Redshirt senior Mitch Finesilver is on track to achieve All-American status for the first time in his career.
With more than 100 ranked wrestlers competing under the same roof, the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational is arguably the most difficult collegiate tournament outside of the NCAA championships in March. Finesilver battled through a loaded 149-pound bracket to finish fifth and became the second Blue Devil ever to place at CKLV.
Duke took seven wrestlers to Las Vegas and scored 22.5 team points, putting it at 28th out of 43 teams. Finesilver was joined by his brother Matt on day two, an improvement from last season when only two-time All-American Jacob Kasper made it to the second day of the open.
Both Mitch and Matt Finesilver posted strong first-day outings, as Mitch advanced to the semifinals and Matt ousted opponents from Harvard, Air Force and Rutgers before dropping an 11-5 decision to the eventual champion, No. 3 Myles Amine of Michigan, in the quarterfinals. Mitch notched solid decision victories against Oklahoma’s Davion Jeffries and Navy’s Jared Prince, both of whom are past NCAA qualifiers, in the first two rounds.
The No. 7 149-pounder’s marquee performance, however, came in the quarterfinals, when he recorded his highest-ranked win of the season against No. 6 Max Thomsen of Northern Iowa. Mitch trailed by one point in the second period before scoring the lone takedown of the bout and going up 2-1. The Blue Devils' lead did not last long, as Thomsen escaped to tie the match at 2-2 heading into the final two minutes. Mitch then managed his own escape within the first ten seconds of the period and put himself ahead by a single point. The redshirt senior relied on his stingy defense to maintain his lead for the rest of the match and win 3-2.
Day two proved to be more difficult for the Finesilver brothers, as they both dropped their opening matches. In the consolation bracket, No. 19 Matt went to war with No. 18 Kimball Bastian of Utah Valley. The two traded scores and Matt led 3-2 heading into the third period. But Bastian turned the tide in the final two minutes with a reversal and pin to prevent Matt from joining his brother on the podium.
Mitch, who had already cemented his top-eight placement by making the semifinals, met a buzzsaw in Rutgers’ No. 2 Anthony Ashnault. Ashnault, the eventual 149-pound champ, shut down Mitch’s offense and poured on multiple takedowns of his own. For the first time this season, Mitch lost by major decision, 12-4.
In the consolation semifinals, Mitch faced a familiar opponent, No. 9 Austin O’Connor of North Carolina. Mitch grinded out a close 3-2 win against the Tar Heel during their first meeting at the Hokie Open earlier this month, but O’Connor turned the tables in Vegas, scoring a takedown and escape to win 3-1.
Mitch, who started the tournament seeded fifth, was undeterred by his consecutive losses and wrestled to his seed by controlling Campbell’s No. 19 Josh Heil in the fifth-place match. The Blue Devil got off to a hot start and notched two takedowns in the first two minutes before riding Heil out for the entire second period. Heil battled back and scored a takedown of his own in the third period, but Mitch kept the Fighting Camel at bay, securing the 9-4 win and fifth-place finish.
Sophomore Kaden Russell was the only other Duke wrestler to make it to Friday's night session and won two matches at 184, beating Martin Duane of The Citadel and and Kayne MacCallum of Oklahoma en route to a 2-2 performance.
The Blue Devils wrestle against Gardner-Webb in their first dual of the season on Thursday night.
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