The Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational has long been considered the first major invitational, bracketed tournaments of the collegiate season. It also serves as one of the best tests for a young wrestler (and a veteran for that matter). Throughout the history of this tournament, freshmen have used this event as a springboard for future success. With such tough fields, year-in and year-out, freshmen can prove themselves against multiple, highly-ranked opponents. Coaches also get the first chance to see hold a young wrestler does when having to make weight on back-to-back days.
TOM tends to be conservative when ranking freshmen. The upperclassmen have been through the battles, the Friday and Sunday duals, and the national tournament and have earned their spots at the top of the rankings. The CKLV Invitational is one of those events that end up catapulting freshmen up the rankings, waaay up in some cases. The landscape of college wrestling is that freshmen are better prepared for success, earlier than ever. That means it’s not a question of whether any freshmen will have big tournaments in Vegas, it’s how many of them?
Some of the best candidates from the 2019 crop of freshmen are Sammy Sasso (Ohio State), Brayton Lee (Minnesota), Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado), Jacori Teemer, David Carr (Iowa State), Kendall Coleman (Purdue), Trent Hidlay (NC State), and Lucas Davison (Northwestern). Of course, there are plenty more that could establish themselves as legitimate NCAA threats after the dust settles on Saturday.
Before we get into this year’s tournament, let’s look back at some of the most impressive performances from freshmen for the last five years of the CKLV Invitational.
Micky Phillipi (Pittsburgh)
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