LAS VEGAS – The West Virginia University wrestling team finished the first of two days of action at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Friday evening.
“Any time that you come to a tournament like this, you are going to have mixed emotions,” said associate head coach Greg Jones. “For the most part, we saw improvement in areas that we had been emphasizing over the past two weeks. Even though that didn’t translate into wins in every match, we made some gains in key areas.”
In the day’s first session, juniors Colin Johnston
(133) and Nathan Pennesi
(141) advanced to the championship quarterfinals of their respective brackets.
In his quarterfinal match, Johnston was defeated by second-seeded Nathan McCormick of Missouri. Johnston will take on fourth-seeded Ian Nickell of California-Bakersfield in the third round of consolations.
“Colin is still trying to get back into the swing of things,” Jones said. “You have to figure that the more you keep putting him out there against guys like McCormick, the better the results are going to be.”
As for Pennesi, he took on first-seeded Hunter Stieber of Ohio State and was knocked off, 9-4. Pennesi will take on Northern Iowa’s Joey Lazor in the third round of consolations.
In consolation action, Lance Bryson
(184) strung together a second-consecutive victory, as he defeated Harvard’s Josh Popple, 8-1. Bryson will square off against sixth-seeded Ty Vinson of Oregon State in the third round of the consolations.
“Lance bounced back well from his loss earlier in the day,” Jones said. “There is never an issue with intensity or effort with Lance. He has made significant gains over the past two weeks.”
Freshmen Jason Luster
(157) and Ross Renzi
(174) had their tournament runs come to an end. Luster fell to Navy’s Bobby Barnhisel, while Renzi lost a decision by a riding time point to Oregon State’s Austin Morehead.
“The dynamic of this group is very different when comparing each wrestler,” Jones said. “For a few of these guys, this is the first times that they have experienced things like this at this level. Regardless of that, we expect them to put out an effort and intensity that is representative of our program. In some spots, that is happening, but in others, it is not. We will just have to keep chipping away.”
Also having his tournament come to a close was Phil Mandzik
(HWT). The Bradenton, Fla., native scored two victories on the day, but lost in the consolations to Henry Chirino of Northern Colorado.
Second-day action will continue on Saturday morning at 12 p.m. EST, 9 a.m. PST.