By David Gibb, Sports Editor
The Hofstra Wrestling Team began their second month of competition in the state of Nevada, attending the Cliff-Keen Las Vegas Invitation, a 42 team event that featured grapplers from everywhere from California to Rhode Island. The Pride entered the tournament with three wrestlers (Jamie Franco, Ryan Patrovich, and Ben Clymer) in favorable seeds and seven men taking the mat overall.
At 125 pounds, Jamie Franco, the 11th seed in the large 40-man field represented the Pride. Franco's favorable seeding earned him a first round bye, and his firs match of the day came against Eric Chandler of UNC Greensboro. Chandler was a fresh off a first-round pinfall victory over Greg Einfrank of Brown, and used the momentum to catapult past Hofstra's Franco 9-2. Competing in the third-place bracket following the loss, Franco faced off against John Deenan of the University of Illinois. Deenan defeated Franco 5-0, ending the #11 seed's day with an 0-2 record.
Jeff Rotella wrestled for Hofstra in 133-pound competition, facing Jullian Perez of San Francisco State in the first round. Rotella lost a 7-1 decision to Perez and then faced Andrew Guabfelder. Guabfelder, wrestling out of Columbia, was 1-1 on the day, but his one win was a 16-0 technical fall victory in the first round. Rotella was unable to hold off Guabfelder, who recorded a 10-1 major decision victory to eliminate the Pride from competition at 133 pounds.
The next weight class for the Pride at the Cliff-Keen Invitational was 165, and it was PJ Gillespie taking the mat. Gillespie faced Jeff Lemmer of Brown in the opening round and defeated him 5-2 to earn the right to face the #10 seed, Aaron Hynes of Michigan. The contest was Hynes' first match of the day, but Gillespie was already 1-0. Gillespie shut out Hynes, defeating him 4-0. Fresh of defeating the tenth seed, the 2-0 Gillespie then took on 1-0 Shane Onufer of Wyoming, the seventh seed at 165 pounds. Onufer dealt Gillespie his first defeat of the Invitational, defeating him 4-1.
However, Gillespie was not done for the day after taking the loss, he claimed another victory in his next match over CAA rival Alex Rinaldi of Drexel 8-2. Gillespie's next opponent was Conrad Polz of Illinois. Polz and Gillespie's match was incredibly close, but Gillespie prevailed 3-1, improving his record at the Cliff-Keen to 4-1. Navy's Oscar Huntley was next for the Pride's Gillespie. Huntley had won his previous match with a fall in 1:03, but Gillespie continued his fantastic tournament performance, winning 9-3. The victory set up an intriguing rematch between Gillespie and Shane Onufer, the grappler who dealt him his only loss on the day. Onufer narrowly defeated Gillespie for the second time on the day by a score 3-2 en route to ultimately capturing third place at 165 pounds. Gillespie's time at the Invitational was not over at 5-2, as he faced Paul Young of Indiana to determine who would finish fifth in their weight class. Gillespie was unable to defeat Young, ultimately losing 8-5, but he still captured 6th place for Hofstra in 165-pound competition with an outstanding 5 victories in the Cliff-Keen Invitational.
Ryan Patrovich wrestled at 174 for the Pride and entered the state of Nevada seeded 5th at his weight class. Patrovich had a first round bye, and then recorded a major victory of 10-2 over Brock Smith of Wyoming. His great start continued with another major victory in his second match-up of the day, this one coming 11-0 over Todd Noel of Cal State Fullerton. The 2-0 Patrovich then faced Jeffrey James of Oklahoma, the fourth seed in the Invitational. James won a narrow 5-4 decision over Patrovich, dealing his his first defeat of the day after an incredibly hot start. Patrovich's day continued against Cal Poly's Ryan DesRoches, who the Pride grappler handled 5-2, improving to 3-1 in Nevada. Patrovich then got a pass on to the next round in his quest to capture third place due to a medical forfeit by Luke Rebertus of Navy. However, Luke Manuel from Purdue, the number six seed at 174 handed Patrovich his second loss of the Invitational, defeating him by fall in 1:27. The next match would be Patrovich's last day, win or lose, and it was for fifth place, the title Patrovich had been seeded to win. Patrovich's opponent was Jason Zeeprip of Michigan. Patrovich prevailed, winning 4-1 and capturing fifth place at 174 from himself and the Pride.
Ben Clymer, seeded eighth, wrestled at 184, earning a first round bye before facing Robert Cooney of SIUE (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville). Clymer started the day strong, hitting Cooney with a 15-0 technical fall. He then improved to 2-0, defeating Navy's Andrew Buck, the nine seed, by a score of 3-0. Although he was undefeated thus far, Clymer then ran up against Mike Pucillo, the number one seed from Ohio State. Pucillo already owned a major victory and a fall on the day, but Clymer managed to the Buckeye grappler from dominating him, keeping the match close and holding his own although he would ultimately lose 5-1. The 2-1 Clymer then took on Andrew Saunders from UNC Greensboro. Saunders eliminated the Pride from competition at 184, defeating Clymer 6-4. Saunders ultimately finished seventh in the invitational, and Pucillo, who had defeated Clymer earlier, finished fourth.
At 197, it was Anthony Tortora representing the Pride. Tortora lost his first match of the day, a narrow 6-5 defeat to Jack Callender of the CAA's own Drexel. In the consolation bracket, the 0-1 Tortora earned a victory, Utah Valley's Josh Wood 6-2. However, the very next match would be Tortora's last as he suffered a 10-1 major decision defeat at the hands of Matt Powless of Indiana, ending his Las Vegas Invitational.
The final participating in the Cliff-Keen Las Vegas Invitational for Hofstra was Paul Synder, wrestling at 285. Snyder faced a tough first-round match-up, as he was opposed by the 5th seed, Oregon State's Clayton Jack. Jack defeated Synder 5-0, ultimately placing 7th in the weight class. In the consolation round, Synder matched up against Jim Powers of Cal Poly and suffered a narrow defeating, losing 3-2 and ending his time in Las Vegas 0-2.
In terms of team scoring, the Hofstra Pride finished the Cliff-Keen Las Vegas Invitational in 24th place with 30.5 points. The Ohio State Buckeyes captured the Invitational with 122.5 points. Conference rival Drexel finished 17th with 41.5 points.
The Hofstra Wrestling Team will next take the mat at home against Lock Haven University in the Mack Sports Complex at 3pm on this Sunday, December 13. The event will be the last opportunity to see the team play at home before the winter break and also the Pride's first appearance in the Mack in a month.