Grapplers find only hard luck in Las Vegas tourney

The Boston University wrestling team returned from its much-anticipated Las Vegas tournament yesterday after getting mixed results and finishing 30th among 53 teams at the meet.

The Las Vegas tournament, whose field featured 13 of the top 20 teams in the nation, was the Terriers’ highest profile performance of the year, as they met some of the elite on the mats in an early season preview of the NCAA Championships in the spring.

Senior Malik Elliott was the only BU wrestler to place, as he went 4-2 at 149 pounds to claim eighth out of 64 wrestlers in the weight class. Sophomore Jose Leon turned in a strong performance at 125 pounds, going 2-2, but could not advance through the preliminary rounds. Freshman Jacob Giamoni wrestled in the 141-pound weight class and did well also (2-2), but fell out of competition in the preliminaries as well.

Sophomore Mike Messina almost joined Elliott in placing, but his bid was ended in the quarterfinal round and Messina finished with a 3-2 record.

“We wrestled good enough to be in the top four or five,” Messina said of the trio. “[Leon, junior Jay Holder and myself] all lost by a point. It was a bad tournament like that; on another day, we might have placed.”

Before going to the tournament, the Terriers were optimistic that they would provide an opportunity not only to see some excellent competition but to make the statement that BU belonged among the best.

The Terriers were well on their way to making that statement loud and clear, winning six of their first nine bouts, but a rash of injuries quieted BU for the rest of the tournament.

Holder was ahead in his opening match against the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the 157-pound weight class, but he suffered a back injury midway into the match, causing a loss and Holder’s withdrawal from the tournament. Junior Nick Loafman then followed Holder out of the tournament when an unknown stomach injury forced him to an early exit.

The Terriers were dealt a final blow when sophomore Ed Strauss withdrew after re-aggravating knee injuries. The result: three of BU’s nine starting wrestlers went 0-1 in Las Vegas, severely hampering the Terriers’ chances of a high finish at the meet.

“Overall, we wrestled really well, but two of our guys didn’t finish out their first match,” said BU coach Carl Adams. “We didn’t score as many points as we could have, but we did well. We wrestled some top kids, and from that standpoint we saw some dynamite kids.”

“It was a great experience and the team definitely wants to go back. It’s a meet very similar to the NCAAs in terms of atmosphere, size and the quality of the wrestlers. It was positive. The negative part was three kids getting banged up.”

Messina agreed, saying, “[The meet] showed us that we need to work a little bit harder. It gave us a good impression of where we were in the nation and what we need to work on. This kind of competition breeds better wrestlers, and it’s only going to make us better.”

In light of the injuries, the Terriers went on to finish 30th at the meet. But now BU is faced with larger challenges. While the Terriers got an idea of their strengths and weaknesses this weekend, they must now learn how to adjust with three of BU’s top wrestlers out of the lineup. And with a meet Saturday against No. 7 Lehigh University, No. 19 Lock Haven University and Rutgers University, the Terriers will not have a great deal of time to recover.

“It’s going to be real tough for us,” Adams said. “Lehigh is No. 7 in the nation, and Lock Haven and Rutgers always have good teams. If you look at the lineup, we’re solid in five weight classes but three starters will be out. That’s going to make it a tough weekend.”

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