2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Upperweight Preview: 184-285

2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Upperweight Preview: 184-285

A full preview with predictions for 184-285 pounds at the 2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

Nov 29, 2023 by Andrew Spey
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It's the deepest, raddest, and baddest college wrestling tournament of the year (outside of the NCAA Championships). The Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational is the biggest wrestling event of the season and it's going down this weekend at the Westgate. 


More CKLV content: Pre-Seeds | Schedule | Ranked Wrestlers

Check out our preview and predictions of the heaviest three weights at the tournament below.

184 Pounds

The Favorites

#1 Parker Keckeisen, Northern Iowa 

#3 Chris Foca, Cornell 

#4 Trey Munoz, Oregon State 

#5 Dustin Plott, Oklahoma State

The top four seeds (1-Keck, 2-Munoz, 3-Foca, 4-Plott) are all ranked in the top five nationally and finished in the top six at the NCAA Tournament last season. 

UNI’s Parker Keckeisen has to be considered the favorite among favorites, however. The torch-bearer for 184lb U has been an elite performer at 184 for the last three seasons, finishing third twice and second last season. 

Keckeisen will be challenged by Cornell’s Chris Foca, who recently made the move up from 174 to 184. The New Jersey native placed third last year and maybe even more dangerous up at a higher weight class. 

If preseeds hold, Foca will have a semifinal bout with Oregon State’s Trey Munoz – who placed 6th last season at 184 – while Oklahoma State’s stalwart, Dustin Plott, will have a bout with Keckeisen in the same round. Plott placed 6th the last two years at 174, but like Foca, he bulked up and is injecting 184 with new high-caliber competition. 

Keckeisen and Foca are 1-0 respectively over Munoz and Plott in their college careers. 

Watch Foca win a 2023 EIWA title:

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Contenders

#6 Will Feldkamp, Iowa State 

#9 Gavin Kane, North Carolina 

#11 Gavin Hoffman, Ohio State

#12 Lenny Pinto, Nebraska 

#13 David Key, Navy 

#16 Sam Fisher, Virginia Tech

#18 Dylan Fishback, NC State

#20 Troy Fisher, Northwestern 

The next eight preseeds are filled out by three All-Americans, three former national qualifiers, and two promising first-year starters.

The former All-Americans are Hoffman, who was 6th in 2022 and has the 6 seed; Feldkamp, who was 7th in 2023 and has the 7 seed; and Kane, who was 8th in 2023 and has 8 seed.

Key and Troy Fisher are both two-time qualifiers who have yet to reach the NCAA podium. Key has the Fisher are the 10 and 11 seed respectively. Pinto, the 5 seed, was the 13 seed at his first NCAAs in 2023 but finished in the round of 24. Pinto has a win over Munoz from last season and beat Key this season 18-8. Feldkamp defeated Pinto at the 2023 NCAAs.

Sam Fisher and Dylan Fishback (by the way, this is the most piscine of all the weight classes at CKLV) are the 11 and 12 seed respectively. Fisher is in his fourth season in Blacksburg but never made the postseason lineup as All-American Hunter Bolen was in his way. Fishback is a redshirt freshman who was #5 on the Class of 2022 Big Board

A talented redshirt freshman who we won’t see contending for a placement at CKLV is South Dakota State’s #21 Bennett Berge, who has yet to take the mat this season for the Jackrabbits.

Sleepers and Landmines

#22 Tony Negron, Arizona State

Aaron Ayzerov, Columbia

James Rowley, Purdue

A low seed that could do some damage is Arizona State’s Tony Negron, who has the 16 seed but is ranked #22. If the seeds hold and he is unable to upset Keckeisen in the round of 16, he could still be problems for anyone unlucky enough to draw him in the consolation rounds.

Two more young wrestlers who didn’t get a preseed but have high upside potential are Columbia’s Aaron Ayzerov and Purdue’s James Rowley. 

Predictions

  1. Keckeisen, UNI
  2. Foca, Cornell
  3. Plott, Oklahoma State
  4. Munoz, Oregon State

197 Pounds

The Favorites

#2 Tanner Sloan

#5 Trent Hidlay, NC State

Two NCAA finalists headline the 197lb division in Vegas. Iowa native Tanner Sloan is a four-time NCAA qualifier and one-time All-American, finishing as a runner-up to Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi last season. Pennsylvania product Trent Hidlay is a four-time NCAA qualifier and three-time All-American, who finished as a runner-up in 2021 to Aaron Brooks at 184-pounds. 

Hidlay (and Brooks) both bumped up from 184 to 197 this season, while Sloan has been competing at 197 for his entire career. 

Sloan and Hidlay have yet to wrestle each other in their college careers, and are the #1 and #2 preseed respectively, so if we get a matchup between the two, it will likely be in finals in Vegas. 

Both of the light-heavyweight favorites at the CKLV will also be in fierce competition to make the NCAA finals again in 2024. Additionally, they both have UWW age-level world medals in freestyle wrestling. 

Watch Sloan defeat Rocky Elam in the 2023 NCAA semifinals:

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Contenders

#6 Jacob Cardenas, Cornell

#8 Jaxon Smith, Maryland 

#11 Silas Allred, Nebraska 

#12 Luke Surber, Oklahoma State 

#14 Nick Stemmet, Stanford 

#16 Luke Geog, Ohio State 

The next six entrants to round out the top eight seeds are all ranked in the top 16 nationally, so about half of all the NCAA Championship contenders (as of right now) will be in Vegas. 

Cardenas is the only All-American among them, having placed 8th last season. Fittingly, he received the 3 seed. 

Smith and Allred both finished their 2023 redshirt freshmen campaigns one match shy of the podium in the round of 12 and have received the 5 and 6 seed respectively. 

Luke Surber, a two-time national qualifier, slots in as the 4 seed. Stemmet is also a two-time qualifier and received the 7 seed. 

Finally, redshirt freshman and #24 on the Class of 2022 Big Board Luke Geog received the 8 seed. 

Cardenas is the favorite on paper to make the semis from the bottom half of the bracket. From the top half it’s a toss-up between Smith and Surber (that is, unless you ask a Terrapin or Cowboy partisan). 

Sleepers and Landmines

#19 Levi Hopkins, Campbell

#30 Wyatt Voelker, Northern Iowa

#33 Jack Wehmeyer, Columbia 

Three guys who aren’t ranked as high nationally and didn’t receive top 10 seeds but are absolutely competitors that can fight their way to the podium in Vegas include a seasoned veteran from Cambell and two second-year wrestlers from UNI and Columbia. 

Alaska native Levi Hopkins was an NCAA qualifier at 197 last season, who notched a 1-2 record at nationals, while redshirt freshman Wyatt Voelker and true sophomore Jack Wehmeyer were both on the 2022 Big Board, with Voelker earning the #52 ranking on that list while Wehmeyer checked in at #60.

Predictions

  1. Hidlay, NC State
  2. Sloan, SD State
  3. Smith, Maryland
  4. Cardenas, Cornell

285 Pounds

The Favorite

#3 Lucas Davison, Michigan

Unfortunately, heavyweight at the CKLV will have to make do without the contributions of Wyatt Hendrickson and Cohlton Schultz, both of whom will not be making the trip to Vegas with their respective programs, Air Force and Arizona State. 

But Michigan is bringing two-time All-American Lucas Davison, who is ranked third nationally and will have the number one seed once the pre-seeds are updated to reflect Hendrickson’s absence. 

Davison qualified for two NCAA tournaments at 197-pounds before bumping up to heavyweight where he placed 6th and 5th at the last two championships. Davison earned these accolades at Northwestern, where he graduated over the summer before transferring to Michigan for his last season of eligibility. 

Watch Davison win in the semifinals of the 2022 CKLV:

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Contenders

#6 Yonger Bastida, Iowa State

#8 Tyrell Gordon, Northern Iowa

#10 Grady Greiss, Navy 

#13 Owen Trephan, NC State 

#15 Taye Ghadiali, Campbell 

#16 Lewis Fernandes, Cornell 

#17 Boone McDermott, Oregon State 

#18 Nick Feldman, Ohio State 

#19 Hunter Catka, Virginia Tech 

While Davison will be the only top-five ranked wrestler at 285 in Vegas, there will be a host of contenders in his bracket who will have their say. 

Bastida, the #3 preseed (who will move up to #2 when the new seeds come out and Hendrickson is removed), is the only other All-American. The Cuban national was 5th in 2022 and reached the round of 16 last season, both times at 197. 

Gordon, Greiss, Trephan, and Ghadiali are the next highest seeds after Bastida and have all been to the NCAA tournament at least once before, although none have advanced past the round of 16. 

Lewis Fernandes is back in the Cornell lineup after an injury-shortened 2022-23 season. Fernandes made it to the bloodround in 2022. I am also now journalistically obligated to mention that Cornell has never had a heavyweight All-American in the history of their program. 

Other nationally ranked wrestlers who received preseeds include McDermot and Catka, who have also qualified for NCAA Championships in the past, and Nick Feldman, a talented redshirt freshman who was #1 on the Class of 2022 Big Board. 

Sleepers and Landmines

#20 Cory Day, Binghamton

#21 Konner Doucet, Oklahoma State

#27 Keaton Kluever, Hofstra 

Day and Doucet are nationally-ranked wrestlers who qualified for the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Though they did not get preseeds, they are capable of deep runs in Vegas. 

Kluever did stints at North Carolina and Minnesota before transferring to Hofstra, a school with a nice pedigree at heavyweight having had Zachary Knighton-Ward and Michael Hughes manning the spot for the Pride in the last 10 years. 

Predictions

  1. Davison, Michigan
  2. Bastida, Iowa State
  3. Fernandes, Cornell
  4. Gordon, UNI