By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
The 31st Annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational is set for November 30 - December 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Hall C5).
This event is traditionally one of the toughest college tournaments of the year, and the first big opportunity for a large number of nationally-ranked athletes to test themselves in a highly-competitive tournament format.
There are nine team ranked in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll from Div. I wrestling which are entering teams this year. In order, they are No. 5 Ohio State, No. 7 Missouri, No. 8 Cornell, No. 9 Nebraska, No. 14 Michigan, No. 15 Oregon State, No. 17 Virginia, No. 19 Wyoming and No. 23 Kent State.
In total, 26 Div. I teams are in the field, many with ranked athletes looking to make a name for themselves. This tournament allows teams from across the nation to come to the West and test themselves against athletes who they may not see again until the NCAA Championships in March.
If that isn’t tough enough, there are three No. 1 ranked teams from other collegiate divisions in the field. Last year’s Div. II national champion Nebraska-Kearney holds the No. 1 ranking in their division. Ranked No. 1 in the current NJCAA Junior College national poll is North Idaho College, another entry in Vegas. The current No. 1 team in the NCWA is also entered in Las Vegas, California Baptist, which is in transition to the NCAA.
The top six teams from the 2011 Cliff Keen Invitational are entered in the field again this year. Ohio State was the team champion last year, followed in order by Michigan in second, Wyoming in third, Nebraska in fourth, Oregon State in fifth and Cornell in sixth.
Three Div. I national champions are expected, three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake of Cornell at 165 pounds, 2012 NCAA champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State at 133 pounds. and 2011 NCAA champion Dustin Kilgore of Kent State at 197 pounds.
Dake is attempting to be just the third athlete to win four NCAA Div. I titles, trying to join Pat Smith of Oklahoma State and Cael Sanderson of Iowa State in that rare company. Dake is the first wrestler to win NCAA Div. I titles in three different weight classes. He jumped up to 165 pounds this year, looking to extend that amazing feat to win four NCAA titles in four different weight divisions. Dake was fourth in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in freestyle.
Kilgore was the first NCAA Div. I champion from Kent State, and took an Olympic redshirt year last season to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. and seek a spot on the Olympic Team. He won the 2012 Pan American Championships, and improved considerably in international freestyle wrestling. One of the main questions this year is if any college wrestler will be able to give Kilgore a strong challenge as he returns to NCAA action as a senior with increased confidence and skill.
Stieber won his NCAA Div. I title last year as a freshman, defeating 2011 NCAA champion Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State in the finals. Like Dake and Kilgore, he is a talented freestyle wrestler, reaching the finals of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials where he lost to eventual Olympic bronze medalist Coleman Scott in the final series. Stieber is also a past Junior World silver medalist.
Stieber and Dake are among the four returning champions from last year who are eligible to compete. Dake won his 2011 title at 157 pounds, and is expected at 165 pounds, while Stieber will remain at 133 pounds. The other returning champions are Oregon State’s Michael Mangrum at 141 pounds and Michigan’s Eric Grajales at 149 pounds.
Three 2011 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational runners-up are also expected to compete: Hunter Stieber of Ohio State at 141 pounds, Cole VonOhlen of Air Force at 149 pounds and Peter Capone of Ohio State at 285 pounds.
Every weight class could feature at least five wrestlers who currently hold a national ranking from the most recent Amateur Wrestling News. Some weights have eight or more ranked wrestlers, meaning some great matchups could occur early, even prior to the quarterfinals.
The 149 pounds weight class has 10 athletes who are ranked in the current Amateur Wrestling News rankings. Returning Cliff Keen champion Eric Grajales of Michigan isn’t the highest ranked nationally, with a No. 7 ranking. Ahead of him in the current rankings are Scott Sakaguchi of Oregon State (No. 3) and Jason Chamberlain (No. 4). Last year’s Cliff Keen runner-up Cole VonOhlen of Air Force has a No. 8 national ranking this week with AWN.
Kilgore is not the only top contender who is coming off an Olympic redshirt year. The two wrestlers with the highest national rankings in the field at 285 pounds were both Olympic redshirts, No. 4 Dom Bradley of Missouri and No. 6 Chad Hanke of Oregon State. While Bradley was an NCAA All-American at heavyweight in 2011, Hanke moved up in weight during his Olympic redshirt year and is expected to do very well competing against the big boys based upon his success in freestyle at heavyweight.
Two other exciting stars coming off Olympic redshirt, where they got considerable international freestyle experience, are No. 5 Tyler Graff of Wisconsin at 141 pounds and No. 4 Jason Chamberlain of Boise State at 149 pounds.
This tournament is also a great opportunity for freshmen to have a breakthrough and make a name for themselves against well-known athletes who are older and more experienced.
Two of the freshmen in the field hold No. 11 AWN rankings coming into the event, Nahshon Garrett of Cornell at 125 pounds and Ian Nickell of CSU-Bakersfield at 133 pounds. Last year’s top high school recruit, Taylor Massa, is competing as a true freshman for Michigan and has a No. 19 ranking at 165 pounds.
Other nationally ranked freshmen expected to compete are George DiCamillo of Virginia (No. 17 at 133), Camryn Jackson of Michigan (No. 15 at 141), Matt Miller of Navy (No. 14 at 174), Craig Scott of Cornell (No. 19 at 184) and Connor Medbery of Wisconsin (No. 14 at heavyweight).
With all of that said, the big stories at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational are often unexpected performances, where athletes disregard the rankings and the hype and perform under the lights. Who will be the big names stepping up this year? We will have to see this weekend.
Flowrestling will be live streaming the semifinals and finals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational for those who are Techwave subscribers. For information, visit:
Flowrestling webcast information
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CLIFF KEEN LAS VEGAS INVITATIONAL
At Las Vegas, Nev., November 30 – December 1
Division I Ranked Teams in field
No. 5 Ohio State, No. 7 Missouri, No. 8 Cornell, No. 9 Nebraska, No. 14 Michigan, No. 15 Oregon State, No. 17 Virginia, No. 19 Wyoming, No. 23 Kent State
Other Division I teams in field
Air Force, American, Army, Arizona State, Boise State, Brown, Cal Poly, Cal State Bakersfield, Harvard, Navy, Northern Colorado, Northern Iowa, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Utah Valley, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Div. II teams in field
No. 1 Nebraska-Kearney, No. 17 San Francisco State, Colorado State- Pueblo
NJCAA teams in field
No. 1 North Idaho College, No. 14 Western Wyoming
NCWA team in field
No. 1 California Baptist
Returning Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational finalists
Logan Stieber, Ohio State (133 champion)
Michael Mangrum, Oregon State (141 champion)
Eric Grajales, Michigan (149 champion)
Kyle Dake, Cornell (157 champion, now at 165)
Hunter Stieber, Ohio State (141 runner-up)
Cole VonOhlen, Air Force (149 runner-up)
Peter Capone, Ohio State (285 runner-up)
The top six teams from last year return. Last year’s standings:
1.Ohio State; 2. Michigan, 3. Wyoming, 4. Nebraska, 5. Oregon State, 6. Cornell
125 lbs. ranked wrestlers projected to compete
Alan Waters, Missouri, No. 4 AWN
Trent Sprenkle, North Dakota State, No. 5 AWN
Matt Snyder, Virginia, No. 8 AWN
Nahshon Garrett, Cornell, No. 11 AWN
Sean Boyle, Michigan, No. 14 AWN
Nikko Triggas, Ohio State, No. 15 AWN
Tyler Iwamura, CSU Bakersfield, No. 17 AWN
Jesse Hillhouse, CSU-Pueblo, No. 7 Div. II
133 pounds ranked wrestlers projected to compete
Logan Steiber, Ohio State, No. 1 AWN
Nathan McCormick, Missouri, No. 6 AWN
Ian Nickell, CSU Bakersfield, No. 11 AWN
Devon Lotito, Cal Poly, No. 12 AWN
Nick Arujau, Cornell, No. 15 AWN
Brian Owen, Boise State, No. 16 AWN
George DiCamillo, Virginia, No. 17 AWN
Val Rauser, Utah Valley, No. 20 AWN
Alex Anunciation, California Baptist, 2011 NCWA runner-up
141 pounds ranked wrestlers projected to compete
Hunter Stieber, Ohio State, No. 2 AWN
Tyler Graff, Wisconsin, No. 5 AWN
Michael Mangrum, Oregon State, No. 6 AWN
Mike Nevinger, Cornell, No. 7 AWN
Tyler Small, Kent State, No. 12 AWN
Steven Keith, Harvard, No. 14 AWN
Camryn Jackson, Michigan, No. 15 AWN
Nick Hucke, Missouri, No. 18 AWN
Jarrett Morrill, North Idaho College, 2011 NJCAA 8th place
Bradford Gerl, California Baptist, 2011 NCWA 6th place
149 pounds ranked wrestlers projected to compete
Scott Sakaguchi, Oregon State, No. 3 AWN
Jason Chamberlain, Boise State, No. 4 AWN
Eric Grajales, Michigan, No. 7 AWN
Cole VonOhlen, Air Force, No. 8 AWN
Derek Valenti, Virginia, No. 11 AWN
Cam Tessari So. Ohio State, No. 12 AWN
Drake Houdashelt, Missouri, No. 15 AWN
Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska, No. 16 AWN
Nathan Hoffer, Arizona State, No. 17 AWN
Daniel Young, Army, No. 20 AWN
Raufeon Stotts, Nebraska-Omaha, No. 1 Div. II
Dylan Phillipy, San Francisco State, No. 5 Div. II
Dylan Cataline, California Baptist, 2011 NCWA runner-up
157 pounds ranked wrestlers projected to compete
James Green, Nebraska, No. 4 AWN
Josh Demas, Ohio State, No. 10 AWN
R.J. Pena Jr. Oregon State, No. 11 AWN
Bobby Barnhisel, Navy, No. 12 AWN
David Bonin, Northern Iowa, No 16 AWN
Jedd Moore, Virginia, No. 18 AWN
165 pounds ranked wrestlers projected to compete
Kyle Dake, Cornell, No. 1 AWN
Steven Monk, North Dakota State, No. 7 AWN
Nick Sulzer, Virginia, No. 8 AWN
Zach Toal, Missouri, No. 18 AWN
Taylor Massa, Michigan, No. 19 AWN
Trevor Grant, CSU-Pueblo, No. 7 Div. II
174 pounds ranked wrestlers projected to compete
Nick Heflin, Ohio State, No. 2 AWN
Robert Kokesh, Nebraska, No. 6 AWN
Jon Fausey, Virginia, No. 9 AWN
Dan Yates, Michigan, No. 11 AWN
Matt Miller, Navy, No. 14 AWN
Todd Porter, Missouri, No. 15 AWN
Cody Caldwell, Northern Iowa, No. 17 AWN
Austin Morehead, Oregon State, No. 19 AWN
Kyle Sweedman, North Idaho College, 2011 NJCAA runner-up
184 pounds ranked wrestlers projected to compete
Josh Ihnen, Nebraska, No. 5 AWN
Ryan Loder, Northern Iowa, No. 6 AWN
Mike Larson, Missouri, No. 8 AWN
Jacob Swartz, Boise State, No. 11 AWN
Casey Newburg, Kent State, No. 12 AWN
Mac Stoll, North Dakota State, No. 16 AWN
Ty Vinson, Oregon State , No. 18 AWN
Craig Scott, Cornell, No. 19 AWN
Caleb Rivera, North Idaho College, 2011 NJCAA 7th place
197 pounds ranked wrestlers projected to compete
Dustin Kilgore, Kent State, No. 1 AWN
Alfonso Hernandez, Wyoming, No. 4 AWN
Brent Haynes, Missouri, No. 5 AWN
Taylor Meeks, Oregon State, No. 10 AWN
Cody Magrum, Ohio State, No. 14 AWN
Maxwell Huntley, Michigan, No. 15 AWN
Jake Meredith, Arizona State, No. 16 AWN
Jackson Hein, Wisconsin, No. 19 AWN
Matt Lenagh, Nebraska-Kearney, No. 7 Div. II
285 pounds ranked wrestlers projected to compete
Dom Bradley, Missouri, No. 4 AWN
Chad Hanke, Oregon State , No. 6 AWN
Levi Cooper, Arizona State, No. 13 AWN
Connor Medbery, Wisconsin, No. 14 AWN
Peter Capone, Ohio State, No. 15 AWN
Kevin Barrett, Nebraska-Kearney, No. 3 Div. II
Zach Merrill, California Baptist, 2011 NCWA champion
CLIFF KEEN LAS VEGAS INVITATIONAL EVENT SCHEDULE
Friday, November 30, 2012
9:00am: Pigtail Round, Round 1, Round 2, Consolation Pigtails & Consolation Round 1
6:00pm: Quarter Finals & Consolation Round 2 & 3
Saturday, December 1, 2012
9:00am: Consolation Round 4
10:00am: Semi-Finals and Consolation Round 5, Consolation Semi Finals, Consolation Finals (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th)
3:00pm: CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS 1st & 2nd