Michigan captures Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite title

By Denny Diehl | Dec. 02, 2001, 12 a.m. (ET)
The University of Michigan confirmed its status as a new member of the nation's Big Five with a superb performance in the 20th Annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, beating 2nd place West Virginia, 163 to 127, with Lehigh third with 120.5 pts. The Wolverines are so balanced that they were able to dominate the team standing despite having a #1, 2 and 3 seed all fail to place (Matt Brink withdrawing at Hwt with a knee injury). The champions managed this due to having nine men seeded top 4 (seven in the top 3) and they were led as expected by 2-time All-Americans, seniors Otto Olson (174) and Andy Hrovat (184) who won decisively in the finals. In what may have the tourney's finest bout, however, Olson was stiffly challenged by redshirt freshman Greg Jones of West Virginia in a battle of top 10 wrestlers. Olson--the nation's #2 top-ranked man at 174, found himself down 4-1 at the end of the first period after being taken down twice, but the Wolverine pounced for the next three takedowns, including one spectacular somersault over the top for a counter two. The last TD with 1:01 left Olson--one of the rare 6-yr men--ahead 8-7 before Jones got out with 0:55 to go, knotted 8-8 on the board. But Olson had just enough riding time (1:02) to force Jones to go for broke and he did so with numerous flurries that consumed the final 30 seconds in spectacular fashion. It took the buzzer to calm storm, with Olson victorious 9-8. The battle for 2nd place was guaranteed to be won in the mountains--as the Mountaineers of West Virginia clinched the berth only with an upset win by Tom McMath over Lehigh Mountain Hawk Chris Vitale in the finals at 165. His thrilling 7-6 win meant an 8-pt swing, just enough to give WVU their 6.5 pt edge, when Jon Trenge (190) became LU's 2nd-ever Vegas champ and the 1st since NCAA champion Matt Ruppel in Dec. '89. Ironically, they were both at the same weight. The six placewinners for Lehigh was a school record, as was their total of two finalists. A superb freshman effort was turned in by Mike Pirozzola, who went 6-1 with 3 falls, 2 majors and a 9-7 consolation finals win for 3rd place over UM's All-American Mike Kulzcycki, rated 5th in the nation. Pirozzola's only loss was to champion Jesse Jantzen, in addition to a neutral WBF over American's Marc Hoffer, a top 10 grappler the past two seasons. Jantzen's trip to the finals was awesome, yielding only five points throughout, and it meant the EIWA enjoyed four finalists--which was exceeded by five for the EWL, the two leading conferences in finalists. Sixth place Edinboro would have climbed higher had Josh Koscheck made the trip as the nation's top wrestler at 174. There were few spectacular upsets, despite a host of surprises--most notable was #2 seed Charles Martelli of Michigan failing to place at 165, along with fellow teammate and #3 seed Clark Forward at 141. The latter was edged 7-5 by Cal Poly's Casey Horn in the 1st round, then defeated 9-1 by unseeded Scott Burnett of Nebraska. Martelli won two bouts before losing 10-3 to Matt King of Edinboro, then was eliminated by his decision loss to eventual 7th place finisher Burt Pierson of Cal-Davis. Martelli was ranked 6th nationally and Forward #11.