Air Force Grapplers Wrap Up Successful Weekend
The Air Force wrestling team took part in the 23rd-annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational this weekend, competing against wrestlers from more than 40 different schools. Several Falcons had outstanding showings at the prestigious two-day tournament. In addition, other members of the team participated in Saturday's Fort Hays Open, held in Fort Hays, Kan.
Leading the way for Air Force at the Las Vegas Invitational was junior Brandon Strong (Albuquerque, N.M.), who went 4-2 on the weekend at 125 pounds. After dropping consecutive decisions to Arizona State's Jeremy Mendoza and Cal State-Fullerton's Jesse Miramontes, Strong won his next four matches. He took decisions over Joe Kemmerer of UNC Greensboro and 19th-ranked Mason Lenhard of Penn before pinning North Idaho's Jeff Hedges. Strong then concluded his weekend with a major decision victory over Oregon State's Eric Stevenson.
Also finishing the weekend at 4-2 was junior Matt Benza (Tamaqua, Pa.). Advancing to the round of 32 at 141 pounds with a major decision over The Citadel's Michael Arias, Benza was pinned by Charles Griffin of Hofstra. He then lost a decision to eighth-ranked Scott Jorgensen of Boise State before taking victories over Derek Francquilla (Columbia), Chris Lape (Clarion) and Stephen Hromada (Virginia).
Other key wins for the Falcons included senior Jacob Lillich's (Jay, Okla.) major decision over Pittsburgh's Zachariah Doll, rated 17th in the nation at 174 pounds by The Wrestling Mall, and a decision by 197-pounder Brenden McLean (Jr., Grants Pass, Ore.) over Tim Boldt of South Dakota State, who is ranked eighth among Division II wrestlers.
The Falcons' top performer at the Fort Hays Open was senior captain Luke Lefever (La Crosse, Wis.), who took second place in the 184-pound division. Lefever, seeded third in the tournament, recorded two decisions and a fall before moving on to face second-seed Brent Parkey of Oklahoma State. Lefever knocked off Parkey, recording a pin in 5:40, to move into the championship match with Oklahoma State's Rusty Blackmon, ranked 13th in the nation. However, Lefever's run would end there, as he lost to Blackmon in an 11-1 major decision.