Cruz Velasquez and Sean Molle returned from the California Collegiate Open this weekend as champions once again. Velasquez won the 133lbs weight class while Molle took the gold in heavyweight. The Clan competed in San Francisco on Saturday, placing four of their athletes in the top four.
“Great results for Cruz and Molle to repeat as champs at probably the second-toughest tournament we’ve entered this year,” head coach Justin Abdou said.
The California Collegiate Open is one of the largest tournaments attended by the men’s wrestling team. It’s in its 40th year of existence and boasts some of the top teams in multiple NCAA divisions.
Abdou said, “It’s a good measuring stick for where we are at this point in the season as we start to focus on the regional tourney.”
The regionals are an important tournament for the Clan. The top four in each weight class at the regionals will qualify for the national tournament in March. Last year, the Clan qualified just two wrestlers for the national tournament, with Tyler McLean taking All-American honours at 165lbs.
This tournament is a good measuring stick for the Clan this year. Reid Watkins narrowly missed out on the top three. This result is important for Watkins, who qualified for the national tournament last year, but just came up short of being an All-American. Abdou called the weekend “a nice step forward for Watkins, who has been somewhat inconsistent throughout his career, but always seems to step it up for the post-season. He defeated two quality Division I opponents and had a close battle with a 2016 All-American.”
The Clan had to compete without two of their biggest leaders this weekend. Josh Kim and Morgan Smith both sat out with minor injuries, and are expected to be back against Arizona on February 9. At 197lbs, Ciaran Ball was forced to fill in, and fell just short of placing in the top three.
“[He] had a strong showing with some big wins. He just came up short in the semi-final, losing an overtime tie-breaker to the eventual champion from Division I — Stanford,” Abdou said.
The Clan only have two more duels before the regional tournament. They will face off against Embry-Riddle in Prescott, Arizona on February 9, then California Baptist in Riverside, California two days later.
The regional tournament takes place on February 24 and 25 in Golden, Colorado. For those who qualify, the national tournament will be on March 11 in Birmingham, Alabama.