Gophers wrestlers struggle in Las Vegas at Cliff Keen Invitational

Only one wrestler, Ethan Lizak, finished in the top three in Las Vegas.

Tommy Thorn competes against Rutgers wrestler Anthony Ashnault in the 141-pound matchup at the Sports Pavilion on Jan. 17, 2016.

Image by Liam James Doyle, Daily File Photo

Tommy Thorn competes against Rutgers wrestler Anthony Ashnault in the 141-pound matchup at the Sports Pavilion on Jan. 17, 2016.

by Owen Mageau

Minnesota didn’t bring some of its starters to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Invitational and by the end of the tournament, it showed.

No. 3 Ethan Lizak at 125 was the only Minnesota wrestler to finish in the top-three for their weight, finishing in third place. The next best Gophers wrestlers were No. 9 Nick Wanzek, who finished sixth at 165 and No. 8 Tommy Thorn, who finished seventh at 141. 

“There were some ups and downs with the competition today,” head coach Brandon Eggum said. 

Minnesota had three wrestlers reach the quarterfinals on Friday, but only one went through to the semifinals, with Wanzek upsetting No. 8 Anthony Valencia of Arizona State in a 2-1 decision at 165. Eggum was impressed with Wanzek’s performance, but not Lizak’s and Thorn’s. They both failed to make it out of the quarterfinals. 

“I thought Lizak and Tommy wrestled well up until the quarters,” Eggum said. “I thought they wrestled pretty tight. I was a little bit disappointed in their performance in the quarterfinals match. On the other side, Wanzek at 165, a very deep weight, had a great match and had a big upset in the quarters to put himself in the semis, so that was exciting.”

On Saturday, Wanzek’s tournament did not get much better, but Lizak’s did. Wanzek lost his semifinal to No. 17 Evan Wick of Wisconsin in a 10-4 decision. Wanzek suffered an injury in the match and had to withdraw and accept a sixth place finish.

Lizak came out looking to avenge his loss in the quarterfinals and did just that. He defeated No. 15 Louie Hayes with a 16-0 technical fall. He also pinned Jay Schwarm of Northern Iowa and earned a 9-0 major decision against No. 18 Drew Mattin of Michigan en route to a third-place finish.

In order to allow some wrestlers to rest up, Minnesota didn’t have its full line up wrestle at the Cliff Keen Invitational this weekend. With starters sitting out, other Gophers showed what they could do.

“We have about half of our lineup out, which gives some new guys some opportunities,” Eggum said. “I thought Dylan Anderson had a really good day today, wrestled well, continued to fight and scored in a lot of different positions.”

Anderson finished the tournament 3-2 and had one major decision.

“In the end, we knew we weren’t going to be at full strength coming in here, so we wanted to just focus on the guys, hope they wrestle well and keep getting better,” Eggum said.