2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

16 Freshmen To Watch At Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

16 Freshmen To Watch At Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

The Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational takes place December 1 & 2. Here are high-impact freshmen to keep an eye on.

Nov 29, 2023 by David Bray
16 Freshmen To Watch At Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

The Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational sets the stage for freshman to announce themselves as NCAA All-American contenders. The list of breakout freshmen at CKLV is long. Last year, ASU freshman Richard Figueroa won the bracket at 125 lbs with a victory over eventual NCAA finalist Matt Ramos in the finals. Vegas is also where guys like Austin DeSanto and Hunter Stieber pulled off massive upsets that helped launch their careers.

The 2023 edition of CKLV has no shortage of first-year starters poised to make noise. Check out the list of 16 potential high-impact freshmen below and get familiar with the faces wrestling fans could be seeing for years to come.

CKLV PRE-SEEDS



125 lbs - #32 Troy Spratley, Oklahoma State

CKLV Seed: 10

Big Board Ranking: 6 (2022)

U20 US Open champ Troy Spratley spent his true freshman year at Minnesota but transferred to Oklahoma State during the offseason. He's 5-0 on the season so far and was 8-2 as a year ago in redshirt.

Spratley's path through the bracket could include 7-seeded Tanner Jordan, who he beat 4-3 at the Bison Open a year ago, in the round of 16. If he can get past Jordan again, he could see another familiar opponent in All-American Michael DeAugustino in the quarterfinals. Spratley beat DeAugustino by injury default last season in overtime. If he makes it all the way to the semifinals, his likely opponents include #6 Brett Ungar and #21 Brandon Kaylor.

133 lbs - #11 Evan Frost, Iowa State

CKLV Seed: 3

Big Board Ranking: NR (2022)

After spending the first several years of his high school career in Louisiana, Evan Frost and his twin brother Jacob moved to Dowling Catholic in Iowa. He made a name for himself earlier this week by taking out #12 Brody Teske of Iowa 8-1.

Frost's likely round of 16 opponent is #21 Ethan Oakley of Appalachian State, and his quarterfinals opponents could include either #14 Brendan Ferretti of Navy or #25 Gabe Whisenhunt of Oregon State who upset #6 Sam Latona earlier this season. Should Frost make the semis, he could see either #5 Kai Orine or #9 Dom Zaccone.

133 lbs - #17 Nic Bouzakis, Ohio State

CKLV Seed: 8

Big Board Ranking: 4 (2022)

Bouzakis entered college with high expectations as the #4 recruit in the class of 2022 and a long list of accolades. Now he's looking to show that he can be a difference-maker for the Buckeyes.

As the #8 seed, he could see Utah Valley's Haiden Drury in the round of 16 followed by top-seeded Daton Fix in the quarterfinals. Fix presents a lot of problems for Bouzakis, but if he somehow navigates those challenges, he would likely see either #10 Julian Chlebove or #13 Angelo Rini in the semifinals.

133 lbs - #25 Gabe Whisenhunt, Oregon State

CKLV Seed: 11

Big Board Ranking: 49 (2022)

Oregon State's 133-pounder has had an up-and-down month of November. He beat All-American #6 Sam Latona at the Southeast Open but was also majored by #12 Brody Teske at the Oregon State vs Iowa dual and suffered a 2-0 loss to North Carolina's #24 Caden McCrary.

His path to the finals appears to run through Navy sophomore #14 Brendan Ferretti of Navy, third-seeded #11 Evan Frost in the quarterfinals, and #5 Kai Orine in the semifinals.

Whisenhunt's upset over #6 Sam Latona at the Southeast Open

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141 lbs - #31 Sergio Lemley, Michigan

CKLV Seed: 13

Big Board Ranking: 16 (2023)

Super 32 champ Sergio Lemley appears to be Michigan's starter as a true freshman, and he's off to a 5-1 start on the season.

He'll expect to see 2x NCAA qualifier #7 Ryan Jack of NC State in the round of 16 followed by #17 Cael Happel of UNI in the quarterfinals and #3 Lachlan McNeil of North Carolina in the semis.

149 lbs - #20 Jordan Williams, Oklahoma State

CKLV Seed: 10

Big Board Ranking: 12 (2022)

Cowboy wrestling fans are excited about their dynamic redshirt freshman Jordan Williams. He's undefeated so far on the season but went 8-7 during last season with both solid wins and shaky losses. If Williams can wrestle to his full potential, he could have this bracket on upset watch.

He's seeded to face #15 Ethen Miller of Maryland (who he beat last season) in the round of 16, #3 Kyle Parco of ASU in the quarters, and either #4 Caleb Henson of Virginia Tech or #6 Chance Lamer of Cal Poly in the semifinals.

149 lbs - #25 Jayden Scott, North Carolina

NCAA Ranking: unseeded

Big Board Ranking: 83 (2022)

UNC freshman Jayden Scott is just 3-3 on the year, but his victory over 2x NCAA qualifier Corbyn Munson has him sitting at #25 in the rankings. He's unseeded at CKLV, but he's demonstrated that he has upset potential. When the brackets come out on Friday, keep an eye on Munson's spot as he could be a real disruptor.

157 lbs - #19 Meyer Shapiro, Cornell

CKLV Seed: 14

Big Board Ranking: 1 (2023)

Meyer Shapiro enters the Cornell lineup with massive expectations. He's 19-0 against D1 opponents between open tournaments he competed in as a senior in high school and his early contests this season. The U17 and U20 World champ is widely considered a contender finish on the podium in March, and maybe even on the top of the podium.

If Shapiro wins this weekend, he'll establish himself as a legitimate title contender. His round of 16 opponent is likely to be #5 Bryce Andonian, his likely quarterfinal opponent could be either Stanford's #9 Daniel Cardenas or Cody Chittum, and his semifinal opponent could be #4 Jacori Teemer of Arizona State. Shapiro's path to the finals couldn't be much more difficult, but it also couldn't be much more entertaining than this.

157 lbs - #21 Joey Blaze, Purdue

CKLV Seed: 9

Big Board Ranking: 18 (2023)

Super 32 champ Joey Blaze is off to a hot start to his true freshman season. He's 8-1 on the year and already has an upset over #8 Ed Scott.

He'll expect to go through SDSU's #14 Cael Swensen in the round of 16, Nebraska's #3 Peyton Robb in the quarters, and either #6 Will Lewan of Michigan or #8 Ed Scott of NC State in the semis.

Blaze's upset over #8 Ed Scott at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic

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157 lbs - Cody Chittum, Iowa State

CKLV Seed: 11

Big Board Ranking: 

Chittum switched his graduation year from 2023 to 2022 after the conclusion of the 2022 Big Board, so he entered college without a recruiting ranking, but he was ranked as high as #1 in his class at various points in his career. On Sunday, he was an eyelash away from beating #2 Jared Franek in the Iowa vs Iowa State dual, and he appears poised to pull upsets in Vegas.

His path by seed includes #9 Daniel Cardenas of Stanford in the round of 16, #5 Bryce Andonian or #19 Meyer Shapiro in the quarterfinals, and #6 Will Lewan or #8 Ed Scott in the semifinals.

157 lbs - Chris Earnest, Campbell

CKLV Seed: 15

Big Board Ranking: NR (2023)

Campbell fans are excited for Wadsworth, Ohio true freshman Chris Earnest, especially after he started his season with an upset over Army's Nate Lukez. Now he's 6-2 on the season and the 15th seed in Vegas.

He'll expect to see #4 Jacori Teemer in the round of 16, #12 Trevor Chumbley or #15 Paddy Gallagher in the quarterfinals, and either #5 Bryce Andonian, #9 Daniel Cardenas, #19 Meyer Shapiro, or Cody Chittum in the semis.

165 lbs - #17 Antrell Taylor, Nebraska

CKLV Seed: 6

Big Board Ranking: 30

Nebraska freshman Antrell Taylor had a fantastic summer of freestyle, and the Huskers are ready for him to step into an impact role this season.

His seeded opponents include #24 Brevin Cassella of Binghamton in the round of 16, #4  Izzak Olejnik of Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals, and #3 Cam Amine of Michigan in the semifinals.

165 lbs - #29 Hunter Garvin, Stanford

CKLV Seed: 13

Big Board Ranking: 15 (2022)

After a year in redshirt, Iowa City native Hunter Garvin is ready to make an impact for Stanford at 165 lbs. He's seed to face #7 Julian Ramirez, #8 Matthew Olguin, and #2 David Carr en route to the finals, should seeds hold.

174 lbs - Brayden Thompson, Oklahoma State

CKLV Seed: unseeded

Big Board Ranking: 17 (2023)

True freshman Brayden Thompson has only competed in one match this season, and that was cut short due to injury. He was a big part of the Cowboys' recruiting class last year, and he'll essentially be making his debut in Vegas this weekend. He's unseeded for this weekend's event, so keep an eye on where he lands in the bracket. The 2022 U20 World team member could be a big-time difference maker at this weight.

197 lbs - #16 Luke Geog, Ohio State

CKLV Seed: 8

Big Board Ranking: 24 (2022)

St. Eds product Luke Geog had a solid redshirt season at 9-2, and he's already up to #16 at 197 lbs in the first month of his freshman season.

As the #8 seed, he'll expect to see UNC's #21 Max Shaw in the round of 16, SDSU's #2 Tanner Sloan in the quarterfinals, and either Oklahoma State's #12 Luke Surber or Maryland's #8 Jaxon Smith in the semifinals.

285 lbs - #18 Nick Feldman, Ohio State

CKLV Seed: 9

Big Board Ranking: 1 (2022)

Feldman was the top recruit in the class of 2022, and he's 9-0 so far this season. His biggest moment of the season so far was a last-second victory over #19 Hunter Catka in the Ohio State vs Virginia Tech dual.

He could see #21 Konnor#21 Doucet of Oklahoma State in the round of 16, #2 Wyatt Hendrickson in the quarterfinals, and either #8 Tyrell Gordon of UNI or #10 Grady Griess of Navy in the semifinals.