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Spartans To Compete In Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

Nov. 30, 2017

EAST LANSING, Mich. - SPARTANS TO COMPETE IN 2017 CLIFF KEEN LAS VEGAS INVITATIONAL
Michigan State wrestling competes in the 36th annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational from Friday-Saturday, Dec. 1-2, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Competition gets underway at 12 p.m. (ET) on Friday, and will be streamed on FloWrestling.

Cliff Keen Invitational Notes Get Acrobat Reader

MSU returns to action after a week off from competition. The Spartans began the 2017-18 season with two open tournaments, the MSU Open and the EMU Open. In its last time out, Michigan State competed in the first dual meet of the year against No. 17 Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The Chippewas came out on top, 31-9, but three Spartans claimed wins in their first collegiate dual meet in the Green and White to put 9 points on the board.

The 46-team field of competition is challenging at the Cliff Keen Invitational. Seven teams will attend from the Big Ten Conference, including Michigan State, No. 9 Michigan, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 13 Nebraska, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 20 Purdue and Wisconsin. Nine additional teams are ranked in the top-25 in the College NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll as of Nov. 28: No. 12 Arizona State, No. 19 Central Michigan, No. 14 Cornell, No. 23 Edinboro, No. 16 Northern Iowa, No. 21 Oklahoma, No. 24 Pittsburgh, No. 25 Stanford and No. 10 Virginia Tech.

SPARTANS SPLIT UP AT STORM OPEN
Some of Michigan State’s wrestlers will compete unattached in the fifth annual Storm Open hosted by Lake Erie College at the Jerome T. Osborne Family Athletic and Wellness Center in Painesville, Ohio. Competition gets underway at 9:30 a.m.

SPARTANS TO WATCH
• Redshirt senior 141-pounder Javier Gasca is one of MSU’s three returning NCAA qualifiers ... won the Michigan State Open 141 title in the open division for the third consecutive year ... went undefeated with five wins at the event, collecting four decisions and a fall at 3:56 in the first round ... named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week by the conference for his performance at the MSU Open, his first career weekly conference honor and the first since Drew Hughes last season on December 20, 2016 ... placed third at the 2017 Big Ten Championships, the highest individual finish for a Spartan wrestler since Frank Gomez won the Big Ten title in 2009 ... finished the season with a 27-10 record ... ranked No. 11 by InterMat, No. 9 by FloWrestling and No. 8 by Win Wrestling Magazine.

• Redshirt sophomore Austin Eicher also returns to the MSU lineup as a two-time NCAA qualifier … finished his first season as a Spartan with a 22-18 overall record … placed eighth at the Big Ten Championships … posted five falls and four majors decisions … ranked No. 11 by Flo Wrestling and No. 17 by InterMat at 133 pounds … last season, was ranked in the top 20 throughout … came to MSU last season as transfer from NIU, where he qualified for NCAA Championships after winning the MAC Conference Championship at 133 pounds.

• Sophomore Drew Hughes rounds out the returning NCAA qualifying Spartans at 174 pounds … took second place at the MSU Open in the open division, tallying three wins, including a 1-0 decision over No. 14 C.J. Brucki of Central Michigan in the semifinal round ... Hughes’ only loss of the day came against No. 4 Myles Amine of Michigan in the final round ... became the first Spartan freshman to qualify for NCAA Champions since Sean McMurray in 2011 … finished his first season with a 29-10 overall record, winning 24 of his last 33 matches… placed fifth at 2017 Big Ten Championships … ranked No. 10 by InterMat, No. 12 by FloWrestling and No. 16 by Win Wrestling Magazine.

• Freshman Rayvon Foley earned his collegiate dual match win in his first career start as a Spartan at No. 17 Central Michigan, giving MSU an early 3-0 lead after defeating Drew Hildebrandt, 9-6 ... claimed his first open tournament title as a Spartan, going undefeated through four matches, including a major decision in the final bout, in the freshman/sophomore division at the Eastern Michigan Open ... took second place of the freshman/sophomore division at the MSU Open in his first competition in the Green and White ... leads the team with 9 wins overall.

SPARTANS IN THE RANKINGS
• Senior Javier Gasca - 141 pounds
No. 8 by Win Wrestling Magazine
No. 9 by FloWrestling
No. 11 by InterMat
No. 15 by TheOpenMat.com

• Junior Austin Eicher - 133 pounds
No. 11 by Flo Wrestling
No. 17 by InterMat

• Sophomore Drew Hughes - 174 pounds
No. 10 by InterMat
No. 12 by FloWrestling
No. 16 by Win Wrestling Magazine
No. 12 by TheOpenMat.com

THERE'S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Seven Spartans saw action in their first dual in the Green and White against No. 17 CMU, three of which came away with a win - freshman Rayvon Foley at 125 pounds, redshirt freshman Nathan Ellis at 133 pounds and redshirt freshman Austin Hiles at 174 pounds. Redshirt freshmen Alex Hrisopoulos (141), Jake Tucker (157), Nick May (184) and Christian Rebottaro (HWT) also notched the first dual match of their careers under their belt.

KNOCK 'EM OFF
Redshirt freshman Austin Hiles, normally at 165 pounds, started at 174 pounds against No. 17 CMU (11/17) to fill in for No. 10 Drew Hughes. Appearing in his first career dual match, Hiles went up against 14th-ranked C.J. Brucki. The Spartan knocked off the Chippewa in thrilling fashion, coming back from a 9-1 deficit to defeat Brucki 12-10 with a buzzer-beater takedown.

Hiles is the third Spartan this season to defeat a ranked opponent. Redshirt senior Javier Gasca has claimed three wins over nationally ranked wrestlers at 141 pounds, and sophomore Drew Hughes has recorded a victory over Brucki from CMU as well.

GASCA OPENS SEASON WITH B1G WRESTLER OF THE WEEK HONOR
Javier Gasca was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week on Tuesday, Nov. 7 after his performance at the MSU Open on Sunday, Nov. 5. Gasca went undefeated through the day’s competition and bested three ranked opponents to claim his third consecutive MSU Open title. This marked Gasca’s first career Big Ten weekly honor, and he is the first Spartan wrestler to earn the accolade since Drew Hughes last season on Dec. 20, 2016.

MSU HAS NINE LETTERWINNERS, 15 NEWCOMERS IN 2017-18
Michigan State returns nine letterwinners from last season. MSU has 15 newcomers, including 14 freshmen and one transfer from Lake Erie. Ten of the newcomers hail from Michigan. The remaining five are natives to Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, Pennsylvania and California.

CHANDLER IN SECOND YEAR AS HEAD COACH
Michigan State head coach Roger Chandler is in his 21st season on the Spartan wrestling staff, but his second as head coach, taking over the reins of the MSU program from longtime head coach Tom Minkel, who directed the program since 1991, and retired following his 25th season at Michigan State in 2015-16.

In his first season as head coach, Chandler led the Spartans to a 10th-place finish at Big Ten Championships, the team’s best finish since 2012. MSU’s 38.5 points at the meet was their highest total since 2012, showing the signs of the program’s progress in Chandler’s first year acting as head coach. The Spartans also qualified three for NCAA Championships for the first time since 2013 in Chandler’s first year at the helm of the program.

SPARTAN ASSISTANT COACHES
• Former Spartan All-American Chris Williams is in the second year of his second stint on the MSU staff as an assistant coach. Williams had served as the head wrestling coach at Adrian College since November 2014, where he restarted the program and led the Bulldogs in their first season of competition in 31 years in 2015-16. He previously was an assistant coach at Michigan State, along with Chandler, for eight seasons (2005-13).
• Former Central Michigan All-American and U.S. Senior Nationals Champion Wynn Michalak enters his second season as Spartans’ assistant wrestling coach. One of the most successful wrestlers in Central Michigan history, Michalak was a four-time Mid-American Conference Champion (2005-08), three-time MAC Wrestler of the Year (2006-08), and a three-time NCAA All-American (2005, 2006, 2008), including a runner-up finish at 197 pounds in 2008. He won the 2015 U.S. Senior Nationals title at 97 kg/213 pounds on Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas, and competed in the past two U.S. Olympic wrestling trials.

COACH CHANDLER ON THE CKLV INVITATIONAL
“It’s probably the only event in the country from the standpoint that it truly replicates the NCAA Championships as far as having sessions and the level of competition. There’s 14 of the top 25 programs in the country there, and there’s 46 Division I teams there so it’s a very large tournament. It puts our guys into the mindset of preparing for the end of the year, and with having a two-day weigh-in back-to-back, it’s important to go through that process, whereas in the open tournaments that they’ve already had, it’s a one-day weigh-in, four or five matches. Now it’s over a two-day period, and it’s just preparing them for the end of the year.”

COACH CHANDLER ON GOING FROM A DUAL TO A TOURNAMENT
“I don’t know how much they’ll compare from a dual meet to a tournament. Dual meet, you’re just focused on one opponent, you can scout and so forth. For a tournament, we won’t know our draws until after weigh-ins on Friday morning. I think the biggest thing is, like at the NCAA Tournament, you have an idea of who you would wrestle but you don’t know who’s going to win or lose. You prepare for the opponent that you have right in front of you and you have a short time to prepare so turning around and preparing for that match most closely represents the NCAA Championships.”

COACH CHANDLER ON THE TEAM'S PROGRESS
“We do have a very young team but as I’ve said before, we can’t use youth as a reason for pushing success off until later. I use Rayvon Foley as an example all the time because he trains so hard, he wrestles so hard and he expects to have results now. He’s definitely a guy that we’re going to point to in the program and that we have pointed to already because he has set the standard for what we expect out of our guys in the program.”

COACH CHANDLER ON THE STEEP COMPETITION AT THE CKLV
“Part of the planning of going to this event is we expect our guys to be able to compete and be successful at this level. We haven’t been to the Las Vegas Invitational in over 20 years. Being a part of this event, I think it sets the tone for our program and what we expect out of our guys. What we want out of our guys is to compete, compete hard and represent our program and have success along the way.”

NEXT UP
After wrapping up tournament competition, MSU will compete in a dual against Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y. on Friday, Dec. 8.

 

 

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