Elite competition toughens Duke

This weekend, the wrestling team traveled to Las Vegas to face new opponents in a new setting. Despite placing 36th out of 52 teams in their first ever appearance in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, the Blue Devils and head coach Clar Anderson felt that the gamble paid off.

"There were very, very good wrestlers there, including All-Americans from last year's finals that placed in as low as fifth, sixth in the tournament," Anderson said. "It was a very nationally competitive tournament, which was exciting for my guys because they had a chance to wrestle some of the best guys in the country and test their wear."

The tournament annually attracts a large turnout of very competitive wrestling programs from all across the country, allowing the Blue Devils to have the opportunity to wrestle schools they would normally never meet.

"I think that it was a first-time opportunity to wrestle with a lot of teams from California, the Midwest, Idaho and Oregon," Anderson said. "It was just a great opportunity for the guys."

Sophomore Wes Kuser turned in one of the Blue Devils' more impressive performances. In less than two minutes, Kuser pulled off an upset victory, pinning Missouri's Josh Wagner, who Anderson said is a nationally recognized athlete.

"Wes Kuser probably had one of the biggest wins in the tournament by pinning a wrestler from Missouri, a Big 12 competitor," Anderson said. "That was a big win for him."

Kuser, who had Duke's only pin of the tournament, finished the two-day competition at 3-2 in the 149-pound weight class. As a team, the Blue Devils racked up a total of 14.5 points in their 36th place finish. Michigan, the tournament's winner, weighed in with 145 points.

"The matches that we lost we were competitive in," Anderson said. "We didn't have the most successful outcome, but I was pleased with a lot of the guys' performances. Wes Kuser and Dan Tulley did a great job for us and probably went the farthest in the tournament."

Anderson also highlighted strong performances by sophomore Turner Rooney, junior Antwone Floyd and freshman Addison Nuding, representing the 174-, 141- and 157-pound weight classes, respectively.

Despite the team's 36th place finish, Anderson seemed happy with his team's showing and the national exposure, especially considering his squad's inexperience. The Blue Devils sent just 10 wrestlers to the tournament, five of whom were either freshmen or redshirt freshmen.

"I was real pleased with their performances," said Anderson of his first year wrestlers. "I hope they will gain confidence from this, and hopefully next year moves better."


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