Gophers place 6th at Cliff Keen Invitational

Gable Steveson continued his undefeated season, winning the championship at the heavyweight class.

Paul Hodowanic

The Gopher wrestling team traveled to Las Vegas this past weekend, finishing sixth in the two-day Cliff Keen Invitational. 

The team saw four players make the podium in an up-and-down performance from the team. 

“There were some guys that wrestled really well and some guys that didn’t. That’s why we are here I guess, to learn and get better,” said head coach Brandon Eggum. “It’s a very tough tournament, so it’s about what I expected, but you come in here with very high expectations.”

The team was without starters Mitch McKee and Steve Bleise, as both were out with injuries. 

Gable Steveson led the way for the Gophers, winning the 285-pound weight class division. The freshman, currently ranked second in the nation, picked up his second tournament win with Minnesota. He’s now 13-0 overall this season. 

“In the bigger matches, he is just thinking about nonstop putting on a show, scoring points. And he’s not settling with just a win,” said Eggum. “He’s obviously a great wrestler, but he competes the way we want our guys to compete. It’s impressive to watch him and his attitude he has on his mat and what he carries. His swagger is very contagious.” 

Sean Russell, 125 pounds, continued his strong start to the season, finishing in third place on Saturday. Russell lost a close match in the semifinals against Ronnie Bresser of Oregon State, but rebounded in the third place match and won with a 4-0 decision. 

“His biggest thing is his relentless attack. He keeps guys off-balance. He doesn’t let his opponents rest. His desire to win just bleeds through his opponents,” said Eggum. “Even if he doesn’t score initially the first two times, he’s on the guy so much that the guy starts to question and loses his confidence, and before you know it, he is racking up points.”

Senior Ethan Lizak, 133 pounds, had a disappointing finish to his Friday, losing to No. 6 Micky Phillippi of Pittsburgh. However, he rebounded well on Saturday for a fourth place finish. The senior got out to a hot start on Saturday, winning by technical fall, 15-0. Lizak then took out the No. 7 and No. 4 seeds before falling in the third place match to No. 2 seed Luke Pletcher of Ohio State. 

“Everyone knows Lizak’s top game is one of the best in the country, he’s dangerous, he’s a hard guy to wrestle. He’s done a really good job defensively when guys get to his legs of creating offense out of that, and that’s unique and hard to do,” said Eggum. “Both [Russell] and Lizak were both fractions from potentially being in the finals. I do think both of them outwrestled their opponents in the [semifinals] when they lost, but that’s wrestling.” 

The Gophers will get another chance to hit the mat Saturday, Dec. 8 at Fresno State at 9 p.m.