Monday, December 4, 2023

Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Recap & Review (2023-2024)


First & foremost before I get started on my weight by weight recap & review for the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, I would like to issue a quick apology and explanation.  Last week I started posting individual weight by weight previews  for CKLV. I posted 125 lbs through 165 lbs.   Why no 174 through HWT?  Well, a lot happen last week.  Starting on Tuesday, we got a call that my girlfriend's stepdad unexpectedly passed away earlier that morning.  Then on top of this souring news, I got an incredibly nasty bug. The only thing that got me through Wednesday were those Emergen-C packets of vitamin C.  Thursday I was absolutely useless to the world. I was so sick, that I didn't eat a single thing on Thursday with exception a very small bowl of Chicken soup. Only thing I kept taking in was those Vitamin C packets mixed in Apple juice.  Friday, same story.  Saturday, finally started feeling more normal & my appetite came back. Sunday, came back even more.  By yesterday I was back to my normal stuffing my fat face self, but we also had a funeral to go to 3 hours away.  So between 6 hours on the road & paying respects to a loved one, didn't have a whole heck of a lot of time yesterday either.  So that's why no 174 through HWT previews & why this review took till Tuesday to come out. 

With that said.....

Nico Provo Shoves It Up Bernard Muir's A Double S

What a way to represent the Stanford wrestling program & the importance of having collegiate wrestling in the state of California. Nico Provo may very well be from Connecticut but he competes for a California team & he can't be the only one who likes to or would like to based on the fact we don't have a lot of options for good weather schools in this sport.  To be real honest, at the beginning of the season I thought of Provo as one of those guys that might "sneak" onto the award stand at the NCAA's come year's end. I don't think that anymore.  He took it to Kysen Terukina who had recently majored two time All American Eric Barnett, 12-5 in the second round. Then he nearly majored Matt Ramos 8-1 in the quarters, before eventually going on to win the CKLV title.  He wrestles like this towards the end of March, ain't gonna be nothing sneaky about it. It'll be expected.  Why Bernard Muir has little to no respect for such a tremendous showing, is beyond me. I guess the man's respect is that of his brains. 

Looking over 125 lbs in the CKLV overall, all I can say is that 125 lbs this season is just absolutely bananas. Ramos got beat again in the consolation quarter finals 8-4 against Caleb Smith. He didn't exactly smoke Diego Sotelho in the bloodround either.  I've said for years that I have felt that in many ways CKLV can be every bit as tough as is the NCAA's.  I stand by that statement but still, seeing last year's NCAA runner-up, who pinned Spencer Lee fall to 7th is quite flabbergasting. 

Brandon Kaylor incase you are unaware is now a three time CKLV place-winner (3rd-4th-4th), as is Ramos who will be going for a fourth medal next season (8th-2nd-7th).  

Going back to Smith, what a tremendous tournament he had. Looks like the move from Boone to Lincoln has been well worth it.  Dropped a tough 4-2 decision to Jore Volk in the quarters & then came back on absolute fire to capture 3rd place.  Volk btw looked mighty good too capturing 5th place & where would I be if I didn't mention how well CKLV runner-up Brett Ungar wrestled.  My only observational question in all of this, is how is Michael DeAugustino's health?  I felt last year & I currently feel right now that kid's greatest enemy is bad health.  He obviously wasn't 100% against Ungar in the semis & the fact that he MFF'd to 6th place more than suggest that.  Take nothing away from anyone's win, but I still wonder what a 100% Michael DeAugustino would look like & I'm hoping we get to see one by BIG 10's & NCAA's. 

Last thoughts on 125?  Tanner Jordan ought to get a few pats on the back.  He's one of those guys who has now twice proven that this tournament he can show up and wrestle.  On paper might say one thing, but on the mat says another.  Now himself a two time CKLV place winner. 

From Blood Round Last Year To CKLV Champ This Year 

Kai Orine finished a heartbreaking one match shy of CKLV place-winner status last season.  This season, he didn't miss out on a damn thing. Matter of fact, he took home Vegas gold with a very impressive 12-4 major decision over on a role Evan Frost in the finals.  Great tournament for Orine who will now set his sights on winning a the ACC's & being among those who will gun for an NCAA title. 

The only big surprise here at 133 lbs was Tyler Knox of Stanford. The true-freshman outta Massachusetts had himself a great tournament introducing himself to the world of NCAA DI wrestling as someone to pay attention to.  A 2-1 decision over Reece Witcraft in the quarter-finals, the young Cardinal took 5th place. 

Jesse Mendez Wins 141 lbs CKLV Title

Jesse Mendez won an extremely tough 141 lbs weight class. One that is likely to feature a large amount of All Americans by season's end.  Not only did he win, but he pretty much dominated.  An 18-1 tech over Vince Cornella in the finals, what was most impressive was an 11-3 major decision over Brock Hardy, last year's champ Brock Hardy in the semis.  Then another great win over Ryan Jack in the finals.  Statements are made in Vegas & Mendez made his loud and clear. 

Throughout the consolation bracket, I wasn't none too shocked to see Lachlan McNeil take 3rd, but I was rather shocked to see Hardy slip all he way to 6th. His 13-5 major loss to Tagen Jamison in the 5th place match really threw me off guard. I was not expecting that but it just goes to show how incredibly stacked and competitive this tournament is. 

Off Of A Redshirt Ridge Lovett Makes Statement By Winning 149 lbs CKLV Title 

It sorta reminds me of the scene in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when the Shredder is aware of the turtles presence and says to his henchman Tatsus, "They're back."  Well make like a Terminator, so is Ridge Lovett.  With a 13-6 decision over Quinn Kinner in the quarters & an 11-0 major over Dylan D'Emilio, the Husker won the title with a 4-3 decision over Caleb Henson in the finals.  

Lovett isn't the only wrestler coming off a redshirt who came in and made a statement either.  Gabe Willochell who redshirted last season for Edinboro placed 7th, as he is now competing for Wyoming.  I think the rest of the bracket was more or less business as usual, although I was quite impressed by freshman Nash Singleton. The Oregon State Beaver pulled off a huge 8-6 win over Kinner in the R12 to earn a place on the award stand. 

Peyton Robb Repeats as CKLV Champion 

Winning a CKLV title is one of the toughest thing a wrestler can do in his career & Peyton Robb has now won two of them.  Had a tough 6-4 decision over Jacori Teemer in the finals to claim title #2.  Who by the way, I was also glad to see wrestle well his tournament, especially considering that he was injured in action not all that long ago. 

As we talk about the other place-winners in this bracket, it should be noted that all R12 winners were beaten by wrestlers who themselves did not place. I've been watching wrestling for 30 years & I've been paying extremely close attention to it for nearly 25 of those years.  I've never seen that in any major tournament even. 

Peyten Kellar defeated Ed Scott 7-4 in round two. 
Meyer Shapiro defeated Bryce Andonian 16-4 in round two. 
Then heart goes out to Ryder Downey who defeated Trevor Chumbley 8-2 in round one & then Paddy Gallagher 8-5 in round two.  It has to be heartwrenching to know you defeated two place-winners yourself, yet you yourself failed to place. 

I think it's simply an illustration of just how wide open and "any given Sunday" the sport of wrestling truly is. Especially with this new point scoring system.  You get taken down & put to your back, suddenly your down 7-0.  That can be a huge deficit to try and come back from.  Add in the parity of wrestling, it goes to show just how important it is to have things come together at the right time. 

As Ed Scott worked his way back to the second CKLV 3rd place finish of his career, Bryce Andonian came back to take 4th. Paddy Gallagher placed 7th & a very impressive run through the consolations for Chumbley to grab 8th.  Chumbley defeated Joey Blaze, Isaiah Crosby & Shapiro to earn himself a spot on the CKLV award stand.  

It never fails, year in and year out, we see wrestlers make the NCAA award stand who fail to make the award stand here.  157 might end up being that way this season. 

Izzak Olejnik Has Now Officially Placed His Name Among NCAA Title Contenders at 165

His dominating performance over D.J. Hamiti at the All Star Classic perhaps already evidence enough, but after this weekend, there is no doubt anymore.  Izzak Olejnik is NCAA champion material. To be quite honest, I'm a little sad that he's no longer at Northern Illinois, because they could really use an NCAA champion contender, but I also know that the move to Oklahoma State is probably what is making all the difference in the world. A 6-4 win over Cam Amine in the semis, it was a 4-2 victory over Julian Ramirez in the finals. Many times when a wrestler has been at it for as long as Olejnik has been around, you don't see a lot of improvements. It's rewarding to see someone make such strides in his final year of collegiate competition. 

The huge things here though of course was Julian Ramirez upsetting David Carr 4-3 in the semi-finals. I wasn't surprised by this at all. Ramirez is a tough wrestler. After all he won the CKLV title last year.  I think at the beginning of the year everyone thought it was gonna be a war between Carr & Missouri's Keegan O'Toole. I think we know now, some others have thrown their hat in.  

Cade DeVos Wins a CKLV Title For The Jackrabbits

Very impressive performance for Cade DeVos to win a CKLV title.  4th in last year's championships, the Jackrabbit defeated M.J. Gaitan of Iowa State 10-2 major decision in the quarters, before sending Carson Kharchla to the consolations with an 11-8 decision.  He then defeated Travis Wittlake 9-7 in the finals.  While DeVos's outstanding showing should be given credit, the wrestling world's real concentration was a first round upset for Lorenzo Norman over Shane Griffith.  Define irony that Norman competes for the very school that Griffith competes for.  That's something you just don't see every day.  For a city that claims itself unpredictable, it delivers. 

I will say though, I really don't get the strategy behind Griffith's next moves though.  Whether it was his decision or Michigan's, what happened next doesn't make any sense to me at all.  Griffith wrestled through the consolations. Matter of face he even ripped  Alex Faison apart 14-3 major decision. Yet the bloodround came round & he MFF's.  I have to ask why?  Injured? Obviously not.  Upset about being upset & doesn't feel like competing? Obviously not.  I mean if it was injury related, why have him wrestle three matches? He's as likely to get hurt wrestling three matches as he would be four.  Why not wrestle that match and earn a top 8 showing? You can't tell me it's one of those, "I got beat so now I'm done competing" deals. It couldn't have been, he wrestled three more matches.  I just don't get why he wouldn't have wrestled the next match.  If you're gonna MFF out of the tournament at least earn a medal and then do so.  This was just ludicrous to me. 

Parker Keckeisen Wins First CKLV Title For Coach Schwab 

A CKLV runner-up last season, Parker Keckeisen got er done this year. His closest match of the tournament was an 8-4 decision over Lenny Pinto in the semis. Other than that, nothing less than a major, including a 14-4 major over Will Feldkamp in the finals.  

The other performance I think that deserves mention here is that of Sam Wolf.  The Falcons have a habit of having a senior have a breakout performance at a major tournament every season & Wolf certainly had one here.  A huge 7-5 decision over Chris Foca in R2, he knocked off Gavin Hoffman in the quarter finals 4-1.  He finished out the day with a hard fought 10-9 decision over Jaden Bullock to claim 5th place. 

As to guys who DNP CKLV who might still All American by season's end?  Well if Gavin Hoffman is one of them, he'd be one to do it TWICE in his career. He took 6th at the NCAA's a couple years back & in that same reason he was R12 at CKLV.  Foca has the tools and talent to do so as well. 

Another Title For the Wolfpack 

Winning at title at 184 lbs last season, Trent Hidlay is now a CKLV champ at 197 lbs too. Pretty cool to see Jaxon Smith of Maryland facing him in the finals as well.  Said it once, I'll say it 100 times, Alex Clemsen is doing some great things at Maryland. Not sure if he's getting all the credit he deserves, so I'll grab my harmonica and be more than glad to sing his praises.  It's a hell of an honor to have a CKLV finalist & now he has one.  Made the finals with a very impressive 8-2 decision over Tanner Sloan of SDSU.  Coming back to place 3rd at last year's CKLV after being upset, Sloan repeated history this tournament and collected more Vegas bronze for his collection. 

Yonger Bastida Wins CKLV Title At HWT

I'll be honest, watching Yonger Bastida against Iowa here a while back, I questioned whether he was big enough for the weight class or not. Nothing against the Hawkeyes Brad Hill, but he hasn't exactly established himself as a Greg Kerkvliet or a Wyatt Hendrickson yet & I felt that Bastida struggled a bit with him, scoring most of his points once Hill lost his wind. I'll yet crow here, as Bastida proved that he is more than "big enough" for the weight & that he'll fit just find at HWT. 

Throwing around Jack Jessen 11-4 in R2 may not have been much to look at, but a 13-5 major over big ole Nick Feldman & then an 18-3 tech over Grady Griess sure as heck was!  I personally feel in so many instances that Lucas Davison is one of the strongest wrestlers in the country, and shit....Bastida looked to outmuscle him out there on the mat in  5-3 final.  Bastida isn't all of 285. Probably isn't even close to it, but he's got all the strength of a 500 lbs gorilla. Add in agility, speed & a gas tank. I'm anxious to see him in action against the likes of Kerkvliet. 

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