Gophers third at Cliff Keen Invitational

Three Minnesota wrestlers finished in second at their individual weight.

Michael Kroells contends against Air Force wrestler Marcus Maleck in the Heavyweight weight class matchup at the Sports Pavilion on Nov. 21.

Liam James Doyle, Daily File Photo

Michael Kroells contends against Air Force wrestler Marcus Maleck in the Heavyweight weight class matchup at the Sports Pavilion on Nov. 21.

by Jack White

Minnesota came into the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas as the defending champion of the tournament but finished in third this year.
The Gophers earned 105 points as a team over the weekend and had three players finish second and one player finish third in their weight class. Missouri and Cornell finished ahead of the Gophers with 154 and 113 points, respectively.
“It’s a whole different team,” head coach J Robinson said. “A lot of our guys stepped up yesterday and today.” 
Redshirt sophomore Jake Short was the 11th seed at 149 pounds. Short finished 4-1 in the tournament overall and took second in his weight class. Short won his first two matches and grabbed a sudden victory overtime win in his third against freshman Joe Galasso of Cornell.
Short was taken down in the final seconds to force overtime but won the match on a fall. 
“There’s a time where I was in a tough situation,” Short said. “The guy scored last second. A tech fall is something I’ve seen before, so from experience it was really fun.”
Short won his next match to move to the finals, where he lost to No. 5 Lavion Mayes of Missouri. 
No. 6 Brett Pfarr also earned a second-place finish individually with a 5-1 record at 197 pounds. He won on a major decision, a technical fall and another major decision in his first three matches of the tournament. 
No. 2 J’den Cox of Missouri defeated Pfarr in the championship match by a final score of 4-1. Cox was up 2-1 heading into the third and scored a point off of an escape. He also earned a point from riding time to give him a 3-point victory over Pfarr.
“I came out a little flat,” Pfarr said. “I gave up an early takedown. He rode me for the whole second period, which was a little disappointing.” 
No. 9 Michael Kroells earned decisions over his first four opponents in the heavyweight division, the last coming against freshman Tanner Hall of Arizona State in the semifinal match.
Kroells and Hall each scored one point in three periods to send the match into sudden victory overtime. Kroells escaped from Hall to earn the only point of the overtime period
and then rode out the victory. 
Kroells lost in the championship round to No. 2 Ty Walz of Virginia Tech.
“He’s allowing guys to score on him,” Robinson said. “Walz is ranked second nationally, so [Kroells has] wrestled the national champion and a guy who’s ranked second now. He has an idea of where he is and what he needs to do.”
The Gophers finished ahead of four Big Ten teams in the tournament.
“I think it builds confidence and shows our guys they can be ready for the national tournament,” Robinson said.