PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Brown wrestling team will jump into the mix of 33 squads at the 32nd annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7. Following a seventh place finish at the Navy Classic on Nov. 23, the Bears will square off against the field that features 13 teams ranked in the nation's top 25.
"We have a strong Brown wrestling alumni group living on the West Coast so this is a also a great opportunity for them to see us compete," said Head Coach Todd Beckerman. "I look forward to meeting many alums in the area this weekend and talking about Brown wrestling."
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Top-ranked teams at this year's event include No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 6 Northern Iowa, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 8 Iowa State, No. 11 Cornell, No. 12 Ohio State, No. 14 Oregon State, No. 18 Boise State, No. 20 Virginia, No. 21 Virginia Tech, No. 22 Michigan, No. 23 North Carolina State and No. 25 Wyoming.
"I am excited to see our team compete against some of the best teams in the country this weekend," said Beckerman. "This is one of the toughest tournaments of the season. Competing in this tournament is close to wrestling in the NCAA championships in March."
TIME ON THEIR SIDE
With a weekend off from competition between the Navy Classic and this weekend's tournament, the Bears had an extra week to train. Beckerman was pleased with the team's preparation heading into what promises to be Brown's toughest test so far this season.
"We have had two great weeks of training leading up to this event," Beckerman said. "This tournament has team scoring so every match counts for advancing and team standings. All our competitions have been getting tougher each week and this is another great test for the team to compete."
BERNSTEIN CLAIMS FIRST COLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Junior captain Ophir Bernstein (Allen, Texas) tore through the competition, including a pair of top-20 opponents, and won the 184 pound weight class at the Navy Classic on Nov. 23. A silver medalist at the Junior Wrestling World Championships in Bulgaria this summer, Bernstein worked his way through the 184s, beginning with an 11-3 victory over Troy Murtha of Princeton. The junior captain then pinned George Mason's Alexander Stanley in 1:26 and followed with a 12-2 win versus Stout Watson of Navy. Bernstein took down Kent State's No. 20 Sam Wheeler in the semifinals, 12-4, then edged No. 11 Jackson Hein of Wisconsin, 3-2, to earn first-place honors.
LAST TIME OUT
The Brown wrestling team finished in seventh place in the 14-team field at the Navy Classic. The Bears placed ahead of EIWA foe Bucknell and Big 12 power West Virginia while finishing just behind Ohio with 72.5 points.
Bernstein's first collegiate championship was complimented by a fourth-place showing by sophomore Anthony Finocchiaro (Canastota, N.Y.) in the 133 pound weight class and freshman Justin Staudenmayer's (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) fifth-place finish at 157 pounds.
BECKERMAN, LEBLANC SIZE UP ALMA MATERS
Beckerman and Assistant Coach Joe LeBlanc will be reunited with their respective alma maters, Nebraska and Wyoming, at this year's Cliff Keen Invitational. The Huskers jumped up to seventh in the country after sweeping the Stanford Duals last weekend, while the 25th-ranked Cowboys produced a combined 14 championships between their first two open meets.
"It is always nice to see and compete against my alma mater, Nebraska," Beckerman said. "They have a strong team this year and I still have strong ties with the coaching staff so it will be nice to catch up with them this weekend."
The Bears return to action on Sunday, Dec. 29, for the two-day Midlands Championships at Northwestern University.