Light Blue Wrestlers Claim 35th Place at Tough Las Vegas Invite

The men's wrestling team traveled to Las Vegas last weekend in
its bid for recogition as a national powerhouse. In the past few
years, the team has been consistently solid, but this year, the
Lions have made noticeable improvements.


"Just like East Stroudsburg last week, we did a lot better than we
did a year ago," Head Coach Brendan Buckley said. "We got 35th
out of 54 teams [bettering our previous mark of 42nd place], and
most of our matches were decided by a point or two." The
competition at the Las Vegas Invitational was the highest-caliber
of overall wrestling the team will see until Nationals at the end of
the season. Schools with small programs were the exception at
the tournament, while schools with larger recruiting programs in
the Pac-10, Big 10, and ACC schools took most of the slots at the
tournament.


"It was a totally tough tournament," sophomore Erik Norgaard said.
"We did a lot better than last year as a team. This was one of the
tough tournaments of the year, and we are excited about our
potential now, since we did well."


Three Columbia wrestlers performed well in the tournament, led
by Norgaard and senior Derek Nagy. Both wrestlers finished the
tournament one match away from placing, while first-year Dustin
Tillman fell to his opponent just two rounds away from placing.


Norgaard and Nagy both lost in the placing round, earning 149
and 165 points, respectively. "They placed in the top 12, and they
demonstrated that they belonged right there," Buckley said. "The
guys improved mentally; where Derek [Nagy] won a couple of
matches this year he might not have last year. One year ago, as a
team, we would not have successes on the mat like we do
now."


Tillman showed strong potential as well. "He won some matches
that most freshmen would not," Buckley said. "He beat one guy
from UNC in overtime who is nationally recognized as one of the
best in the nation."


The format of the tournament was double-elimination, so a
competitor who lost one match could still place in the tournament
if he won the rest of his matches. The tournament organizers also
decided to give recognition to the top eight wrestlers in every
division.


Columbia's wrestlers appeared more determined than during last
season. The team's new outlook can be attributed to a more
focused team vision and better conditioning.


"Our conditioning is a lot better this year, and last year it took us
until the second semester to show the benefits of our
conditioning," Buckley said. "I think [Assistant Coach] Karl Roesler
said it last weekend, that ëthey're now understanding that the work
pays off.' I agree. They now see why we go so hard at practice and
why we're showing teams that we're continuing to get ready and
improve."


Next up for the Lions is the team's dual meet at Army this coming
weekend. Columbia's competition will be Army, Franklin and
Marshall, and Sacred Heart University.


"Our goal is to go 3-0, and we're right at the level of those three
teams," Buckley said. "Army is also a conference opponent, so we
would like to defeat them for conference tournaments' sake at the
end of the year."

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