Dec. 1, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. ? The 2010-11 college wrestling season hits its first big weekend Friday and Saturday when many of the top programs in the country gather for the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

NC State will be one of 36 teams at the 2010 Las Vegas Invitational, part of a field that includes five of the top 10 teams in the latest national poll. Top-ranked Cornell and No. 2 Boise State are the headliners, but No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 10 Central Michigan, No. 12 Arizona State, No. 16 Illinois, No. 19 Virginia Tech, No. 20 Ohio State, No. 23 Hofstra and No. 28 Purdue also are in the field.

?This is always the top regular-season tournament in the country and it?s no different this year,? Wolfpack head coach Carter Jordan says. ?This tournament is always a great measuring stick for your program, but this year it?s also a chance for us to atone a bit for last weekend?s loss at Oklahoma.?

NC State dropped a 52-0 decision at Oklahoma this past Saturday, losing nine matches and forfeiting the 10th. Jordan welcomes the quick opportunity for his team to get back on the mat and enjoy some success.

?We thoroughly embarrassed ourselves at Oklahoma,? Jordan says. ?Don?t get me wrong; that may be the best Oklahoma team we?ve ever faced, but we were awful. Our performance was totally unacceptable, and I expect us to wrestle much better this weekend in Las Vegas.?

Heading into the Las Vegas Invitational, NC State has been led by a quartet of juniors: 125-pounder Mike Moreno (12-2), 141-pounder Darrius Little (10-2), 157-pounder Colton Palmer (9-3) and 174-pounder Quinton Godley (8-3).



Little and Palmer both were very competitive against ranked opponents at Oklahoma, especially Little, who took top-ranked Zach Bailey to the wire before losing by a point on a takedown with eight seconds remaining.
?I honestly thought, by the way he wrestled in the first period of that bout, that Darrius could win that match by a major decision (8 points or more),? Jordan says. ?But instead of taking the fight to Bailey the next two periods, he shut it down and wrestled not to lose. Darrius is a fourth-year guy and I think this is a lesson learned for him. He knows now that he can wrestle anyone in the country, but he also knows that he has to wrestle for seven minutes every match.?

NC State will again be without the services of senior 149-pounder Darrion Caldwell, the 2009 national champion. Caldwell missed the entire 2009-10 season following shoulder surgery, and the coaching staff is admittedly being extra cautious in withholding Caldwell from competition thus far this season.

?Darrion is doing great and he?ll be back out there in January,? Jordan says. ?The early season is mostly tournaments where a guy can wrestle four and five bouts or more in a single day. This weekend in Las Vegas will be like that, and against top-flight competition.

?Even though he?s champing at the bit to get back on the mat, we want to be extra careful not to expose Darrion to that kind of physical stress. He?s too important to our program to risk him like that. We?ll turn him loose after the first of the new year.?