Minnesota Battles Through Day One of Cliff Keen Invite

It was a long day of wrestling on Friday in Las Vegas for Gopher wrestling. Senior Nick Wanzek was able to reach the semifinals for the Maroon and Gold, while two other Gophers are still alive in the consolation brackets.

“There were some ups and downs today with our competition,” head coach Brandon Eggum said afterward. “We were not at full strength today, which gave some young guys some opportunities, and they took advantage of those opportunities.”

One of the biggest “ups” for the Gophers came at 165-pounds. Wanzek’s division was arguably the toughest weight class of the tournament with eight top-15 wrestlers. The captain was able to defeat one of those wrestlers in one of his four victories. No. 8 Anthony Valencia and Wanzek went down to the wire, but riding time was the difference, giving the Inver Grove Heights native a spot in the semifinals tomorrow.

minnlogo“Wanzek came up huge in a very deep weight today,” Eggum said afterwards. “He had a great match and upset in the quarters and showed some really great things today.”

Not only did Wanzek come up big in the quarterfinals, he also came from behind in his round of 16 match. After trailing 6-0 early in the second period, the senior went to work. It started with an escape, and then a pair of takedowns put the score at 7-5 with 30 to go. As time expired, Wanzek earned a two-point near fall, exactly what he needed to force overtime. From there, Wanzek was able to take down his opponent, and take the win 9-7.

Also alive in the consolation brackets, No. 8 Tommy Thorn pinned his way to the quarterfinals. With falls at 4:54, 1:39 and 2:23, Thorn looked primed for a big tournament run. He ran into No. 12 ranked Josh Alber of Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals and fell by decision, 4-3. Alber was able to takedown Thorn with just 35 seconds left, and couldn’t come up with a takedown in the final moments.

No. 3 Ethan Lizak also fell victim to a 4-3 score. The junior fell behind 4-1 in the second period but used a reversal to cut the lead to 4-3 heading into the final period. With how dominant Lizak has been on top this season, he chose that position to start the final period. Lizak looked to complete his turn, but couldn’t complete the move and after a few stalemates were called, time ran out on the All-American. Prior to his first defeat, Lizak was on a roll and continued to dominate from the top, outscoring his first two opponents 21-5 with moves like this.

In one of most impressive showings on the day, redshirt freshman Dylan Anderson reached the consolation round of eight before being eliminated in the final match of the day for Minnesota, 9-6. He scored in a variety of ways, scoring double digits in two of his five matches. Anderson’s 13 wins this season is the most on the team.

Although Chris Pfarr was unable to pick up a victory in Las Vegas, he was in a position to win both matches against ranked opponents. Pfarr lost by riding time in his first match, after it was tied with 30 seconds left, and then lost in overtime in his second match, 3-1.

“As I reflect back on Chris’ day, he lost to the No. 6 and 12 seeds at a very deep weight as well,” Eggum said. “He really looked like he was going to win both matches. It was great to see how he continued to attack offensively and pressure his opponent; you can always root for someone like that.”

In a plug-in for two-time finalist, and 2016’s Cliff Keen champion, Jake Short, Jose Champagne impressed with his performances on Friday. He took down a Big Ten opponent in his first match with relative ease, 9-2, then ran into the No. 12 ranked wrestler in the country, and battled and ultimately fell by a 9-4 decision.

Three other Gophers competed in Las Vegas on Friday, but were unable to pick up victories. At 197, Bobby Steveson ran into two ranked opponents, and came close against No. 14 Jeric Kasunic, falling just short, after riding time went to Kasunic to break the 1-1 draw at the end of the third period. Steve Polakowski at 133 and Hunter Marko at 149 were the other two wrestlers who were eliminated after two matches.

Minnesota will be back in action tomorrow morning, starting at 9:00 a.m. with the consolation brackets. Then the semifinals and finals will begin at 10:00 a.m. with award presentations to conclude the day.

Whether it is updates during a tournament, recaps or any Minnesota wrestling news, GopherSports.com is your home for Gopher Wrestling news. Be sure to follow Gopher Wrestling on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates.

Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Brackets on flowrestling.org

Day One Results:


Ethan Lizak (2-1)
Champ Rnd 1: Bye
Champ Rnd 2: No. 3 Ethan Lizak dec Thayer Atkins, 8-0
Round of 16: No. 3 Ethan Lizak maj dec Kyle Norstrem (Virginia Tech), 13-5
Quarters: No. 12 Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley) dec No. 3 Ethan Lizak, 4-3


Steve Polakowski (0-2)
Champ Rnd 1: Bye
Champ Rnd 2: Montorie Bridges (Wyoming) dec Steve Polakokwski, 5-2
Cons Rnd of 16 (1): Ben Thornton (Purdue) maj dec Steve Polakowski, 9-1


Tommy Thorn (3-1)
Champ Rnd 1: No. 8 Tommy Thorn fall (4:54) Chris Deloza (Fresno State)
Champ Rnd 2: No. 8 Tommy Thorn fall (1:39) Jake Thompson (Western Wyoming)
Round of 16: No. 8 Tommy Thorn fall (2:23) Joe Russ (Binghamton)
Quarters: No. 12 Josh Alber (Northern Iowa) dec No. 8 Tommy Thorn, 4-3


Hunter Marko (0-2)
Champ Rnd 1: No. 9 Justin Oliver (Central Mich) tech fall Hunter Marko, 16-1
Cons Rnd 1: Jacob Macalolooy (Columbia) dec Hunter Marko, 5-1


Jose Champagne (1-2)
Champ Rnd 1: Bye
Champ Rnd 2: Jose Champange dec Jake Tucker (Michigan State), 9-2
Round of 16: No. 12 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan) dec Jose Champagne, 9-4
Cons Rnd of 16 (2): Andrew Shomers (Edinboro) maj dec Jose Champagne, 8-0


Nick Wanzek (4-0)
Champ Rnd 1: No. 9 Nick Wanzek tech fall Luke Wilson (Cal Poly), 21-6
Champ Rnd 2: No. 9 Nick Wanzek dec Nick Kiussis (West Virginia), 7-5
Round of 16: No. 9 Nick Wanzek SV-1 No. 17 Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh), 9-7
Quarters: No. 9 Nick Wanzek dec No. 8 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State), 2-1


Chris Pfarr (0-2)
Champ Rnd 1: No. 16 Christian Brucki (Central Mich) dec Chris Pfarr, 6-5
Cons Rnd 1: No. 18 Ben Harvey (Army) SV-1 Chris Pfarr, 3-1


Dylan Anderson (3-2)
Champ Rnd 1: Dylan Anderson dec Zen Ikehara (Air Force), 5-3
Champ Rnd 2: Dylan Anderson maj dec Austin Klient (California Baptist), 15-3
Round of 16: No. 5 Dom Abounader (Michigan) dec Dylan Anderson, 7-4
Cons Rnd of 16 (2): Dylan Anderson dec Brendan McRill, 11-5
Cons Rnd of 8 (1): Christian Lafragola (Brown) dec Dylan Anderson, 9-6


Bobby Steveson (0-2)
Champ Rnd 1: No. 14 Jeric Kasunic (American) dec Bobby Steveson, 2-1
Cons Rnd 1: No. 15 Christian Brunner (Purdue) tech fall Bobby Steveson, 15-0

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