Photo courtesy of ODU athletics
This will be one of the week’s where there were probably 25-30 deserving candidates for the top 10 performances of the week. Anyone of the champions at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, or even the finalists, had great tournaments. That doesn’t even include the most exciting DI dual meet of the year between Iowa State and Iowa. There were five or six solid candidates from that match alone. And then the rest of the country. After much thought and debate, here are the top 10 college performances of the week.
10) Anthony Cassar (Penn State)
On Sunday an injury-riddled Lehigh team came into State College for their dual with number one Penn State missing a handful of projected starters. One Mountain Hawk who was in in the lineup for Lehigh was sixth-ranked 285 lber Jordan Wood. Cassar jumped out to an early lead with two takedowns and led 4-1 after the first period. The Nittany Lion continued to attack and would end up with five takedowns during his 12-3 major decision. Excluding his victory over teammate Nick Nevills at the Keystone Classic, it was Cassar’s first win over a top-ten ranked opponent at heavyweight this year. The win was Anthony’s second of the weekend, as he also pinned Brandon Stokes (Bucknell) in 32 seconds during PSU’s 42-3 win over Bucknell.
9) Micky Phillipi (Pittsburgh)
Micky Phillipi is the only competitor to make this list that did not win at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational; however, he still had an excellent showing at the tournament. His run to the finals made his the first Panther wrestler since 2008 to make the finals at the prestigious event. After starting his tournament with a 16-6 major decision victory over Yoshito Funakoshi (Cal Poly), Micky took out his first ranked opponent of the tournament by defeating no. 17 Cam Sykora (North Dakota State) 6-2. In the quarters, Phillipi upset seventh-ranked, former NCAA finalist Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) 4-0. That was not it, as he then knocked off fourth-ranked Luke Pletcher (Ohio State), the defending champion at 133 lbs, 2-1. While Micky’s luck would run out in the finals, he still made an excellent case for his current 14th place ranking to soar up into the top ten.
Over the past few years, the Princeton Tigers program has been steadily growing. Recruiting seems to get better each year, as has the team’s performance on the mat. Friday night the Tigers went into Leeman-Turner Arena to take on 14th ranked Lehigh on their home mat. Princeton came out of the dual with a 21-19 victory which was their first win over Lehigh since 1968. It was obviously the first time that Princeton’s13th year head coach Chris Ayres has defeated his alma mater. The biggest upset for the Tigers took place at 165 lbs as Dale Tiongson knocked off 17th ranked Cole Walter 5-3. The victory was clinched at 197 lbs as seventh-ranked Patrick Brucki was able to hold off a tough Jake Jakobsen 7-4, giving Princeton a 21-13 lead heading into the 285 lb match. There will be no time to rest for the Tigers as they will go back on the road Friday to take on a Virginia Tech team that is currently ranked 16th for duals, followed by a solid Virginia squad on Saturday.
7) Nick Suriano (Rutgers)
All week fans anticipated a possible Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational final matchup between NCAA finalists Nick Suriano and Stevan Micic (Michigan). That matchup will have to wait until February 17th, when Michigan travels to Rutgers, as Micic was a late scratch. No matter for Suriano who still steamrolled a deep field at 133 lbs. Suriano’s tournament started with back-to-back tech falls, before a 7-2 decision victory over 18th ranked Korbin Myers (Virginia Tech) in the quarters. Nick then advanced to the finals after getting by eighth-ranked John Erneste (Missouri). An 11-3 major decision in the finals over Pittsburgh freshman Micky Phillipi gave Suriano the title, which was the first ever at this event by a Rutgers wrestler.
6) Isaiah White (Nebraska)
Even though he was an NCAA Round of 12 finisher at the 2018 NCAA Championships, it seemed highly unlikely that Isaiah White would stand atop the podium Saturday evening at the CKLV Invitational. White has taken his lumps early in the 2018-19 season and entered this tournament sporting a 1-3 record. A 7-3 victory over 13th ranked Joey Gunther (Illinois) may have been a sign that White was ready to break out of his slump, but it was his next match that confirmed those suspicions. White dropped the top-seed, fifth-ranked Logan Massa (Michigan) 6-2 to earn his place in the finals. Standing in the way of his title was 15th ranked freshman Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech), a Junior world champion this summer. Isaiah was never seriously threatened and was able to ride the freshman for the entire third period for a riding time point and a 2-0 victory.
5) Austin Gomez (Iowa State)
No one predicted that heading into the final bout of Iowa State’s dual meet at Iowa, that the Cyclones would have the opportunity to knock off the four ranked Hawkeyes. It was a tall task, but there was an outside chance that Iowa State would be able to pull the upset if Austin Gomez either teched or pinned ninth-ranked Austin DeSanto (Iowa). With the scored tied at eight, late in the third period, Gomez was able to throw the Hawkeye to his back, stunning the Carver-Hawkeye crowd. Unfortunately for Gomez and the Cyclones, DeSanto was able to get off of his back in the waning seconds of the match. While his team came up short in their hopes for an upset, Gomez got the signature win that he has been seeking which will certainly help him fly up through the rankings.
4) Myles Martin (Ohio State)
Fresh off of a trip to the U23 World Championships, there was some uncertainty as to whether or not Myles Martin would enter the CLKV Invitational. Not only did Myles enter the event, but he also came away with his 100th career victory, his second consecutive title at the event, and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler honors. Martin racked up bonus points in four of his five matches, three major decisions and a tech. One of the majors came in the semi’s when he put up 17 points against returning All-American Max Dean (Cornell). Myles would cruise to his second title with an 11-5 decision over another returning All-American, Taylor Venz (Nebraska). Even while having to navigate through one of the toughest brackets (184 lbs), at the nation’s top tournament, Myles emerged without being seriously threatened in any of his five matches.
3) Jacob Warner (Iowa)
Redshirt freshman Jacob Warner made his highly anticipated debut in a Hawkeye singlet on Saturday against Iowa State and did not disappoint. Warner had a tall task in his first dual meet for Iowa, taking on two-time All-American Willie Miklus (Iowa State). The pair had previously met last season when Warner was redshirting at the Lindenwood Open, and the youngster shocked Miklus with a 16-7 major decision. The meeting was much closer as Warner would prevail 5-4, in a back and forth match, that featured a crazy, maybe even controversial ending that when in Warner’s favor. Miklus was close to getting back points on Warner late in the third, yet none were awarded, and Jacob then picked up a reversal which gave him the match. The win ended up being a difference maker for the Hawkeyes who ended up winning 19-18.
2) Larry Early (Old Dominion)
Perhaps the biggest upset of the weekend did not occur in Las Vegas, it took place when Old Dominion hosted NC State on Friday. 157 lber Larry Early would meet the nation’s second-ranked wrestler at the weight class, Hayden Hidlay. In just over a year of official competition, Hidlay had not lost a dual meet and only had one official defeat. That was until his match with Early. After a scoreless first period, Early was taken down by Hidlay, yet managed a late reversal which tied the match heading into the last period. A takedown for Early gave him the 4-2 win and the upset. The Wolfpack were nearly upset by ODU themselves, as they got by with a 16-15 victory. The win for Early brings his 2018-19 season record to 11-0.
1) Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers)