UNC staff reporter - Las Vegas, Nev. – Trey Andrews , Timmy Box , and Dylan Gabel  all made it to the quarterfinals on Friday, with Trey Andrews being the lone Bear to advance to the semifinals at the Cliff Keen Invitational.
How It Happened:
As predicted, Andrews competed at an elite level during the first day of the invite, and punched his ticket to the semifinals Saturday morning. It was a solid day of wrestling for Andrews, which included a fall, a major decision, and a double overtime victory to ensure he will automatically place at this tournament for the third consecutive year.
Andrews faced Sean Nickell of Cal State Bakersfield in the first round, and made quick work of his opponent with a fall in 6:10. In the second round, Andrews had a bit of a rocky start, as he started the match down 6-0. Despite the deficit, Andrews was able to rally back and dominated the rest of the match en route to 19-8 major decision over Cole Verner of Western Wyoming. Next up were the quarterfinals where Andrews arguably wrestled the best match of his collegiate career.
In dramatic fashion, Andrews gutted out a double overtime victory over the No. 2 seed and No. 7 wrestler in the country, Connor Schram from Stanford. Schram is a returning All-American, but this did not faze Andrews, as he battled for 10 minutes in order to come away with a huge win. It was a low scoring affair, with the match all knotted up at 2-2 at the end of third period. The first overtime period saw no scoring, but Andrews ramped up the pressure, and it carried over into the second overtime period. Andrews was on top to start the first: 30-second overtime and rode out Schram the entire period. The second: 30 second period Andrews was on bottom, and he immediately escaped. Schram gave up a third caution at the end of the period resulting in a point for Andrews, and brought the score to 4-2.
Andrews will wrestle in the semifinals Saturday morning against Jose Rodriguez from Ohio State.
Timmy Box delivered another impressive performance on the mat, which included another win over a Top 25 opponent.
In the first round, Box upset the No. 8 seed and No. 19 wrestler in the nation in Kyle Springer of Eastern Michigan. Winning by major decision, 16-8, Box has now beat two Top 25 opponents in back-to-back matches. His second match was much quicker, as Box dominated Kenny Astle of Western Wyoming with a 16-0 tech fall in the first period, earning a spot in the quarterfinals.
In the quarterfinals, Box faced No. 1 seed and No. 2 wrestler in the country, Joey Mckenna from Stanford. Box fell short, and was pinned by McKenna in the first period.
Box will wrestle tomorrow morning in the consolation bracket against No. 5 seed Tyler Smith from Bucknell University. If Box wins, he will automatically place in the Top 8.
The last wrestler to compete in the quarterfinals this evening was Dylan Gabel. Gabel won his first match via major decision 14-0, over Parker Von Egidy of West Virginia. In his second match, Gabel edged out Carson Powell of Iowa State in back-to-back weeks, with 2-0 win. Next were the quarterfinals, where Gabel faced No. 3 seed No. 7 ranked Zack Zavatsky of Virginia Tech.
Gabel competed well, but ultimately could not defeat Zavatsky. Gabel lost 9-5, and is looking to bounce back tomorrow morning in the consolation bracket. Gabel will face No. 5 seed Steven Schneider of Binghamton. Just like Box, if Gabel wins, he will automatically place top 8.
Two other wrestlers who had impressive showings today were Rico Montoya  and Keilan Torres .
Montoya won his first round match via tech fall, 15-0 over Joe Nelson of Binghamton. In his second match, Montoya lost a tough match to No. 7 seed Mitch McKee of Minnesota. Montoya bounced back though with a gritty performance against No. 9 seed Luke Welch of Purdue, by grinding out a 13-8 win.
Once again though, Montoya faced No. 4 Earl Hall of Iowa State, and fell short. This match featured multiple lead changes with Hall coming out on top 9-7.
Torres had a solid day of wrestling day, even after losing his first match against Vincent Deprez of Binghamton. Torres bounced back and owned his next three matches, demonstrating why he has the potential to make some noise as the year goes on.
Torres defeated his second opponent Dominic Kincaid of Cal Baptist University 3-0. Up next was a familiar opponent in Dane Pestano of Iowa State, who Torres beat in dramatic fashion in the last two seconds last week. This time Torres left no room for doubt, as he pinned Pestano in 1:38, increasing his pin total to seven on the year.
In his third match, Torres faced Demetrius Romero of Boise State, and dictated the entire pace of the match, coming out with a 15-3 major decision victory. The last match of the tournament for Torres featured a tough opponent in Cody Burcher of Ohio State. Burcher narrowly defeated Torres 4-2, but Torres proved he is able compete with the best in the country today.
For the third straight year, redshirt senior, Trey Andrews wrestled well enough to advance and day two and will place at the elite Cliff Keen Invitational.
In Their Words:
Head Coach, Troy Nickerson
"Overall I think we wrestled well today. Trey Andrews showed his true colors beating an All-American, and making it to the semifinals. We are excited Andrews has found his usual form, and we are eager to see how he competes tomorrow. Montoya wrestled the best we have seen all year, and is continually getting better as the year goes on. Torres continues to make adjustments, and we are anticipating this trend to continue as we get further into the season. Timmy Box delivered another defeat of a Top 25 opponent today, and is competing at an elite level so far this year. Dylan Gabel continues to grind out wins, and we look forward to him making a big win here soon. We are very excited to see Andrews, Box, and Gabel wrestle tomorrow, and see Box and Gabel join Andrews on the podium tomorrow evening."
Trey Andrews  and Timmy Box  both placed at the Cliff Keen Invitational this weekend, with 4th and 6th place finishes. As a team, Northern Colorado tied for 14th place with Purdue University, which is the highest team finish in program history.
How It Happened:
Andrews is no stranger to success at this tournament, with this being the third consecutive year he has come away with a plaque. This puts Andrews in an elite club, as he is the lone wrestler in Division I program history to place three times at the Cliff Keen Invitational. This is also the second time Andrews has finished fourth place, as he earned the same placing in 2014, followed up with a seventh place finish in 2015. In addition to placing three straight seasons, Andrews is also the first wrestler in Division I program history to reach the semifinals at the Cliff Keen Invitational as well.
This historic day for Andrews started in the semifinals against Jose Rodriguez of Ohio State. Andrews lost to the eventual second place finisher in Rodriguez, but managed to bounce back in his next match. In the consolation semifinals, Andrews wrestled against Noah Gosner of Eastern Michigan. It was a hard fought battle, and Andrews won via decision 8-5 over Gosner, sending him to the consolation finals.
In the third and fourth place match, Andrews fell to Sean Russell of Edinboro 7-1.
Traditionally Andrews has always brought his best performances in the month of December, as he seems to find his groove at this tournament. Andrews will need to keep this success rolling into the Southern Scuffle, in order to accomplish his goal of reaching the podium at the NCAA Championships.
Timmy Box had another solid day of wrestling, as he managed to come away as a sixth place winner. His first match of the day was another victory over another Top 25 opponent in No. 5 seed and No. 18 ranked Tyler Smith of Bucknell University. Box came out of the gates strong with the first takedown, and never let that momentum go, as he edged out a 7-6 win over Smith. Up next was Kyle Ayersman of Purdue, and Box dominated Ayersman with an 8-1 victory.
The next two matches were tough for Box, as he lost both. Box dropped matches to Cal State Bakersfield's Russell Rohlfing and Logan Everrett from Army.
Box had an impressive tournament with two wins over Top 20 opponents. His progression has been evident as the year goes on, and Box will aim to keep that progression rolling as the backside of the season approaches.
The other wrestler to compete in day two of the invite was Dylan Gabel, who dropped his only match of the day to Steven Schneider of Binghamton.
As a team, the Bears tied for 14th place out of 34 teams involved, which is also a Division I program first as well. In 2014, the Bears finished 15th, with two place winners as well. Northern Colorado continues to get better each and every time they step on the mat, and they continue to prove why they are a program on the rise. Competing well at a tournaments like the Cliff Keen Invitational is a big step in the right direction for UNC Wrestling to become legitimate contenders in the Big 12, and nationally as well.
The next month will be slow for the Bears, but will allow for some much needed recovery and training time before they compete in the Southern Scuffle January 1-2 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In their Words:
Head Coach, Troy Nickerson:
"As a whole, I feel our team wrestled really well this weekend. Coming away with two place winners in the Cliff Keen Invitational is a good step in the right direction. Trey Andrews continues to step up in December. Timmy Box had another great showing this weekend as well, defeating multiple Top 25 ranked opponents, which should put him in prime position to qualify for the NCAA Championships come March. Moving forward, we will head home and revaluate where we need to improve. We will get some much needed time between now and the Southern Scuffle to continue getting better, and get back to full health as well."