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Returning after a two-week hiatus and facing its biggest test of the season thus far, the Harvard wrestling team garnered a 20th-place finish at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational at the Hilton Convention Center.
In the two-day event, two Crimson wrestlers, sophomore J.P. O’Connor and junior co-captain Louis Caputo, advanced to the semifinals, finishing second and fifth, respectively.
O’Connor, the No. 2 seed, wrestled third seed Lance Palmer of Ohio State in the semifinal at 149 lb. and pulled off a close 4-3 decision victory.
In the final, O’Connor faced No. 5 seed Darrion Caldwell of North Carolina State.
Caldwell had already upset No. 1 seed Ryan Churella of Michigan in dominating fashion, 12-3, in the semifinal. O’Connor fell in a much closer match, 8-6, losing his first bout of the season.
“I had to wrestle my way back into the match the whole time and couldn’t do it at the end,” O’Connor said. “There’s always room for improvement. I’ll come back and work on it and hopefully win in March [when the conference and national championships take place], when it counts.”
Caputo, the No. 3 seed, was competing for the first time this season after an eye injury sidelined him in Harvard’s first event of the year at the East Stroudsburg Open.
In the 184-lb. semifinal, Caputo fell, 11-4, to the second-seeded Tyrel Todd of Michigan, thus forfeiting the chance to compete in the finals.
In the third-place bout, Caputo and his opponent Doug Umbehauer of Rider remained tied until there were seven seconds on the clock, when Caputo was taken down and lost, 3-2.
In the fifth-place match, Caputo outwrestled sixth seed Vince Jones of Nebraska in their second encounter of the tournament, 8-6.
“For Louis, this was his first tournament, so he was really beaten down [by the time he got to the third-place match],” coach Jay Weiss said. “It was a tough match, especially with it being the rebound match after his loss in the semifinals.”
“J.P. and Louis had to face wrestlers with very unorthodox styles,” Weiss added. “It was a very valuable experience to prep for March, to be able to look at it on film, and to figure out how to deal with these guys when the time comes.”
O’Connor and Caputo garnered three victories each on the first day of the tournament to advance to the semifinals.
Seniors Matt Button (165 lb.) and Bobby Latessa (157 lb.) each went 2-2 in the tournament.
Button won his first match in a 3-0 shutout before falling, 9-6, in the round of 32.
Latessa lost his first match in double overtime but came back to capture two straight wins, including a major decision.
Freshman Corey Jantzen, wrestling as the No. 10 seed at 141 lb., won his first match, 4-2, but could not overcome No. 7 seed Ryan Williams of Old Dominion, losing 9-3. In his third match, Jantzen had to forfeit after injuring his ankle.
“Corey hurt his ankle pretty bad, and we had to pull him out of the tournament,” Weiss said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t get the experience he would’ve gotten with more matches. We’ll see a doctor and get a prognosis, but he’s off the map for a couple of weeks.”
Freshman Shay Warren notched two wins at 133 lb. Senior Jonathan Butler (197 lb.) and sophomores Frankie Colletta (174 lb.) and Andrew Knapp (285 lb.) each recorded a victory for the Crimson.
Harvard commences its dual-meet season at Hofstra on Sunday.
—Staff writer Tony D. Qian can be reached at email@example.com.
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