LAS VEGAS – With day two of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational coming to a close, the West Virginia University wrestling team had two grapplers place.
Juniors Nathan Pennesi
(141) and Lance Bryson
(184) placed sixth and eighth, respectively.
"Overall, we are happy with what we took away from this weekend's tournament," said coach Craig Turnbull. "This kind of tournament desensitizes our guys to wrestling against top-level competition. We get to see guys from schools that we do not normally see in the dual meet setting. The tournament for each individual had a lot of value, and we will get better because of it."
Pennesi, who fought his way to the championship quarterfinals on Saturday before falling to Ohio State’s Hunter Stieber, scored wins over Northern Iowa’s Joey Lazor and California-Bakersfield’s Tommy Box to put himself in the consolation semifinals, where he took on Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff.
Pennesi nearly knocked off Graff, who is ranked eighth by InterMat, but fell in a 7-5 decision. The Latrobe, Pa., native was tied at five with Graff, but Graff converted a shot with under 40 seconds remaining to seal the win.
In his fifth-place match, Pennesi took on sixth-seeded Steven Keith of Harvard. Pennesi took a 4-3 lead early in the second period, but was unable to hold on, as Keith scored an 8-6 decision.
"This tournament had tremendous value for Nathan," Turnbull said. "He was in a competitive match in each of his matches. Graff took an Olympic redshirt last season and finished in the top four of the senior level. Nathan was right in that match with him. Nathan wrestled very well and continues to get better."
Bryson, who recovered nicely from a tough bout against top-seeded Josh Ihnen of Nebraska on Saturday afternoon, knocked off Oregon State’s Ty Vinson in the fourth round of consolations, 8-1.
In his consolation quarterfinals match against Navy’s Mason Bailey, Bryson was defeated 2-0, after Bailey scored an escape point in the second period and earned a riding time point in the third. Bryson was then held out of his seventh-place match due to a coach’s decision.
"Of the tournament's before the NCAA Championships, there are probably four that are premiere tournaments - this is definitely one of them," Turnbull said. "For Lance to place in this tournament, this is a tremendous accomplishment. Lance has been moving well and wrestling to his strengths throughout the season. In the match against Bailey, he allowed his opponent to take him out of his comfort zone. With that said, Lance is a whole level up from last season, and this tournament validates that for him."
With the Las Vegas Invitational behind them, the Mountaineers will now prepare for the Reno Tournament of Champions, which will be held on Dec. 16 in Reno, Nev.