Updated AWN Preview: 2012 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

The Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational will kick off tomorrow (Friday) at 9:00 a.m. PST. The field is loaded with nine teams ranked in the USA Today/NWCA/AWN Division I Coaches Poll. The highest ranked team is fifth ranked Ohio State.  There are 68 wrestlers who are currently ranked in the AWN top 20 competing in this tournament. That is 34% of all ranked wrestlers for you math people.

We will break down each weight and offer up our predictions.

*NOTE there appears to be several wrestlers who are not seeded yet are ranked. Most likely they will not be wrestling. We are leaving them in, just in case.

Returning Champions from 2011

  •  133 – Logan Stieber, Ohio State
  • 141 – Michael Mangrum, Oregon State
  • 149 – Eric Grajales, Michigan
  • 157 – Kyle Dake, Cornell

 Team Champion in 2011

  •  Ohio State


Ranked Wrestlers (seed)

  •  (1) #4 Alan Waters, Missouri
  • (2) #5 Trent Sprenkle, North Dakota State
  • (3) #8 Matt Snyder, Virginia
  • (4) #11 Nahshon Garrett, Cornell
  • (5)#14 Sean Boyle, Michigan
  • (6) #15 Nikko Triggas, Ohio State
  • (7) #17 Tyler Iwamura, CSU Bakersfield
  • (8) Josh Martinez, Air Force Academy

There are seven nationally ranked wrestlers in this weight and two of them are in the top five. The early and slight favorite at the weight will be fifth ranked Allen Waters of Missouri. Waters is 9-0 on the season. The second favorite will be another undefeated wrestler from North Dakota State sixth ranked Trent Sprenkle. Sprenkle was fifth here a year ago. He is also fresh of his win over David Thorn of Minnesota. A win here could move him closer to the top of the rankings. Matt Synder of Virginia is also ranked in the top 10. Cornell newcomer Nahshon Garrett continues to move up the rankings and now sits 11th. He has an impressive 13-0 record and should be considered a real threat to win the weight. After this weekend, we will know a lot more about where he fits into the national landscape at this weight. Sean Boyle of Michigan has the talent and ability to go with the top guys in the country. This weekend will be a great test to see where he is at. Ohio States Niko Triggas has had a rough start to the year, but if he continues to improve he should be a factor this weekend. One person you may want to keep an eye on is Tyler Iwamura of CSU Bakersfield. Iwamura has quietly posted a 9-0 record on the year and could surprise many.

 Dark Horse:   Josh Martinez, Air Force Academy


  1. Trent Sprenkle, North Dakota State
  2. Alan Waters, Missouri
  3. Nahshon Garrett, Cornell
  4. Matt Snyder, Virginia


 Ranked Wrestlers

  • (1) #1 Logan Stieber, Ohio State
  • (2) #6 Nathan McCormick, Missouri
  • (4) #11 Ian Nickell, CSU Bakersfield
  • (5) #12 Devon Lotito, Cal Poly
  • #15 Nick Arujau, Cornell
  • (3) #16 Brian Owen, Boise State
  • (6) #17 George DiCamillo, Virginia
  • #20 Val Rauser, Utah Valley
  • (7) Colin Johnston, West Virginia
  • (8) Levi Wolfensperger, Northern Iowa

This is a deep weight with eight nationally ranked wrestlers. With that said there is a clear favorite here and that is returning national champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State. He also won this tournament in 2011. Stieber is off to a perfect 7-0 start. His biggest threat may come from the 10-0 Nathan McCormick of Missouri. McCormick has already faced some solid competition and should be ready for this one. Most of you may not know much about Ian Nickell of CSU Bakersfield, but he has a solid 10-1 record coming into this tournament. This will be a great test for him and it will also let us know where he fits compared to the others ranked at this weight. Much like Nickell most people have probably not heard much about Devon Lotito of Cal Poly. Lotito opened some eyes in his last tournament beating several good wrestlers. He does have a loss to Nickell on the year. Boise States Brian Owen could be a factor if he wrestlers to form. There are two real wild cards in this one. The first is Nick Arujau or Cornell. Arujau made us pay attention when he pinned Oklahoma’s Cody Brewer last week. The issue with him has been consistency. If he wrestles at his best he could mix things up this weekend. The second wildcard is George DiCamillo of Virginia. DiCamillo has been impressive thus far going 11-1. His only loss so far was to Tony Ramos of Iowa. This will be his toughest test and he will have to make it through several ranked wrestlers if he is to place in the top four.

 Dark Horse: Rossi Bruno, Michigan


  1. Logan Stieber, Ohio State
  2. Nathan McCormick, Missouri
  3. Ian Nickell, CSU Bakersfield
  4. George DiCamillo, Virginia


 Ranked Wrestlers

  • (1) #2 Hunter Stieber, Ohio State
  • (3) #5 Tyler Graff, Wisconsin
  • (2) #6 Michael Mangrum, Oregon State
  • #12 Tyler Small, Kent State
  • (4) #14 Steven Keith, Harvard
  • (6) #15 Camryn Jackson, Michigan
  • #18 Nick Hucke, Missouri
  • (5) Joe Locksmith, Navy
  • (7) Ridge Kiley, Nebraska
  • (8) Nathan Pennesi, West Virginia

This weight is loaded and could play out any number of ways. We are almost certain that when this is all said and done there will be a shake-up in the rankings. Seeding will be interesting that is for sure. Stieber is the slight early favorite here. He has yet to lose a match this season, not counting his intra-squad match. Michael Mangrum is the returning champion at this weight and will most likely be looking to get things back on track after his upset loss to Jackson of Michigan who is also in this weight. Tyler Graff is back for the Badgers and is 4-1 on the season. The more Graff gets back to form the more dangerous he will become. Cornell’s Mike Nevinger has two odd losses on the year, but he has also showed some real dominance. Of his 13 wins eight have been by fall or technical fall. Tyler Small of Kent State only has two losses on the year but will need to step things up if he wants a top four finish this weekend. Keith surprised many last year but has started the year off a little slow going 6-3 so far. The one guy who may really mess things up for those above is Jackson from Michigan. As we stated he knock of Mangrum a few weeks ago and is 5-0 on the year.

 Dark Horse: Skylar Galloway, Nebraska


  1.  Michael Mangrum, Oregon State
  2. Hunter Stieber, Ohio State
  3. Tyler Graff, Wisconsin
  4. Steven Keith, Harvard


Ranked Wrestlers

  • (1) #3 Scott Sakaguchi, Oregon State
  • (2) #4 Jason Chamberlain, Boise State
  • (3) #7 Eric Grajales, Michigan
  • (4) #8 Cole VonOhlen, Air Force Academy
  • (5) #11 Derek Valenti, Virginia
  • (6) #12 Cam Tessari, Ohio State
  • (7) #15 Drake Houdashelt, Missouri
  • (8) #16 Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska
  • #17 Nathan Hoffer, Arizona State
  • (10) #20 Daniel Young, Army
  • (8) Dustin Walraven, South Dakota State

Something to note at 149 pounds is that over half of the nationally ranked wrestlers are entered in this tournament. This tells us it will be one tough weight and we should see ranked wrestlers hitting each other in the quarter finals. The one to beat as of now is Scott Sakaguchi of Oregon State. He is a perfect 5-0 coming in and is coming off a big win over Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain a week ago. Chamberlain will be looking to reverse that loss but will have to navigate a very tough field. We are guessing on the seeds but he will most likely have Michigan’s Eric Grajales on his side and a likely semifinal match with him. Like Chamberlain his only loss also came at the hands of Sakaguchi. Sakaguchi will have his hands full on the top half, assuming the seeds play out how we expect. He will have Cole VonOhlen of Air Force in the semifinal. Again, we are making certain assumptions and there are plenty of other wrestlers here that could change all of it. Virginia’s Valenti is one of those guys. Valenti is sitting at 6-1 on the year. Tessari of Ohio State is off to a slow 3-2 start and has a loss to Army wrestler Daniel Young. Young is an interesting guy at the weight. He has five losses but all of them have been to top 20 wrestlers. He also has the win we already pointed out. Keep your eye on him.

 Dark Horse: Justin Gonzalez, Northern Colorado


  1.  Cole VonOhlen, Air Force Academy
  2. Jason Chamberlain, Boise State
  3. Scott Sakaguchi, Oregon State
  4. Eric Grajales, Michigan


 Ranked Wrestlers

  • (1) #4 James Green, Nebraska
  • (2) #10 Josh Demas, Ohio State
  • (3) #11 R.J. Pena, Oregon State
  • (4) #12 Bobby Barnhisel, Navy
  • (5) #16 David Bonin, Northern Iowa
  • (9) #18 Jedd Moore, Virginia
  • (6) George Ivanov, Boise State
  • (7) Andy McCulley, Wyoming
  • (8) Kyle Bradley, Missouri
  • (10) Cody Pack, South Dakota State

The clear favorite here is the 10-0 James Green from Nebraska. He has been dominate thus far posting seven wins where earned bonus points. The seeds will again be interesting; if they play out based on the current ranking Navy’s Barnhisel would most likely see Green in the semifinal. Based on how he is wrestling he may be the best bet to knock off Green. Barnhisel is 13-0 on the season and that may help him in seeding. Josh Demas of Ohio State is also undefeated. He will face much better competition this weekend and should be tested. R.J. Pena of Oregon State has suffered a loss this year, but he has the ability to wrestle with anyone in the country. This tournament should let is know where Virginia’s Jedd Moore fits into the big picture. His only two losses were to top 10 wrestlers and a good showing here could bode well for him in the rankings.

 Dark Horse: Kyle Bradley, Missouri


  1. James Green, Nebraska
  2. R.J. Pena, Oregon State
  3. Bobby Barnhisel, Navy
  4. Josh Demas, Ohio State


 Ranked Wrestlers

  • (1) #1 Kyle Dake, Cornell
  • (2) #7 Steven Monk, North Dakota State
  • (3) #8 Nick Sulzer, Virginia
  • (4) #18 Zach Toal, Missouri
  • (5) #19 Taylor Massa, Michigan
  • (6) Austin Wilson, Nebraska
  • (7) Joseph Brewster, South Dakota State
  • (8) Holden Packard, Boise State

There is an obvious favorite at this weight at that would be the three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake from Cornell. We will be honest and just say we fully expect him to win this one. Looking to try and knock him off is a handful of candidates. North Dakota State’s Steven Monk is one of them. Monk is a perfect 7-0 so far this year. Monk does have a different style so it may be an interesting match up if he and Dake meet. Nick Sulzer of Virginia is only 4-2 on the season but those two losses came at the hands of two top 10 wrestlers. He has to be considered a threat to reach the finals. Zach Toal has all the talent and ability in the world to make a run to the finals this weekend. The question is; will he? Other outlets have Massa ranked pretty high. This weekend should tell us a lot about where he is at in his true freshman year. A solid finish here would move him up on our board.

 Dark Horse: Abner Cook, Utah Valley

  1.  Kyle Dake, Cornell
  2. Steven Monk, North Dakota State
  3. Taylor Massa, Michigan
  4. Nick Sulzer, Virginia


 Ranked Wrestlers

  • (1)#2 Nick Heflin, Ohio State
  • (2) #6 Robert Kokesh, Nebraska
  • (3) #9 Jon Fausey, Virginia
  • (4) #11 Dan Yates, Michigan
  • (5) #14 Matt Miller, Navy
  • (6) #15 Todd Porter, Missouri
  • (8) #17 Cody Caldwell, Northern Iowa
  • (7) #19 Austin Morehead, Oregon State

This will be an interesting bracket. It is one of the more balanced weights. Ohio State’s Nick Helfin is the early favorite. He is currently 6-0 on the season. His biggest threat may come from Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh. Kokesh lost a close bout to Minnesota’s Logan Storely this year, but was right there with him. John Fausey of Virginia has yet to lose on the year and recently beat Iowa wrestler Grant Gambrall. Yates of Michigan is 5-0 and will be tested this weekend. The wrestler we think may surprise the most people is Navy’s Matt Miller. He is 11-0 on the season and has been impressive. We would not be shocked at all if he made a run to the finals. We are very interested to see how Cody Caldwell of Northern Iowa does this weekend. He could sneak up and surprise a higher seed. Rounding the group of contenders out is Oregon State’s Austin Morehead. Morehead is 5-1 on the year. His only loss was to Yates from Michigan.

 Dark Horse: Bryce Hammond, CSU Bakersfield


  1. Robert Kokesh, Nebraska
  2. Nick Heflin, Ohio State
  3. Matt Miller, Navy
  4. Jon Fausey, Virginia


 Ranked Wrestlers

  •  (1) #5 Josh Ihnen, Nebraska
  • (2) #6 Ryan Loder, Northern Iowa
  • (3) #8 Mike Larson, Missouri
  • (4) #11 Jacob Swartz, Boise State
  • (5) #12 Casey Newburg, Kent State
  • (6) #16 Mac Stoll, North Dakota State
  • (7) #18 Ty Vinson, Oregon State
  • (8) #19 Criag Scott, Cornell
  • (9) Kevin Radford, Arizona State
  • (10) Stephen Doty, Virginia

Not much separates our top three guys at this weight. The slight favorite is Ihnen of Nebraska. His only loss was to Steinhaus of Minnesota. We expect this to be the real debut of Loder from Northern Iowa. If he wrestles at the level he can, he may be the one to beat this weekend. Missouri’s Larson is off to a great start with his 10-1 record. The semifinal at this weight may be just as good as the finals. Swartz has been ok  for Boise State and can always sneak up on people.  Both Stoll of North Dakota State and Scott of Cornell will be looking to move up the rankings with solid performances this weekend. The one wrestler we think that may also doe well is Casey Newburg of Kent State. Newburg has won two opens and sits at 12-0.

Dark Horse: Stephen Doty, Virginia


  1. Josh Ihnen, Nebraska
  2. Mike Larson, Missouri
  3. Ryan Loder, Northern Iowa
  4. Casey Newburg, Kent State


 Ranked Wrestlers

  •  (1) #1 Dustin Kilgore, Kent State
  • (2) #4 Alfonso Hernandez, Wyoming
  • (3) #5 Brent Haynes, Missouri
  • (4) #10 Taylor Meeks, Oregon State
  • (5) Andrew Campolattano (Ohio State)
  • #15 Maxwell Huntley, Michigan
  • (7) #16 Jake Meredith, Arizona State
  • (8) #19 Jackson Hein, Wisconsin
  • (6) Peter Huntley, Navy
  • (9) Jace Bennett (Cornell)

We have two wrestlers in the top five at this weight. National champion Dustin Kilgore of Kent State is the early favorite. Well, really he is the favorite no matter what. He will get a strong challenge from Wyoming’s Alfonso Hernandez who is 9-0 on the season. Of his nine wins five have been by fall and two were by technical fall. This has all the makings of a great final. Let us not leave out Brent Haynes of Missouri. Haynes is a perfect 10-0. Last year he went on a roll knocking top guys off with no problem. He has always had the talent and maybe this is the year he puts it all together. But they will both have to get there first. Taylor Meeks of Oregon State has yet to lose on the season and will be looking to keep it that way. Ohio State’s Mangrum moved up a weight and thus far has been solid. This tournament should tell us a lot more about how he fits into the weight. Huntley is only 2-2 on the season, but both those losses came to people ranked above him. Meredith from Arizona State is a perfect 5-0 on the season but will face his first real test this weekend. Rounding out the group is Wisconsin’s Jackson Hein. He brings in the same record as Meredith and the same hopes to leave this weekend with a win.

 Dark Horse: Jace Bennett, Cornell


  1. Dustin Kilgore, Kent State
  2. Alfonso Hernandez, Wyoming
  3. Brent Haynes, Missouri
  4. Taylor Meeks, Oregon State


Ranked Wrestlers

  • (1) #4 Dom Bradley, Missouri
  • (2) #6 Chad Hanke, Oregon State
  • (3) #13 Levi Cooper, Arizona State
  • (5) #14 Connor Medbery, Wisconsin
  • (6) #15 Peter Capone, Ohio State
  • (4) Ben Apland, Michigan
  • (7) Blake Herrin, American
  • (8) Tanner Harms, Wyoming
  • (9) Atticus Disney, Cal Poly


There may be only five ranked wrestlers at the weight, but it should produce some good matches. Leading the way is Missouri wrestler Dom Bradley. Bradley has a 10-0 record heading into the tournament. This will be the first time he will top 20 opponents. Chad Hanke of Oregon State is right there with Bradley and also has a perfect 7-0 record of his own. This will also be the first time he faces top level wrestlers. On paper these two are headed on a collision course for the finals. Levi Cooper of Arizona State has to be considered a contender, but his inconsistent performances make us wonder how he will do this weekend. Keep your eye on the freshman out of Wisconsin, Connor Medbery. Medbery is 3-0 and is coming off a great redshirt season. It would not be surprising to see him pull an upset this weekend. Rounding out this group is Ohio State’s Peter Capone. Capone made his bones at this tournament last year placing second and knocking off several ranked wrestlers along the way. Maybe he will find that groove again this year.

 Dark Horse: Tanner Harms, Wyoming


  1. Dom Bradley, Missouri
  2. Chad Hanke, Oregon State
  3. Connor Medbery, Wisconsin
  4. Peter Capone, Ohio State

Team Prediction: Missouri