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Dec. 7, 2002

Columbus, Ohio – The 5th-ranked Ohio State wrestling squad has jumped out to an early and impressive 5.5-point lead in the early stages of the 2002 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Friday. The Buckeyes have captured first place after the initial day of competition behind the efforts of seniors Keaton Anderson (157, Pickerington, Ohio), Antan Talamantes (197, Ft. Wayne, Ind.), Nick Stepanovich (184, Berea, Ohio) and juniors Tommy Rowlands (HWT, Hilliard, Ohio), John Clark (165, Canton, N.Y.), Blake Kaplan (174, Cincinnati, Ohio)and Jeff Ratliff (141, Marion, Ohio), who each have contributed significant points to the Buckeye cause.

Ohio State stakes claim to first place after Friday’s preliminary rounds with a team total of 86.5, which bests second place West Virginia, who holds strong with a first day mark of 81.0. Three fellow Big Ten schools round out the Top 5 as reigning 2002 national champion Minnesota placed third, Michigan fourth and Illinois finds itself in fifth place following Friday’s action.

Individually, Rowlands, the defending heavyweight national champion, has lead the way in the initial day of competition as he topped his first three opponents via fall and tallied a 7-3 decision over Boise State’s Boe Rushton in the quarterfinals. Rowlands, who has now improved to 13-0 on the season, pinned each of his first three counterparts less than six minutes into each match.

Representing OSU at the 165-pound class, Clark has registered two major decisions combined with a fall in the second round to advance to Saturday’s placing rounds, while fellow junior Kaplan claimed OSU’s other fall in the round of 32 over Don Schon of UC-Davis and tight 8-6 and 4-3 decisions in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, respectively, for the right to vie for a title on Saturday in the 184-pound weight class.

Buckeye senior Keaton Anderson, who has dominated his opponents on his way to a 13-0 start and two tourney crowns thus far in 2002, claimed major decision wins in the first two rounds and a 12-7 edge over Illinois’ Alex Tirepella in the quarterfinals as Anderson will compete for his third individual tournament title in as many events this season on Saturday.

In the 197-pound class, Talamantes will strive for his second title of 2002 on Saturday as he combined a technical fall, major decision and a 5-3 win in each of his first three rounds to qualify for a chance to win this year’s event.

Ohio State 141 Ratliff dropped his first round match, but rebounded to claim wins in each of the next two rounds and advance on to Saturday, while OSU 184 Stepanovich conquered the rounds of 32 and 16, but fell short in the quarterfinals.

The Buckeyes will begin to defend their advantage in the team competition at 9 a.m. (PST) on Saturday.

Official Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Day One Tournament Team Standings

1. Ohio State: 86.5 2. West Virginia: 81.0 3. Minnesota: 80.5 4. Michigan: 68.0 5. Illinois: 64.0 6. Arizona State: 60.5 7. Wisconsin: 59.0 8. Nebraska: 53.0 9. Missouri: 44.0 10. Purdue: 43.0 11. Colby: 41.0 12. Harvard: 40.0 13. Air Force: 35.5 14. V.M.I. : 32.5 15. Wyoming: 32.5 16. Fresno State: 32.0 17. Cal-State Fullerton: 31.5 18. Boise State: 30.0 19. Cal Poly: 29.5 20. North Dakota State: 28.5