2012 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Preview
Willie Saylor, Editor
Nothing quite says, "the season's in full swing," like the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. This year's edition, the 31st, again offers an obscene amount of individual talent to go along with what should be an interesting team point chase.
Three Top 10 teams highlight the field, with a total of 7 of the Top 20 schools in the country.
The top ranked team at the CKLV Invite this year is the #5-Ohio State Buckeyes who won the team title here last year. They are followed closely by a 7th-ranked Missouri Tigers squad that features balance up and down the line-up. Cornell, after impressive showings by a number of first year starters that paced them to a perfect record at last week's Northeast Duals, has risen to the #8 team in the latest FloRankings.
Other ranked teams are #11-Oregon State, #15-Virginia, #16-Nebraska, and #19-Kent State.
On the individual side of things, 59 of the 200 ranked wrestlers in the country are here. That's well over a quarter of the nation's best. The biggest stars are three NCAA Champions in Logan Steiber (133), Kyle Dake (165), and Dustin Kilgore (197).
Along with Stieber and Dake, Mike Mangrum and Eric Grajales are returning CKLV Champs.
Wrestling begins at 9AM PT, or Noon Eastern, and runs through the Quarterfinals.
The frontside Day II action will begin at 10AM PST (1 ET) on Saturday, when Tech Wave members can watch the semi's and finals live.
Below are the weight class breakdowns with the top eight seeds and their FloRanking. Number in parentheses indicates how many ranked wrestlers are at each weight. Seeds are arranged to mirror the bracket schematic.
1. #4-Alan Waters (MIZZ)
8. Josh Martinez (AF)
5. #15-Sean Boyle (MICH)
4. #9-Nashon Garrett (COR)
3. #6-Matt Snyder (UVA)
6. #14-Nikko Triggas (tOSU)
7. #18-Tyler Imuwara (CSUB)
2. #7-Trent Sprenkle (NDSU)
Notes: Seven ranked guys make this a very intriguing weight. Cornell's Garrett, just a FR, has been on a tear coming out of the gates. And there's a really interesting potential quarterfinal with two 2011 All Americans in Snyder and Triggas.
1. #1-Logan Stieber (tOSU)
8. Levi Wolfensberger (NIU)
5. #17-Devon Lotito (Cal Poly)
4. #18-Ian Nickell (CSUB)
3. #9-Brian Owen (BSU)
6. #16-George DiCamillo (UVA)
7. Colin Johnston (WVU)
2. #7-Nathan McCormick (MIZZ)
Notes: Logan Stieber is one of the best wrestlers in the country at any weight and an absolute pleasure to watch. He should cruise to a title here. But there is some intrigue behind him.
If the seeds hold true to quarters, we should see some interesting matches, included two ranked PAC-12 foes Lotito and Nickell. And Colin Johnston, in his sixth season of college wrestling, against 2nd seeded McCormick.
1. #2-Hunter Stieber (tOSU)
8. Nathan Pennesi (WVU)
5. Joe Locksmith (NAVY)
4. #13-Steven Keith (HAR)
3. #4-Tyler Graff (WISC)
6. #15-Camryn Jackson (MICH)
7. Ridge Kiley (NEB)
2. #5-Mike Mangrum (Oregon St.)
Notes: From my perspective, this is a really weird weight. There are four returning All Americans present, but three of them (Stieber in wrestle-offs) have hit road bumps early this season and Graff is coming off a redshirt.
Camryn Jackson has opened his R-Fr. year on fire. And Kiley is a scrapper.
This weight could go in many directions.
1. #4-Scott Sakaguchi (Oregon St.)
8. #16-Jake Sueflohn (NEB)
9. Dustin Walraven (SDSU)
5. #14-Derek Valenti (UVA)
4. #7-Cole Von Ohlen (AF)
3. #8-Eric Grajales (MICH)
6. #17-Cam Tessari (tOSU)
10. Daniel Young (ARMY)
7. #19-Drake Houdashelt (MIZZ)
2. #5-Jason Chamberlain (BSU)
Notes: What a grinder of a weight! Returning All American, Cam Tessari is a 6th seed. Ten seed Young has a win over Tessari this season. Sueflohn owns one over Walraven as well.
Great depth here. The quarters themselves will be spectacular, so we don't want to look too far ahead. But you have to think that Chamberlain, who was ranked #1 in the country last week, has to want redemption after getting knocked off by Sakaguchi in their dual.
1. #4-James Green (NEB)
9. #14-Jedd Moore (UVA)
8. #20-Kyle Bradley (MIZZ)
5. #13-David Bonin (NIU)
4. Bobby Barnhisel (NAVY)
3. #12-RJ Pena (Oregon St.)
6. #11-Georgi Ivanov (BSU)
10. Cody Pack (SDSU)
7. Andy McCulley (WYO)
2. #9-Josh Demas (tOSU)
Notes: Flo's #15-Josh Kreimer (AF) isn't seeded, which probably means he's a scratch.
All American James Green is your headliner here. He's followed by a group of mid-pack guys who are about even on paper. Ivanov is coming off a dual win over Pena, and the two could have a rematch in the quarters.
It will be really interesting (and critical for seedings/rankings down the road) to see who emerges from this group this weekend.
1. #1-Kyle Dake (COR)
8. Holden Packard (BSU)
5. #14-Taylor Massa (MICH)
4. #15-Zach Toal (MIZZ)
3. #6-Nick Sulzer (UVA)
6. Austin Wilson (NEB)
7. Joe Brewster (SDSU)
2. #8-Stephen Monk (NDSU)
Notes: Some kid named Dake is at this weight. He should do pretty well. I'm looking at the 4-5 and 3-6 quarters though for two really interesting bouts. Massa is a true Freshman phenom and a match-up with Toal seems pretty even.
On the bottom side I'm interested to see just where Austin Wilson, a former HS National Champ, is at. He's been wrestling well and a bout with Sulzer should tell us a lot.
1. #2-Nick Heflin (tOSU)
8. Cody Caldwell (NIU)
5. #11-Matt Miller (NAVY)
4. #13-Dan Yates (MICH)
3. #7-Jon Fausey (UVA)
6. Todd Porter (MIZZ)
7. Austin Morehead (Oregon St.)
2.#8-Robert Kokesh (NEB)
Notes: From a sheer intriguing point of view, this might be my favorite bracket of the tournament. I was really high on Caldwell coming out of high school, and he'll face his stiffest test thus far with Heflin.
Miller and Yates have both been wrestling extremely well. A quarterfinal there should be a dandy.
In the bottom half we have a potentially odd semifinal, with Kokesh who is coming up from 165, and Fausey who has come down from 184. Both have been clicking on all cylinders in the early going.
Notably absent from the seedings is #14-Dominic Kastl (Cal Poly)
1. #6-Josh Ihnen (NEB)
9. Kevin Radford (ASU)
8. Craig Scott (COR)
5. #15-Casey Newburg (Kent St.)
4. #10-Jake Swartz (BSU)
3. #9-Mike Larson (MIZZ)
6. Mac Stoll (NDSU)
10. Stephen Doty (UVA)
7. Ty Vinson (Oregon St.)
2. #8-Ryan Loder (NIU)
Notes: The 8-9 prequarters match-up is a good one between two guys starting to emerge. The winner will face All American, Ihnen.
I really like Larson. He's streaky, but when he's on, he's a handful.
Also watch out for Ohio State Freshman, Kenny Courts.
Notably absent from the seedings is WVU's Lance Bryson.
1. #1-Dustin Kilgore (Kent St.)
9. Jace Bennett (COR)
8. Jackson Hein (WISC)
5. Andrew Campolattano (Ohio St.)
4. #10-Taylor Meeks (Oregon St.)
3. #5-Brent Haynes (MIZZ)
6. #17-Max Huntley (MICH)
7. #15-Jake Meredith (ASU)
2. #4-Alfonso Hernandez (WYO)
Notes: This is quietly one of the deepest weights in this years CKLV Invite. Of course you have the beast that is Dustin Kilgore. But there is tons of talent behind him with three of the Top 5, and four of the Top 10, wrestlers in the country.
The 4-5 bout with Campolattano and Meeks might be my single favorite quarterfinal of the tournament.
What was said about Mike Larson's (at 184) streakiness can be said about his teammate, Haynes. Perhaps he can put it all together this weekend.
And All American, Alfonso Hernandez, who was 6th at last year's NCAA's, might be the best wrestler in the country that no one ever talks about.
Great bracket and that's without #13-Brent Chriswell (BSU)
1. #2-Dom Bradley (MIZZ)
9. Atticus Disney (Cal Poly)
8. Tanner Harms (WYO)
5. #17-Connor Medbery (WISC)
4. Ben Apland (MICH)
3. #14-Levi Cooper (ASU)
6. #16-Peter Capone (tOSU)
7. Blake Herrin (AU)
2. #7-Chad Hanke (Oregon St.)
Notes: I don't make many predictions, but I'll take Medbery to win the whole darn thing. That's right. I said it. He upsets both Bradley and Hanke. Take it to the bank; you're in Vegas, after all.