photo courtesy of Cam Kramer
The 2019 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational came to a close on Saturday evening from the Convention Center. For the first time since the 2008-09 season, Nebraska came away with the team title. Team is the operative word, as the Huskers only crowned one individual champion (Isaiah White at 165), yet placed all ten of their wrestlers in the quarterfinals and nine of them made it onto the podium. White captured his second consecutive championship with a takedown in sudden victory over fellow All-American Josh Shields (Arizona State). It is the second time this year that White has defeated the Sun Devil. Shields’ teammate Zahid Valencia was one of the stars of the finals. For the second time in his career, Zahid was named the tournaments Most Outstanding Wrestler. Valencia now has three titles at this tournament. He likely would be a four-time champion at the event had Arizona State entered the 2018 competition. Also winning a third CKLV championship is Ohio State’s Kollin Moore. Kollin fended off a tough Christian Brunner (Purdue) in the early going, only to extend the match to a 16-6 major decision. Moore’s Buckeye’s took second place honors.
2019 NCAA runner-up Jack Mueller (Virginia) opened up the finals with a title at 125 lbs. Mueller notched takedowns in the first and third period to top Devin Schroder (Purdue), 6-2. Mueller even survived on the mat against Schroder, who has been deadly from the top position. Jack’s win makes him only the second CKLV champion in school history and the first since Nick Sulzer won in 2013 and 2014.
One of the mainstays of the tournament is Cornell and they crowned a champion at 133 lbs with Chas Tucker. Chas was not pleased with his seventh-place showing a year ago at this tournament and battled through a handful of close decisions throughout the tournament.
Kollin Moore wasn’t the only Ohio State wrestler to get his hand raised Saturday evening, Luke Pletcher did, as well, at 141 lbs. Pletcher has been maligned, perhaps unfairly, throughout his career for his lack of offensive output. That wasn’t the case this weekend and most of the 2019-20 season. Pletcher had a 26-11 tech fall in the quarters, followed by an 11-3 major decision over two-time AA Chad Red in the semis. For the title, Luke put up ten points on the dangerous Mitch McKee (Minnesota). It was the second time that Pletcher has won this tournament.
The only freshman that earned a championship this year was Brayton Lee (Minnesota) at 149 lbs. Lee beat another freshman, Sammy Sasso (Ohio State), in the finals. The two met in an unforgettable series at the Junior World Team Trials this summer. Lee was also victorious there, too. The fifth-seeded Lee was the lowest-seeded champion of the tournament.
One of the marquee weights of the entire event was 157 lbs. Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin repeated as champion at the weight. He handled blue-chip freshman David Carr (Iowa State) in the semis by the comfortable margin of 9-3. In the finals, Deakin has the number one ranked wrestler in the land, Hayden Hidlay. It was more of the same as the Wildcat got a first-period takedown and never looked back. Ryan would go on to win 6-2.
An upstart Purdue squad got their first CKLV champion since 2005 when Dylan Lydy prevailed in sudden victory at 174 lbs. The Boilermaker senior was sixth and eighth in his previous two appearances at the tournament. Lydy was one of three finalists for a Purdue team that ended up fifth in the tournament, ahead of perennial powers like Iowa State, Minnesota, and NC State.
The final champion of the evening was Michigan’s heavyweight Mason Parris. This was Parris’ first trip to the CKLV invitational as he was pulled out of redshirt in January of 2019, as a freshman. Parris jumped out to an early lead on two-time finalist Tanner Hall (Arizona State) and kept his foot on the gas. The final score was 6-3 in favor of the Wolverine.
Championship Final Results
125 – Jack Mueller (Virginia) dec Devin Schroder (Purdue) 6-2
133 – Chas Tucker (Cornell) dec Montorie Bridges (Wyoming) 4-1
141 – Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) dec Mitch McKee (Minnesota) 10-6
149 – Brayton Lee (Minnesota) dec Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) 6-4
157 – Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) dec Hayden Hidlay (NC State) 6-2
165 – Isaiah White (Nebraska) dec Josh Shields (Arizona State) 3-1SV
174 – Dylan Lydy (Purdue) dec Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa) 3-1SV
184 – Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) dec Trent Hidlay (NC State) 12-4
197 – Kollin Moore (Ohio State) maj Christian Brunner (Purdue) 16-6
285 – Mason Parris (Michigan) dec Tanner Hall (Arizona State) 6-3