The No. 16-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team (2-1) will take its annual trip out west this weekend, heading to Las Vegas, Nev., to compete in the 33rd annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Friday and Saturday (Dec. 5-6) at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Action will begin at 9 a.m. PST both days of competition, with the championship round slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
This year's field at the Cliff Keen Invitational will feature 42 teams, including 12 teams ranked in the most-recent NWCA poll. In addition to the 16th-ranked Maize and Blue, headlining the participating teams are No. 2 Minnesota, No. 3 Cornell, No. 6 Virginia Tech, No. 7 Ohio State, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 12 Virginia and No. 15 Iowa State.
Michigan's Projected Starting Lineup
History Lesson: Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational
Michigan has competed in the annual tournament 31 times dating back to 1983, missing only the first year of the tournament in 1982. Formerly known as the Las Vegas Classic, the tournament was renamed the Cliff Keen Invitational in 1993 to honor former Michigan wrestling coach and collegiate wrestling icon Cliff Keen. The tournament is run by a pair of former Michigan wrestlers -- three-time NCAA champion Mark Churella Sr. (1976-79) and Mark Churella Jr. (2001), who serve as executive director and tournament director, respectively.
Michigan has placed fifth or better in 14 of the last 20 seasons at the annual tournament, including first-place showings in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Wolverines took fifth place at last year's event with six placewinners, most notably heavyweight champion Adam Coon.
• Five Wolverines projected to compete at this weekend's Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational placed have previously placed at the prestigious tournament. Sophomore Adam Coon captured last year's heavyweight title, while juniorRossi Bruno and sophomore Brian Murphy claimed fifth place at 133 and 157 pounds, respectively. Junior/sophomore Taylor Massa took fifth at the 2012 event, while fifth-year senior Max Huntley has twice placed eighth (2011, '12).
• Freshman Davonte Mahomes owns an 8-0 record early in his collegiate career. Mahomes captured the 174-pound freshman/sophomore-division title at the Michigan State open (Nov. 2) before posting a 3-0 mark in duals. Among his wins, Mahomes defeated Ohio's ninth-ranked Cody Walters, 5-3, in his varsity debut at the EMU Duals. Under the NCAA's new stalling rules, Mahomes earned three third-period stalling points against Walters, an All-American and two-time MAC champion, who repeatedly hung on to the Wolverine wrestler's ankle.
• Mahomes is one of three undefeated Michigan wrestlers. Coon is 7-0 this season, while sophomore Domenic Abounader is 1-0 after making his season debut last week against Central Michigan.
• Huntley and Coon both earned their first collegiate technical falls, posting similar 24-9 scores, to cap the Wolverine dual win at Central Michigan (Nov. 25). Huntley boasts five bonus wins this season -- in eight total matches -- while Coon owns three bonus wins.
• Huntley is 7-1 on the season, including 3-0 in duals. He has outscored his dual opposition, 51-15, including an 8-1 decision over Ohio's eighth-ranked Phil Wellington. He kicked off the season with a third-place finish at the season-opening MSU Open.
• Four Wolverine wrestlers made their collegiate varsity debut this season. Freshman Alec Pantaleo (149 pounds), Mahomes (174) and sophomore/freshman Ayoola Olapo (184) did so at the EMU Duals, while sophomore/freshmanGeorge Fisher (141) bumped up a weight to wrestle against CMU. Mahomes and Olapo both won their debut match.
• Pantaleo scored four takedowns en route to his first varsity win, a 10-5 decision against Central Michigan's Colin Heffernan. Pantaleo is 6-2 in his collegiate career. He opened the season with the 149-pound freshmen/sophomore division title at the MSU Open.
• The Wolverines have claimed nine individual matches in both of their dual wins this season, defeating No. 24 Ohio, 28-3, and Central Michigan, 30-3.
• Huntley moved back to 197 pounds after dropping down a weight class last season, which was shortened by a season-ending injury at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Huntley was previously a two-time NCAA qualifier at 197 pounds.
• Huntley and Coon were named the Wolverines' team captains for the 2014-15 season. Huntley will retain the leadership role for the second straight year. Coon is just the second sophomore captain in Wolverine program history and the first since Zac Stevens in 2009-10.