After a week off and a strong showing at the Nor Cal Open last month, the SF State wrestling team (1-0) will head to Las Vegas for the 33rd annual Cliff Keen Invitational Dec. 6 and 7.
The invitational will include 40 schools from colleges throughout the country, most of which are Division I, and is arguably one of the toughest tournaments in the nation, according to head coach Lars Jensen. The Gators fared well at last year’s invitational with one wrestler placing fifth. The team also finished as the top Division II school on that particular weekend, tying for 19th place and scoring 26 points total.
“It’s the toughest collegiate tournament in the United States,” Jensen said. “It’s the toughest opponents that we will face all year and we want to see if we can match up with the best at any level in the nation.”
The team gained momentum heading into the tournament after placing third at the the Nor Cal Open Nov. 22, where they had five individual placers. Led by Jordan Gurrola’s 133-pound title, Peter Santos followed with a second place finish in the 174-pound weight class. Johnny Costa and Jerry De La Rosa finished third at the 184 and 141-pound weight classes, respectively.
Jensen said that the team’s performance at the Nor Cal Open may not translate into results at the Cliff Keen Invitational and said the tournament is unmatched by any other.
“There really isn’t any comparison to this tournament,” Jensen said. “Fresno a little bit, the Roadrunner Open a little, but there really isn’t any competition.”
The tournament will arguably be the toughest test for the Gators this season but the team looks forward to racking up wins against Division I competition.
“It’s going to help our better guys to see where they are at,” Jensen said. “It’s pretty tough competition, but we’re looking forward to competing against these tough Division I schools.”
Jensen knows the Gators will be ready for their matches this weekend, especially his veterans. He said if they don’t come out with their A-game against the tough competition, they will find their weaknesses and take them out early.
“We’ll just keep plugging away and try to beat these big-time guys,” Jensen said.
After the tournament, the Gators will match up against Simpson University in Redding, Calif. Dec. 13 where they look to improve on their 1-0 record.