2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

Oklahoma State Wrestling Sees Lineup Changes Heading Into CKLV

Oklahoma State Wrestling Sees Lineup Changes Heading Into CKLV

For the first time in more than two decades, Oklahoma State is headed to the Cliff Keen Invitational and John Smith's squad will be tested in Vegas.

Dec 1, 2023 by Rowdy Baribeau
Oklahoma State Wrestling Sees Lineup Changes Heading Into CKLV

Oklahoma State is heading to a tournament it’s been absent from for more than two decades.

The Cowboys join a loaded field at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, featuring seven of the top 10 nationally ranked teams. That didn’t stop John Smith from making changes at toss-up weight classes. As for the Cowboy All-Americans, they will have a strong chance to make their statement in a tournament that Smith said will be second on the Oklahoma State schedule in terms of difficulty, behind only the NCAA Championships. 

Here are some notes on the Cowboys as they go into their first major test of the year: 

Changes At 149 And 157, Plus A Return At 174 

After strong recent performances, Smith decided to go with changes at his middleweights. After defeating his teammates by way of a 15-2 major decision over Carter Young and a 7-6 decision against Teague Travis, #20 Jordan Williams earned his spot at 149 pounds. Williams is coming off an 8-7 true freshman year, but he has seemingly put it behind him after a 5-0 start to this one. Smith said the tournament presents an opportunity for young guys like Williams. 

“This is an opportunity that you move in the rankings, and you’re recognized as a real threat,” Smith said. “You can do that for yourself this week.”

Instead of veteran Jalin Harper getting the nod at 157, it will be another senior, Daniel Manibog, who defeated Harper in sudden victory at the Broncho Open earlier this season.  Outside of that victory and a 4-2 loss to Cameron Steed at Lindenwood, Manibog has bonus-point victories in his five other matches. Harper will still wrestle this weekend — just not in Las Vegas. 

“I left it up to practice performance,” Smith said. “Both of them agreed, I think they knew that Manibog had the better week than Harper. We’re sending several of our wrestlers to Fort Hays this weekend, that’s where Harper will be.”

At 174 pounds, Brayden Thompson will return to the mat after an injury to open the season against Bucknell. What seemed like an injury that would keep him off the mat for an extended duration turned into a false alarm. 

“[He] healed up quickly, it wasn’t as severe as we thought,” Smith said. “Just a healthy kid that bounced back pretty quick. He’s been full-go this week and most of last week.

For all three wrestlers, it is the first big test of their careers. Manibog is an experienced wrestler, but he has not competed in a tournament with the caliber of the Cliff Keen Invitational. Although Smith said the tournament is a great opportunity for the young guys, it is also a real opportunity for Manibog to make a statement and potentially solidify his standing as Oklahoma State’s 157-pounder. 

Addition Of Olejnik Paying Off

Izzak Olejnik’s slick ankle pick on Dean Hamiti at the NWCA All-Star Classic earned the Adidas takedown of the week. The All-American transfer from Northern Illinois has already made the first of potentially many statements in an orange singlet. He certainly could do so in a bracket featuring five of the top 10 165-pounders, including #2 David Carr. Smith is impressed with what his #4 165-pounder has done in his short time in Stillwater.

“He’s matured, he’s got real purpose in what he’s doing every day,” Smith said. “Very serious about his practice, his workouts, his training. [He’s] well-disciplined, as you would expect.  A quiet guy that really works hard, I think he’s enjoyed his experience so far, and a tough kid. He’s a great competitor, I think he’s added quite a bit since he’s been here.”

Olejnik is looking for more than an eighth-place finish at NCAA’s. He wanted to elevate his performance, and transferring to a storied program like Oklahoma State presented an opportunity to do just that. Olejnik said he felt being in Stillwater has already helped him with his technique. 

“There’s a level of intensity in this room that’s demanded, and I think that’s definitely brought me up another level,” Olejnik said. “Being here has definitely helped, just fine tuning some things and overall, just getting the opportunity to wrestle these top-ranked guys — [it’s] what I’m looking for.”