Dec. 3, 2011
LAS VEGAS - Utah Valley 149-pounder Josh Wilson knocked off three ranked wrestlers to place fifth at this weekend's prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. The fifth-place finish is the highest placement that a UVU wrestler has ever finished at the CKLV Invitational.
After upsetting the sixth-seeded and 12th-ranked Craig Eifert of Cornell and third-seeded and seventh-ranked Scott Sakaguchi of Oregon State on Friday Wilson opened against second-seeded and fifth-ranked Cole VonOhlen of Air Force in the semifinals. Wilson led early against the Western Wrestling Conference foe but in the end VonOhlen ended up taking the match 10-3.
Wilson then matched up the with the top-seeded and third-ranked Tyler Nauman from Pitt in the consolation semis and the UVU junior gave Nauman all he could handle as he forced overtime. In the sudden victory overtime period Wilson had an opportunity to pull off the upset over the No. 1 seed but Nauman capitalized on a Wilson mistake to win the bout, 8-6.
Wilson then matched up with the seventh-seeded and 15th-ranked Cam Tessari from Ohio State in the fifth-place bout. The Wolverine grappler again forced overtime and this time Wilson avenged an earlier season loss to Tessari by beating him in the second overtime period, 4-2. In all Wilson ended his impressive CKLV run with a 4-2 record.
"I've felt like all along that Josh (Wilson) has been our best bet to get to Nationals this year and he showed that he's definitely capable of that with a great tournament," Wolverine head coach Greg Williams said. "He took on five ranked guys this weekend and won three of those matches to really establish himself. I'm really proud of him for going out and wrestling the way that I know he can."
UVU 165-pounder Ethan Smith was also in action Saturday morning as he went 3-1 on Friday to advance to day number two. Smith matched up with the third-seeded and 10th-ranked Robert Kokoesh from Nebraska in the consolation quarterfinal and Smith ended up falling 10-0. The Wolverine sophomore ended the tournament with a 3-2 clip.
Also in action for the Wolverines in Las Vegas this weekend were eight other wrestlers. UVU's Colby Christensen (125 pounds), Avery Garner (141), Napoleon Aniciete (157) and Dustin Dennison (Hwt.) all finished with 2-2 records, while Monte Schmalhaus (174) went 1-2. Derek Malan (133), David Prieto (184) and Brian Chamberlain (197) also competed for the Utah Valley at the CKLV Invitational and all finished with 0-2 records at the prestigious pre-season tournament.
"We're a very young team and I'm pleased with how well everyone battled and competed this weekend," Williams added. "We mainly just lost to ranked guys. If we are beating the guys that we're supposed to beat, we're going to be a fun team to watch for the next four or five years."
In the team score race Ohio State won the event with 129 points while Michigan placed second with 116 and Wyoming finished in third with 114.5. UVU finished with 25 points to finish 23rd out of 34 schools.
Also in action in Las Vegas this weekend was former UVU All-American wrestler Benjamin Kjar. Kjar was competing at the Men's Freestyle Olympic Trials Qualifier event being held there. After placing fourth and securing a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team Trials a couple weeks ago at the Sunkist Kids International Open, Kjar went on to win this weekend's Las Vegas Tournament with wins over Earl Hall, Mark McKnight, and Brandon Precin to improve his 2012 Olympic chances.
The Wolverines will be back in action next weekend when they travel to Grand Junction, Colo., to participate in the Colorado Mesa University Open.