Monday, December 4, 2023

Doane Oppenheim Invitational Recap & Review


The whole wrestling world was tuned into NCAA Division I & the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, including your's truly but let me rest assure you, there was plenty of other great wrestling that took place in the world of collegiate wrestling this weekend. In the world of NAIA wrestling, Doane hosted an outstanding Oppenheim Invitational.  

It's As If He Never Missed A Moment

If you've been following me for very long, you know I'm a big Aden Reeves fan. His family is from my area, his great aunt dated my Grandpa for years, he lived in my Great Grandparent's house. So yeah, I wanna see him do well.  With as much time as he's missed due to injury, I was a bit concerned though. Boy, was I stupid to be concerned.  He looked great out on the mat, including a 11-5 win in the finals over four time Alaskan State champ Landon Smith of Embry Riddle in the finals.  Not only that but he also held off high school sensation Christian Castillo 5-1 in the semis.  Castillo himself came back to claim 3rd, defeating Brody Gee of Saint Mary for the second time in the tournament. Castillo defeated the KCAC finalist by score of 9-6 & 10-8. 

Jackson Cockrell wins First Tournament Title As a Viking 

The former Maryland Terrapin won a title here at 133 lbs by defeating last year's KCAC champ Freddy Barajas 4-1 s.v.  Like teammate Reeves, Jackson had to overcome a tough h.s. sensation himself, as he defeated Adrian Mezas 5-2 in the semi-finals.  Meza came back to place 3rd and what's even more impressive, is that he placed 4th here last year! It just blows my mind how good these kids can be while still in high school.   The surprising thing about this bracket was Kolby Encinas failing to place.  Just not a good tournament for the two time KCAC place-winner.  It happens sometimes. 

And again, STILL in High School 

It's hard to get me to agree with true freshman finding themselves in preseason rankings, but if Kyle Larkin is ranked before the official start of his first season in college, it wouldn't surprise me any.. Not only did he win this tournament, but he beat two Division I wrestlers to do it!  A 5-3 win over Nebraska's Blake Cushing in the semis, he defeated Jacob Frost of Iowa State 10-8 in the finals. Those are good wins. Frost may not have the accolades of his CKLV finalist brother, but trust me, he's still a damn good wrestler in his own right. 

To further how tough of a bracket Larkin one here, take into consideration that Hartwell Taylor of Saint Mary who was a runner up here last season didn't even place this year.  Neither did Donte Lopez of Oklahoma Wesleyan who was 5th.  Tough bracket & it was won by a kid still in high school.  Mind blowing isn't it? 

A Little NJCAA In The House

The three time Texas High School State bronze medalist had himself an outstanding tournament including a very impressive 13-5 decision over Abel Gaitan of Grand View in the finals. Gaitan is the brother of current Iowa State starter M.J. Gaitan. 

Surprise Surprise I'm Back....Sort of

I about crapped my pants when I saw the name Paniro Johnson in the bracket at 157 lbs. I was under the understanding that his collegiate wrestling career, let alone his sophomore season was a said and done thing. Yet here he was, beating the crap out of everyone, including teammate Jason Kraisser 20-5 in the finals. I get the whole "unattached" thing, but I wouldn't take this as him simply getting the itch out of his system. I think this, as subtle as it may be, could very well be a sign of things to come.  The Cyclones damn near (and by all rights SHOULD have) beaten the Hawkeyes in dual action & they just won the CKLV invite. Obviously Iowa State came into '23-'24 underrated.  Now imagine what happens to this team if Johnson has his varsity status reinstated? If you aren't paying attention to smaller school tournaments, may this be the very reason you start to. This kinda stuff happens at places like this far more often than you would ever dare think. 

Another Title Another Day 

Connor Euton of Iowa State added another tournament title to his resume for the season. No real surprise here. Won his title over Braeden Baller of Texas Wesleyan, who is no question, the top star of that team.  

Elise Brown Ton Wins Title at 174 lbs 

Speaking of Texans, another one to show up and wrestle well here at the Oppenheim Invite was Nebraska's Elise Brown Ton. He's thus far been having an up and down season, and this tournament was definitely an up for him. A 13-4 major over Caleb Swalla of Grand View in the semis, he then defeated Thomas Even, also of Grand View 7-3 in the finals.  Swalla came back to take 3rd (3rd here last year too)  over a tough Michael Scarponi of Doane, as Daniil Gorshkov of Embry Riddle who's been having a good season thus far took 5th. 

Doane Keeps 184 lbs Title At Home

3rd for Grand View here last year, Tyson Beauperthuy won a textbook style 8-4 decision over Brett Bober of Baker in the finals.  I really hope Beauperthuy has finally found a home in collegiate wrestling. I know finding the right fit has been a challenge for him and I hope that Doane is the fit that he's been looking for. I really think if wrestling can be his focus & he doesn't have a bunch of other distractions that he's good enough to win an NAIA national title.  Time will tell. 

Doane Also Keeps 197 lbs Title At Home 

Kasten Grape had a hard fought win over Garavous Kouekabakilaho of Grand View, 6-5 in the finals.  Getting those first huge wins in your collegiate career as also big for wrestlers. As far as I'm concerned this was one for Grape. 


I don't really have any thoughts for HWT.  Hate it when that happens, but sometimes I just don't know what to say or I simply don't have anything to say. That's the case here.  Overall though, I do think this was a great tournament.  

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