By Eric Malave
The Rider wrestling team continued to compete against the country’s elite as the Broncs took part in the 26th annual Cliff Keen Vegas Invite.
Rider competed alongside 13 of the top 25 ranked teams in the nation.
“It was tough,” said Head Coach Gary Taylor. “Many of the top wrestlers in the nation were there.”
Junior Doug Umbehauer performed well at the tournament placing fourth in the 184-pound weight class. He ended the tournament with a 5-2 record.
Umbehauer defeated the third, fifth and eighth seeds of the tournament. His losses came against the top seed and the fourth seed in his weight class.
While battling for third place, Umbehauer lost 5-2 to Raymond Jordan from Missouri. Umbehauer previously faced him at Rider in the season opener and lost 25-4.
The next day, Umbehauer wrestled his way back into the tournament, defeating the fifth seed, Trevor Brandvoid, 7-0. However, he lost against top-seeded All-American Mike Pucillo from Wisconsin 5-2.
“Doug has wrestled three of the top four guys,” Taylor said. “So far this year, Umbehauer has wrestled Jake Varner from Iowa State, Raymond Jordan of Missouri, Mike Pucillo of Ohio State, and Louis Caputo from Harvard University.”
Last year, Umbehauer finished sixth in the Cliff Keen tournament. Thanks to this year’s tournament, he is now ranked seventh in the nation, according to www.AmateurWrestlingNews.com.
Senior T.J. Morrison also performed well at the tournament. He wrestled Heavyweight for the Las Vegas Tournament. Usually, Morrison wrestles in the 197-pound class.
Morrison defeated Purdue’s Roger Vukobratovich 10-2 in the pigtails match. He also defeated the sixth seed, 11th-ranked heavyweight Mark Ellis of Missouri 3-1.
However, he lost to the 11th-seeded John Wise from Illinois 7-3.
Unfortunately, Morrison did not finish the tournament because of an injury.
“He had a pretty good tournament, but he got hurt so he couldn’t continue,” Taylor said. “He’ll be fine, but we didn’t want him to get hurt more, especially with upcoming events.”
Freshman Mitch Fenton, wrestling in the 125-pound weight class, lost to the top-ranked wrestler, Paul Donohoe from Nebraska, 4-1 in the first round. Donohoe is the defending national champion.
Fenton proceeded further to defeat his opponents from Buffalo and Wyoming before losing to the 11th seed from Utah. Fenton ended the tournament with a 2-2 record.
Sophomore Rob Morrison pinned New Mexico’s Trey Saxson just 2:28 into the 157-pound match. However, he lost to the ninth seed from Michigan, Jeff Marsh, 5-3.
In the consolation round, Morrison lost 5-4 to Justin Gaethje of North Colorado. He wrestled tough, but was not able to win the match. Morrison ended the tournament with a 1-2 record.
Junior Zac Cunliffe lost both of his matches at the tournament in the 133-pound weight class. He lost 7-1 in his first match, and 4-3 in the consolations.
Sophomore Mike Darling, 165 pounds, lost 8-0 to his eighth-ranked opponent, Nick Marble from Missouri. He lost his second match 7-0 to Ryan Meyer of South Dakota State.
“Umbehauer, Morrison and Fenton looked well, and Robby Morrison and Cunliffe are looking real competitive and both show improvement,” Taylor said. “It was a real good effort.”
Overall, the Rider wrestlers performed well at the tournament in Las Vegas. They wrestle against the University of Maryland on Dec. 8.
“University of Maryland is very tough,” Taylor said. “They beat Michigan and Lehigh. They have a very good program and they will be hard to beat.The schedule continues to be tough. We get four to five additional wrestlers back on Dec. 16. Hopefully we will have a more balanced and stronger team for the second semester.”