in all, another decent showing by Jordan, who will remain or around the top 5 in the country for most of the year in all likelihood. However, the junior needs to step up in March and overcome his inability to AA at the NCAA tourney.
Max Askren came in as the lone returning MU champion, and also had a nice showing for the Tigers, eventually losing in the finals by pin to #8 Dallas Herbst of Wisc to end up 2nd. Along the way, Askren rattled off 3 straight pins, including one on #17 ranked Bradshaw of Pitt, and then followed that up with a 2-0 shutout of #13 Bond of Illinois. In the end though, with only 13 seconds to go in the match (and working without a match score, I can only assume that Askren was down in the match and trying to make something happen and got stuck because of it). Nice to see Max showing a good killer instinct at times this year, as I believe that will be a nice part of his development.
I am not certain I have ever seen this before (not that I looked for it very often), but Mark Ellis came in 7th for the tournament at HWY, but walked away with the Gorarrian Award (given I believe to wrestler with most pins). Ellis started off falling to #20 Morison of Rider. What is odd is that Morrison lost in his match against Mizzou back to start the season, but it was a 7-6 decision to Max at 197. I guess this was a case of speed versus size, as Morrison took the close 3-1 decision. From there, Ellis came out and won his next four matches, the final 3 by pin, with two of those coming in the first period. After a close 4-1 loss to Wise of Illinois, Ellis rebounded well and stuck Schaeffer of Pitt in :49 to take 7th place. Ellis will very likely see his ranking be bolstered and is certainly proving me wrong in my desire to see Bradley come right in and take this spot. Mizzou has a real nice future at HWY to be sure.
A good effort by almost everyone involved, and a good showing against some strong competition. This will be the only full team tournament for Mizzou, as while Chi-town has reported we are sending some folks to Mid-lands, we have opted to skip the Southern Scuffle. The next action for Mizzou will not come for a couple of weeks, as they will head down to Tennessee to take on the Mocs (I believe) of UT-Chatta....however you spell it.