AWN Preview: Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational


By Eric John
The Open Mat

The 32nd Annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational will take place on December 6-7, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nev., at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This year’s event is loaded with talent, as 75 wrestlers are currently ranked in the Top 20 by Amateur Wrestling News. Expect a tight team race as well with 12 of the country’s Top 25 teams competing.

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125 Pounds

2012 Finals: Alan Waters (Missouri) won by decision over Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) 6-4

• No. 2 Nahshon Garrett, Cornell
• No. 4 Tyler Cox, Wyoming
• No. 6 Jarrod Patterson, Oklahoma
• No. 7 Josh Martinez, Air Force
• No. 8 Dylan Peters, Northern Iowa
• No. 11 Tim Lambert, Nebraska
• No. 14 Jade Rauser, Utah Valley
• No. 15 Conor Youtsey, Michigan
• No. 17 Joey Dance, Virginia Tech
• No. 19 David Terao, American

At 125 pounds, half of the top 20 wrestlers are entered. The early favorite is Nahshon Garrett of Cornell. Garrett opened a lot of eyes last season and has continued his success this year. He does have a loss to No. 1 Jesse Delgado of Illinois, but other than that he has been rock solid. This field is loaded with wrestlers who will push him. Wyoming’s Tyler Cox is also coming off a breakout season. He is 6-0 on the season and has posted bonus points in four of those six wins. Cox goes all out and at times his style can get him in trouble, but when he is on he is very dangerous. Jarrod Peterson (Oklahoma) is coming off a redshirt year and should be considered a threat at this weight. He has some solid wins already this year, but will face his toughest tests this weekend. Another undefeated wrestler is from the Air Force Academy in Josh Martinez. Martinez is off to a 6-0 start and a top 10 ranking. He had an impressive 9-1 win over No. 12 Evan Silver of Stanford early in the year. The one you may want to keep a close eye on is Northern Iowa’s Dylan Peters who enters the tournament 5-0 with five falls. He is considered one of the young stars at the weight and after this weekend, we should know more about where he is at in relation to the rest of the top 10.

Another up and comer is Nebraska’s Tim Lambert. Lambert had a strong redshirt year in 2013 and is 9-1 thus far with a solid win over a ranked opponent. Jade Rauser of Utah Valley has only wrestled four matches thus far and did lose to the only ranked opponent he faced. He did have a strong showing last year and will be tested this weekend. Michigan wrestler Conor Youtsey has been solid in his four starts this year only losing to Silver. Another freshman is Joey Dance (Virginia Tech). Dance is 8-1 this year and owns a win against David Terao of American. Terao started the year slow but has since won four in a row including a win over a top 10 opponent.

This may be the deepest weight at the tournament and the seeds may play a big role in who we see reach the finals. Garrett is the clear favorite, but will be pushed as early as the quarter finals. Seeing the young guys and how they do will be interesting.

1. Nahshon Garrett, Cornell
2. Tyler Cox, Wyoming
3. Jarrod Patterson, Oklahoma
4. Dylan Peters, Northern Iowa

133 Pounds

2012 Finals: Logan Stieber (Ohio State) won by major decision over Nathan McCormick (Missouri) 12-1

• No. 4 Joe Colon, Northern Iowa
• No. 6 Cody Brewer, Oklahoma
• No. 10 Mark Grey, Cornell
• No. 13 Johnni DiJulius, Ohio State
• No. 15 Colton McCrystal, Nebraska
• No. 19 Jamel Hudson, Hofstra

Joe Colon of Northern Iowa is back and he made a statement early when he beat then No. 2 Tyler Graff of Wisconsin in a dual last week 6-0. Colon has always showed talent and this may be the year he puts it all together. He is undefeated and earned bonus points in every match but one. There were high hopes for Oklahoma wrestler Cody Brewer this year, but he will need to bounce back after an 8-2 loss to No. 2 Jon Morrison of Oklahoma State. He had been dominating up until that match. A win this weekend puts him right back on track. Mark Grey (Cornell) was on a roll also before being upended last week by Illinois’ Zane Richards. Johnni DiJulius enters the tournament 9-1. This is by far the toughest field he has seen so far this season. One surprise so far this year at this weight has been Colton McCrystal (Nebraska). His only loss is to No. 3 Ryan Mango of Stanford. The Nebraska staff will get a good gauge on where he is at after this tournament. Another surprise has been Hofstra’s Jamel Hudson. Hudson does have two losses to wrestlers at the weight in Grey and Brewer.

If Colon can wrestle like he did last week, he will be very tough to beat. The real battle may be in the 3-6 range as we see some young wrestler battle for a place.

1. Joe Colon, Northern Iowa
2. Cody Brewer, Oklahoma
3. Johnni DiJulius, Ohio State
4. Colton McCrystal, Nebraska

141 Pounds

2012 Finals: Hunter Stieber (Ohio State) won by decision over Michael Mangrum (Oregon State) 9-6

• No. 1 Logan Stieber, Ohio State
• No. 3 Devin Carter, Virginia Tech
• No. 6 Luke Vaith, Hofstra
• No. 9 Mike Nevinger, Cornell
• No. 10 Joey Lazor, Northern Iowa
• No. 19 Joe Spisak, Virginia

Logan Stieber (Ohio State) is the frontrunner at 141 pounds. The two-time NCAA champion has moved up a weight, but that has not slowed him down. He is 4-0 with three falls and a technical fall so far this season. He will be facing a tougher field this weekend. His biggest challenge will most likely come from Devin Carter of Virginia Tech. Carter is off to a fast start as well going 9-0 with six pins, one technical fall and a major decision. He also has wins over three ranked opponents this year. Luke Vaith (Hofstra) only has one loss on the year, which was to Carter, but since then he as some impressive wins and has won 10 in a row. Mike Nevinger (Cornell) returned to action last week and went 1-1. Considering it was his first matches back and his loss was to a ranked opponent, he should be fine and should be pushing for a high placement this weekend. The wrestler that may be the biggest wild card is the always funky Joey Lazor (Northern Iowa). He is 3-0 and earned bonus in all three wins. He has a funky style that can cause people fits and that may work to his advantage here. Joe Spisak (Virginia) has dropped his last three matches and will look to rebound this weekend.

The match of the tournament may occur in this final if Stieber and Carter meet up. Keep your eye on Lazor as he may be able to pull off an upset.

1. Logan Stieber, Ohio State
2. Devin Carter, Virginia Tech
3. Joey Lazor, Northern Iowa
4. Mike Nevinger, Cornell

149 Pounds

2012 Finals: Jason Chamberlain (Boise State) won by decision over Cole VonOhlen (Air Force) 7-3

• No. 4 Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska
• No. 6 Kendric Maple, Oklahoma
• No. 8 Chris Villalonga, Cornell
• No. 10 Scott Sakaguchi, Oregon State
• No. 11 Gus Sako, Virginia
• No. 12 Zach Neibert, Virginia Tech
• No. 13 Eric Grajales, Michigan
• No. 14 Chris Castillo, Boise State
• No. 19 Blake Kastl, Cal Poly
• No. 20 Cody Ruggirello, Hofstra

Although the current No. 1 wrestler is not at this weight, two former top wrestlers are. Kendric Maple (Oklahoma) and Scott Sakaguchi (Oregon State) have both held the top spot this season. Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska) has two losses on the season. Maple, who is the 2013 NCAA champion at 141 pounds, has yet to beat a ranked opponent since moving up to 149 pounds. He will have plenty of chances to correct that this weekend as there are 10 ranked wrestlers competing. Sakaguchi is similar and is 0-3 against ranked opponents this year and has dropped three straight since being ranked No. 1. Both of these wrestlers will look to get things back on track in a very deep weight. Chirs Villalonga is a perfect 13-0 so far with a ranked win. What will be interesting is how they seed this weight. Villalonga could be seeded anywhere from second to fifth. Another undefeated wrestler is Virginia’s Gus Sako. Sako has wrestled well so far and has showed he can win big matches. He has a win over Zach Neibert (Virginia Tech) who was ranked ahead of him prior to that match. Neibert comes into the tournament having lost two of his last three. Eric Grajales is 2-2 with two surprise losses and two solid wins including a win over Sakaguchi. This has been the case most of his career, big wins and odd loses. If he is on, he could be dangerous at this weight as it appears many wrestlers are struggling with consistency. The Boise State staff has to be happy with how Chris Castillo has wrestled. He is off to a 6-0 start including a win over Sakaguchi. He may be the dark horse pick.

Overall this weight is really up in the air. Upwards of eight wrestlers could realistically win this weight.

1. Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska
2. Kendric Maple, Oklahoma
3. Chris Villalonga, Cornell
4. Gus Sako, Virginia

157 pounds

2012 Final: Roger Pena (Oregon State) won by decision over Jedd Moore (Virginia) 9-7

• No. 3 James Green, Nebraska
• No. 5 R.J. Pena, Oregon State
• No. 11 Andy McCulley, Wyoming
• No. 13 Max Schneider, Cal Poly
• No. 15 Brian Realbuto, Cornell
• No. 17 Justin DeAngelis, Oklahoma

Roger Pena (Oregon State) won this weight last year and will look to repeat. He does have a loss on the season to an unranked opponent, but has bounced back and won four in a row. He will have his hands full with undefeated James Green (Nebraska). Green has been dominating so far this season scoring bonus points in every match. Andy McCulley (Wyoming) has dropped two in a row including a match to Holden Packard (Boise State) who will be entered in the tournament. Our wild card at the weight is Max Schneider (Cal Poly). He is 6-0 with three pins and has an extensive background in Judo. He is fun to watch and scores points. He could be a factor this weekend. Another young wrestler to watch is Brian Realbuto (Cornell) who is 14-1 on the season. He has a wealth of talent and will be in the mix. Justin DeAngelis (Oklahoma) sits on an 8-1 record with his only loss coming last week against No. 2 Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State).

Green and Pena are the favorites, but it would not be a surprise if one of the young wrestlers jump up and make things interesting.

1. James Green, Nebraska
2. Max Schneider, Cal Poly
3. R.J. Pena, Oregon State
4. Brian Realbuto, Cornell

165 Pounds

2012 Finals: Kyle Dake (Cornell) won by decision over Steven Monk (North Dakota State) 6-0

• No. 3 Nick Sulzer, Virginia
• No. 7 Michael Moreno, Iowa State
• No. 9 Dan Yates, Michigan
• No. 12 Joe Booth, Hofstra
• No. 17 Cooper Moore, Northern Iowa
• No. 18 Alex Elder, Oregon State
• No. 20 Nijel Jones, North Carolina State

This should be a competitive weight with numerous wrestlers with a chance to win. Leading the way is Nick Sulzer (Virginia). Sulzer has been perfect this year and has been winning in impressive fashion. This will be the toughest competition he has seen so far, but based on how he has been winning, he will be the one they are all chasing. Michael Moreno (Iowa State) has wrestled well this season after having a great year in 2013. His only loss occurred last week when he dropped a 3-1 decision to No. 6 Nick Moore (Iowa). Michigan’s Dan Yates is 3-1 but suffered an upset loss. Joe Booth (Hofstra) is riding a 10-match win streak and only has one loss to date. The upset pick here may be Cooper Moore (Northern Iowa). Moore is 6-1 on the season and has split matches with No. 5 Steven Monk (North Dakota State) who was the runner-up here last season. Alex Elder (Oregon State) only has one loss and that was to Yates and does have a ranked win. Nijel Jones (North Carolina State) has won nine of 10 matches this year.

Sulzer is the favorite, but this could be one of those weights that someone people do not expect to win does.

1. Cooper Moore, Northern Iowa
2. Nick Sulzer, Virginia
3. Michael Moreno, Iowa State
4. Dan Yates, Michigan

174 Pounds

2012 Finals: Robert Kokesh (Nebraska) won by medical forfeit over Dan Yates (Michigan)

• No. 1 Andrew Howe, Oklahoma
• No. 4 Robert Kokesh, Nebraska
• No. 10 Tanner Weatherman, Iowa State
• No. 11 Turtogtokh Luvsandorj, The Citadel
• No. 12 Dom Kastl, Cal Poly
• No. 14 Mathew Miller, Navy
• No. 15 Bryce Hammond CSU Bakersfield
• No. 17 Cody Caldwell, Northern Iowa
• No. 19 Stephen Doty, Virginia

Top-ranked Andrew Howe (Oklahoma) is the favorite this weekend, and rightfully so. Howe is coming off a weekend victory over defending NCAA champion Chris Perry of Oklahoma State at Bedlam. Howe will be pushed by the defending champion Robert Kokesh (Nebraska). Kokesh has been dominating thus far going 10-0 and earning bonus points in every match. This will be a great match if they meet in the finals. Tanner Weatherman (Iowa State) had a great 2013, and has been slightly above average so far this year. He does have a bad loss, but should be in contention this weekend. Turtogtokh Luvsandorj (The Citadel) only has one loss on the season and has looked strong. Dom Kastl (Cal Poly) is back after missing last season due to injury. He is 4-0 but did miss some matches due to injury. If he is healthy he is a legitimate threat.

By all accounts, Howe and Kokesh are on a collision course. Expect the rest to be battling for the remaining spots.

1. Andrew Howe (Oklahoma)
2. Robert Kokesh (Nebraska)
3. Dom Kastl (Cal Poly)
4. Turtogtokh Luvsandorj (The Citadel)

184 pounds

2012 Finals: Josh Ihnen (Nebraska) won by fall 2:14 over Mike Larson (Missouri)

• No. 3 Ryan Loder, Northern Iowa
• No. 4 Jake Swartz, Boise State
• No. 6 Kenny Courts, Ohio State
• No. 8 Gabe Dean, Cornell
• No. 12 Ophir Bernstein, Brown
• No. 14 Ben Stroh, Wyoming
• No. 17 Jon Fausey, Virginia

Ryan Loder (Northern Iowa) is the slight favorite headed into the tournament. He is 3-0 but two of those wins were close matches. It’s early so he should show more offense the more mat time he gets. He will be pushed by Boise State’s Jake Swartz. Swartz has also been lightly wrestled this season posting a 2-0 record. Both of these two have shown they can wrestle at a high level. Kenny Courts (Ohio State) has won eight straight matches and has some solid wins under his belt already. He should be considered a threat to win this weekend. Gabe Dean (Cornell) has been very good in his rookie season. Dean is 6-1 with five falls and a technical fall. His only loss was to No. 2 Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland). Dean is very capable of winning this weight. Ophir Berstein (Brown) is coming off a great summer of wrestling and has carried that over into the regular season. He recently won the Navy Classic. Ben Stroh (Wyoming) is another young wrestler that is having a strong season. He does have a loss to Swartz. Jon Fausey (Virginia) is 4-2 on the season and will have to turn things up if he is going to contend this weekend.

1. Ryan Loder, Northwestern
2. Jacob Swartz, Boise State
3. Gabe Dean, Cornell
4. Kenny Courts, Ohio State

197 Pounds

2012 Finals: Dustin Kilgore (Kent State) won by decision over Alfonso Hernandez (Wyoming) 5-4

• No. 2 Taylor Meeks, Oregon State
• No. 3 Kyven Gadson, Iowa State
• No. 4 Travis Rutt, Oklahoma
• No. 5 Nick Helfin, Ohio State
• No. 11 Dan Mitchell, American
• No. 12 Jace Bennett, Cornell
• No. 16 Braden Atwood, Purdue

This weight is top heavy with four of the top five wrestlers in the country. Taylor Meeks (Oregon State) was the No. 1 ranked wrestler until he suffered a loss last week to Minnesota’s Scott Schiller. Things do not get any easier this weekend. Kyven Gadson (Iowa State) only has one loss, also to Schiller. He has faced some tougher competition and should be ready to go this weekend. Oklahoma’s Travis Rutt is undefeated on the season and is coming off an impressive win last week. He may be the biggest threat. Nick Heflin (Ohio State) is also undefeated at his new weight. He wrestled at 174 pounds last season and many thought the two weight jump could cause problems. But so far so good as he looks to solidify himself as a threat this march with a high placement here. Dan Mitchell (American) is wrestling well and only has one loss on the season. Cornell’s Jace Bennett also has only one loss and some solid wins.

1. Kyven Gadson, Iowa State
2. Nick Heflin, Ohio State
3. Travis Rutt, Oklahoma
4. Taylor Meeks, Oregon State

285 pounds

2012 Finals: Dom Bradley (Missouri) won by decision over Chad Hanke (Oregon State) 3-2

• No. 3 Nick Gwiazdowski, North Carolina State
• No. 4 J.T. Felix, Boise State
• No. 7 Kyle Colling, Arizona State
• No. 11 Ross Larson, Oklahoma
• No. 14 Ty Walz, Virginia Tech
• No. 15 Blake Herrin, American
• No. 16 Adam Coon, Michigan
• No. 17 Amarveer Dhesi, Oregon State
• No. 19 Billy Smith, Rutgers

The favorite at heavyweight is Nick Gwiazdowski (N.C. State). He has been very impressive going 10-0 with six falls and three major decisions. If he wrestlers at that level this weekend, he will be very tough to beat. Looking to knock him off is J.T. Felix (Boise State). Felix has been almost as impressive going 6-0 with five pins and one major decision. Makes you wonder if these two wrestle would the match end in a fall? Kyle Colling (Arizona State) went from unranked to the top 10 in just a few weeks. He is 8-0 with two wins over ranked opponents. Another guy having a breakout season is Ross Larson (Oklahoma). Larson is coming off an upset win over Oklahoma State wrestler Austin Marsden. He does have one loss and that was to Blake Herrin (American). Herrin has been solid this year but he has a loss to Ty Walz (Virginia). Walz was another one that started the season unranked but has sense worked his way in by starting his career 9-0. Adam Coon (Michigan) was considered by many one of the top prospects coming out of high school last year and he has shown why by going 7-0. Amarveer Dhsei (Oregon State) had an impressive win over Coon this past summer, but Coon reversed that a few weeks ago.

1. Nick Gwiazdowski, North Carolina State
2. J.T. Felix, Boise State
3. Ross Larson, Oklahoma
4. Adam Coon, Michigan