They always say that the college wrestling season is a marathon, not a sprint. If so, then the first checkpoint along the way is the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Others include the Midlands/Scuffle week, followed by conference championship weekend. This year’s field at the CKLV Invitational looks to be the deepest of the “big three” individual tournament in 2019. Being a vital checkpoint, Las Vegas separates the contenders from the pretenders. It serves as a launching pad for the seasons of its participants. Those that succeed in Vegas have rankings and RPI points that will aid them the entire season. It’s also a place where freshmen get tested, often for the first time by highly ranked competitors.
This year’s tournament features four of the ten #1 ranked wrestlers in the nation and four of the ten #2’s. Based on tournament rankings, four of the top nine teams in the country will be in attendance, along with seven others that are in the top 20. Needless to say, it isn’t for the faint of heart.
Here is TOM’s preview of the action that will be going down Friday and Saturday from the Las Vegas Convention Center, with predictions for top-eight finishers at each weight, along with the top five teams.
Ranked wrestlers in the field: #2 Jack Mueller (Virginia), #7 Devin Schroder (Purdue), #8 Alex Mackall (Iowa State), #12 Jakob Camacho (NC State), #15 Jay Schwarm (Northern Iowa), #19 Patrick McKee (Minnesota), #20 Joey Prata (Virginia Tech)
Top unranked entries: Brandon Courtney (Arizona State), Jake Gromacki (Clarion), Dylan Ryder (Hofstra), Jack Medley (Michigan), Jace Koelzer (Northern Colorado), Malik Heinselman (Ohio State), Cole Verner (Wyoming)
It will be nice to see 2019 NCAA runner-up Jack Mueller back on the mat, as he has only competed once this year for Virginia. Mueller logged a fall in the Cavaliers dual win over Maryland but has not been back since. He will attempt to win the first CKLV crown for Virginia in six seasons. In 2017, Mueller took third while up at 133 lbs. Jack is the only returning All-American at this weight, which for this tournament, makes it one of the more manageable brackets. His two biggest threats could come from seventh-ranked Devin Schroder and number eight, Alex Mackall. Schroder has been on fire this year. He lost once at the Michigan State Open, yet avenged that loss in the same tournament and hasn’t been defeated since. The Boilermaker has turned into a monster on the mat, racking up four tech falls during six dual meets this year. Mackall has not had the opportunity to compete as frequently; however, his lone loss in six contests came to two-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee (Iowa). Alex already owns a tech-fall win over Jay Schwarm this season. Schwarm is expected to be a top-six seed at this tournament.
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