photo courtesy of Cam Kramer
When it was all said and done at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Ohio State came away with the team title by a comfortable 32.5 point margin (148 to 115.5) over second place Missouri. Three Buckeye wrestlers won titles, Joey McKenna at 141, Myles Martin at 184, and Kollin Moore at 197 lbs. Though each of them faced top competition from the nation’s toughest tournament, the three seemed to breeze through the two-day event, even in the finals. Martin and Moore have won back-to-back titles in Las Vegas, while McKenna had one in 2016 while competing for Stanford. Martin was rewarded with the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award. As a team, seven Buckeye wrestlers placed in the top eight of their respective weight classes.
While no team was able to match Ohio State’s seven placewinners, third place, Nebraska managed to put six wrestlers on the podium. One of their three finalists, Isaiah White at 165 lbs, was able to bring home the hardware. The tenth-ranked White has appeared to right the ship after he got off to a rocky start to the season, losing three of his four matches entering the tournament. White earned his place in the finals by knocking off the top seed, fifth-ranked Logan Massa (Michigan) 6-2. He then kept the momentum going by shutting down Junior World Champion Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) 2-0 in the finals. Not only did the Cornhusker not surrender a takedown, but he was also able to ride the Hokie for the entire third period. The other two Nebraska representatives in the finals, Taylor Venz and Eric Schultz, lost to Martin and Moore respectively, in the championship bout.
Two schools that generally do not travel to Las Vegas for this tournament, Northwestern and Rutgers, both crowned a pair of champions. Northwestern annually hosts the Midlands Championships in late December, so they have never traveled to the Cliff Keen; therefore Sebastian Rivera at 125 and Ryan Deakin at 157 lbs, were the first champions in school history. The second-ranked Rivera faced a stiff challenge from number three Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State), who took Rivera into sudden victory during their championship bout. When it appeared that Bresser was dangerously close to securing the title-winning takedown, the Wildcat used a Peterson finish to turn the tide and take home a title. There was no such drama for Deakin at 157 lbs. The sophomore controlled his finals match with unranked Griffin Parriott (Purdue) and never appeared in danger, winning 8-2. Rutgers has not attended the Las Vegas Invitational since 2013-14, sixth-year senior Anthony Ashnault’s redshirt freshman season. Ashnault picked up the second title for the Scarlet Knights at 149 lbs. He entered the tournament ranked third in the nation and his finals opponent Micah Jordan was second. Jordan made his fourth Cliff Keen finals and was looking to capture his third title. Right away Ashnault crushed any hopes for another Jordan championship when he secured a takedown 30 seconds into the match and then racked up two sets of four back points to lead 10-1 after one period. Jordan would not give in, as he battled back to make the final score 14-10; however, the early lead by Anthony proved to be too much. The first title for Rutgers was won by junior Nick Suriano who prevailed in the tournaments deepest weight class. Even with second-ranked Stevan Micic (Michigan) being a late scratch, the 133 lbs weight class still featured six of the top 12 wrestlers in the country. With all that talent, it was still a freshman outside of that top 12, Micky Phillipi (Pittsburgh), that emerged to face Suriano in the finals. The luck of the underdog ran out in the finals as Suriano scored early and often to run up an 11-3 major decision. Suriano and Ashnault were also the first Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational champions in school history.
Believe it or not, we made it three paragraphs without mentioning the freshman sensation Gable Steveson, that dominated his way to a championship. Gable was the first freshman 285 lber to win a title at this tournament since Adam Coon (Michigan) did so in 2013. Most of the time when a freshman wins this tournament it takes the crowd and nation by storm. Not so in this case, as most observers expected the three-time age group world champion Steveson to lap the field, which he did. A 9-3 victory over 14th ranked Cory Daniel (North Carolina) in the semis was the closest match of the tournament for the Golden Gopher.
The other remaining champion was Myles Amine (Michigan) at 174 lbs who broke through and claimed his first title in Vegas. In his previous two attempts, Amine placed third. Myles was tested in the finals by Daniel Lewis (Missouri), the same opponent that Amine defeated for third-place in the NCAA consolation finals in March. During the final 21 seconds of the match, Lewis was given a second stalling call, giving up a point, and then proceeded to get reversed and lost his riding time which led to a 10-7 win for Amine.
Championship Finals Results
125 – Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) over Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State) 6-4SV
133 – Nick Suriano (Rutgers) over Micky Phillipi (Pittsburgh) 11-3
141 – Joey McKenna (Ohio State) over Jaydin Eierman (Missouri) 6-2
149 – Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) over Micah Jordan (Ohio State) 14-10
157 – Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) over Griffin Parriott (Purdue) 8-2
165 – Isaiah White (Nebraska) over Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) 2-0
174 – Myles Amine (Michigan) over Daniel Lewis (Missouri) 10-7
184 – Myles Martin (Ohio State) over Taylor Venz (Nebraska) 11-5
197 – Kollin Moore (Ohio State) over Eric Schultz (Nebraska) 8-3
285 – Gable Steveson (Minnesota) over Tate Orndorff (Utah Valley) 12-4