2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

Ohio State Wrestling Expecting To Be 'Challenged To Nth Degree' At CKLV

Ohio State Wrestling Expecting To Be 'Challenged To Nth Degree' At CKLV

Ohio State is off to a fast start, but coach Tom Ryan knows bigger challenges await, beginning Friday in Las Vegas at the Cliff Keen Invitational.

Nov 30, 2023 by Nick Corey
Ohio State Wrestling Expecting To Be 'Challenged To Nth Degree' At CKLV

The hot start to the Ohio State Buckeyes’ 2023-24 wrestling campaign has head coach Tom Ryan pleased but cognizant. Ryan knows his team’s truest gauge of how it stacks up with others nationwide will take place at this weekend’s Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas.

The Buckeyes bring their undefeated (4-0) team to compete Friday and Saturday in the season’s toughest regular season tournament. The Cliff Keen Invitational features some of the greatest and highest-ranked wrestlers from across the country and allows Buckeye wrestlers the opportunity to mix it up with some of their stiffest competition outside of the Big Ten. Fourteen of the top 20 teams in the nation will be at the CKLV, along with a swath of nationally ranked wrestlers.

Barometer-wise, Ryan knows the CKLV will be the most accurate indicator of how good this year’s team might be. He knows it can reveal where some of his athletes need to make progress, too.

“We’re gonna be challenged there to the nth degree,” Ryan said. “The final matches, the semifinal matches, the quarterfinal matches — some of these are gonna be final, semifinal and quarterfinal-level matches at the national tournament in March. The guys will have two or three matches in a row where they’ll be required to find a way to solve the puzzle of different styles.”

Despite the early season success of his team, Ryan knows his wrestlers haven’t yet been exposed to the sheer number of nationally-ranked individual foes as are entered in the CKLV.

“The whole team is gonna go up against a wide range of high-level athletes,” he said. “That’s what this tournament offers. They’ll be pitted against guys who have great single-leg attacks, great doubles, guys who are great on top and others who are hard to keep under you. We’ll see guys who are great defensively, and they’re going to have to handle all of that, solve all the different styles thrown at them.

“We want to see progress. The first half of this year, we’ve been a team that’s very aggressive. In this sport, 99 out of 100 times aggression wins. They need to keep that up no matter who they’re wrestling. Be aggressive. Don’t let other styles take you out of yours.”

Ryan cited a few wrestlers he wants to see handle the heightened competition.

“We haven’t seen (Gavin) Hoffman tested at 184 yet,” he said. “He’ll get that this weekend, and we look forward to seeing how he responds. We haven’t seen Luke Geog tested yet this year at 197. In the second round, Nick (Feldman) is going to face the Air Force kid, (#2 Wyatt) Hendrickson. And we actually think Nick is good enough to win, but we’re gonna see where Nick is on that comeback journey. (#5 Jesse) Mendez is the third seed, and we’ll see him tested this weekend, but we’ve seen him tested before; we haven’t really seen Nick tested like he will be this weekend. We look forward to seeing how he answers.

“It’s a great tournament. It’s a truth-teller. We’re going to find out a lot.”

Bucks’ Trip to The Big Apple

After upsetting Virginia Tech 24-12 and demolishing Edinboro in a 53-0 shutout to start the dual season, the Buckeyes lost no steam on their trip to New York on November 19. They extended their shutout streak to three in a row, defeating Columbia, 49-0, before traveling to Hofstra —  Ryan’s first collegiate head coaching job — later in the day for a 51-0 win over the Pride. On the day, the Buckeyes earned bonus points in 19 of the 20 bouts they wrestled. 

125: #29 Brendan McCrone bagged two wins with a decision over Columbia’s Sulayman Bah, 13-8, before locking up a second period cradle and pinning Hofstra’s Dylan Ryder.

133: #16 Nic Bouzakis scored a takedown with a minute left in his match with Columbia’s Yanni Vines to finish a 20-3 technical fall victory. Against Hofstra, Bouzakis didn’t use nearly as much time, as he pinned Ryan Arbeit at the 1:03 mark of the first period.

141: Brandon Cannon made his dual meet debut for Ohio State, and didn’t disappoint. Cannon earned two technical fall victories over Columbia’s Mason Clarke and Hofstra’s Alex Turley by scores of 20-4 and 17-2, respectively. 

149: #5 Dylan D’Emilio looked as one might expect a returning All-American to look against two unranked opponents, finishing the day with a first-period fall over Columbia’s Kenny Duschek and a 19-2 technical fall over Hofstra’s Noah Tapia. 

157: #17 Paddy Gallagher added two more bonus point wins for the tech-fall-happy Buckeyes with two technical fall victories of his own, beating Columbia’s David Berkovich, 20-4, and Hofstra’s Franke Volpe, 22-5.

165: The Buckeyes opted to send out two different wrestlers at 165. Isaac Wilcox earned a 15-4 major decision over Columbia’s Andy Garr and #18 Bryce Hepner — making his season debut and looking relentless on his feet (5 takedowns) — overwhelmed Hofstra’s Matt Rogers with a technical fall victory, 18-2.    

174: After building a first period lead to 9-2, #6 Carson Kharchla ended his match against Columbia’s Garret Bilgrav in the third period with a win by technical fall, 20-3. In the evening, Kharchla came within one point of another technical fall victory, defeating Hofstra’s Ross McFarland by major decision, 17-3.

184: On a day in which the Buckeyes dominated both opponents, #11 Gavin Hoffman’s first two matches of the year elicited specific praise from Ryan.

“Gavin, with him getting down to the weight, I thought he looked really good for someone who committed to get down to a weight he hadn’t been at in four years,” Ryan said. “He was strong; he had energy. That was definitely a bright spot for us.”

In his first two matches of the season after dropping down from 197, Hoffman pinned Columbia’s Joe Curtis in the first period and earned a technical fall win over Hofstra’s Will Conlon.         

197: #14 Luke Geog was in control for the entirety of both of his matches of the day, securing 4-point near fall swipes twice in his match against Michael Baker of Columbia en route to a 17-2 TF victory. Geog recorded his second technical fall of the day against Hofstra’s Nikolas Miller after building his lead to 18-1 in the second period.

HVT: #17 Nick Feldman continued his strong showings since returning this season after an extended layoff from neck surgery. Feldman began the day with a 19-4 TF win over Columbia’s Nolan Neves and capped his evening with another technical fall over #20 Keaton Kluever.

Where It All Began For Ryan

Returning to the area of New York only miles from his hometown of Wantagh, NY — and where he was hired for his first and only other head coaching position — always brings back memories for Ryan.

“That trip was about bringing Ohio State wrestling to the East coast and helping those programs,” Ryan said. “Obviously, I love Hofstra. That place gave me my first chance. Not only did we get matches for our guys, but we raised money for the Teague Ryan Scholarship Fund.”

As many in and out of the wrestling community know, Ryan lost his 5-year old son, Teague, in 2004 during his tenure as Hofstra’s head coach.

“A lot of friends were there, a lot of people that helped me along the way,” Ryan said. “There were four previous head coaches in Hofstra’s history that were there that night. Just so many good people who made a tremendous impact on me and my family’s life.

“It was a good time, a good trip.”

On the Horizon

Dec. 10 — University of Pittsburgh @ Covelli Center, Columbus, OH  

Dec. 19 — University of Northern Illinois @ Montgomery Bell Academy, TN ( 

Dec. 19 — Lock Haven University @ Montgomery Bell Academy, TN  

Dec. 19 — NC State University @ Montgomery Bell Academy, TN