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Wrestling Cashes In On Golden Chance in Vegas

By Evan R. Johnson, Crimson Staff Writer

Although it may have been facing some of the toughest competition in the country and in a different time zone, the Harvard wrestling team maintained its pattern of success this weekend.

For the third straight tournament, No. 20 sophomore Max Meltzer (141 lbs.) and No. 1 co-captain Jesse Jantzen (149 lbs.) were the top finishers for the Crimson, coming in fifth and third place, respectively, at this weekend’s Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

The prestigious tournament features some of the best wrestlers in the country and allows Harvard to get an early-season evaluation of some of the top-notch wrestlers that the Crimson could be facing in the NCAA championship tournament. Of the 25 ranked teams, nine came to Las Vegas.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” said Harvard coach Jay Weiss when asked if he scouts potential future opponents. “Any national competitions we go to we [scout] for many of the weight classes.”

Jantzen—wrestling up for the last time at 157 lbs.—had just one loss as he went 4-1 over the weekend. The one misstep came at the hands of Illinois’ No. 2 Alex Tirapelle, who decisioned Jantzen 11-4 in the semifinal bout. The drop pitted Jantzen against Missouri’s No. 10 Kenny Burleson in the consolation match, which Jantzen won 6-4, turning in his second straight third-place finish at the Cliff Keen Invitational.

Meltzer’s finish in the top five was particularly exciting because he was one of several Crimson wrestlers who pulled off an upset over opponents from No. 5 Minnesota. In his second match, he decisioned the Golden Gophers’ No. 17 Tommy Owen 6-3, before succumbing to Michigan’s No. 13 Clark Forward. After winning two more matches, Meltzer was slated to face Ohio State’s No. 7 Jeff Ratliff, but his opponent never showed, giving Meltzer an automatic fifth place finish and a 5-1 record for the weekend.

The other Harvard wrestlers to upset a Golden Gopher were juniors Eddie Jones (174 lbs.) and heavyweight Jonas Corl.

Jones won on a 3-1 decision to upset Minnesota’s No. 16 Josh McLay and finished 3-2 on the weekend. Jones managed to bounce back from two matches before, when he had been pinned by Eastern Michigan’s Tim Hoff in four minutes. Jones ended up losing in the quarterfinals to Edinboro’s No. 13 Nate Yetzer.

“I think Eddie Jones had an incredible weekend,” Weiss said.

Corl had an even bigger Golden Gopher upset when he decisioned No. 9 Cole Konrad by another 3-1 decision. Despite the impressive victory, Corl later had to pull out of the tournament due to a neck injury and back spasms.

Harvard nearly had a fourth victory over Minnesota, but 184 lb. senior P.J. Jones lost 2-1 in double overtime to Jon Duncombe.

Still, the Crimson was unable to escape Sin City without its own share of bad luck. In addition to the Corl injury, co-captain Reggie Lee (197 lbs.) was pulled from competition to prevent further aggravating a knee problem that first became an issue in his second match of the weekend. Though he wrestled in a third match, which he lost to Arizona’s State’s No. 5 Ryan Bader in the round of 16—his first in the double-elimination tournament—Weiss decided to allow Lee to rest.

“Obviously he probably could have wrestled,” Weiss said. “I would have loved to have seen him get in a bunch of more matches, but at the same time he’s our only wrestler at that weight class.”

The possible loss of Corl and Lee could prove devastating to the Crimson for team competition. Last year Harvard was particularly vulnerable at the upper weight classes and—with the exception of Corl and Lee—have only two wrestlers listed above 174 lbs. One of those team members, Bode Ogunwole, is a freshman, and the other, sophomore Dan Jones, didn’t wrestle all last year and may miss all of this year due to injury.

—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at erjohns@fas.harvard.edu.

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