2021 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

Cliff Keen Las Vegas Middleweight Preview & Predictions

Cliff Keen Las Vegas Middleweight Preview & Predictions

Breaking down 149-174 at the 2021 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

Dec 1, 2021 by Jon Kozak
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The Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational is the best early-season tournament and the 149-174 weight classes are absolutely stacked. With multiple national champions in action and potential #1 vs #2 matchups, the action in Vegas is sure to be incredible. Take a look below at an in-depth breakdown and predictions for the middleweights at the CKLV.

149 Pounds

The Favorite 

This weight is the deepest in Vegas and has the potential to showcase the #1 and #2 wrestlers in the country - Yianni Diakomihalis and Sammy Sasso. We highlighted their potential showdown in our best matches article here, but history shows this matchup favors Yianni. 

This tournament will be a great test for Diakomihalis up at 149 after winning NCAA titles in his previous two seasons at 141. Diakomihalis has limited results against this field and has only wrestled 2 of 26 potential competitors in the bracket - Jaden Abas and Mitch Moore. Abas was able to stifle Diakomihalis in their dual matchup two weeks ago but Yianni still prevailed in a 3-1 decision. Yianni's the top dog in this bracket, but will absolutely be challenged by some of the nation's best.

Yianni's win over Sammy Sasso from the 2020 RTC Cup:

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Top Contenders 

After Yianni, Sammy Sasso and Yahya Thomas are the clear next best in this bracket and will likely meet in the semis as the #2 and #3 seeds. The two have met twice in the past with Sasso coming out on top both times. Last year at NCAAs, Sasso won a controlling 8-3 decision but their match from the 2020 Big Ten Championships was much closer. In this match, Sasso edged out in overtime in second tiebreakers, 5-4. Expect this match to be a close one, decided by one takedown or less.

Sammy Sasso and Yahya Thomas' wild match from 2020 Big Ten's:

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Sleepers And Landmines

The depth at 149 in Vegas is wild. After those already mentioned, there are 6 other guys ranked in the top 23 and 2 others in the honorable mention range. There will likely be upsets but it will take an impressive and surprising performance by anyone in this field outside the rankings to reach the podium in Vegas. #6 Jaden Abas, #11 Ridge Lovett, #15 Legend Lamer, #16 Mitch Moore, #21 Michael Blockhus, and #23 Kanen Storr are the guys to watch for capable of upending someone in the top 3 in this bracket. Unsurprisingly, Jaden Abas and Ridge Lovett are at the top of this list and should meet up in the premier quarter-final match for the chance to take on Yianni in the semis. 


Prediction:

1) Yianni Diakomihalis; 2) Yahya Thomas; 3) Jaden Abas; 4) Sammy Sasso


Every Entrant:

#1 Yianni Diakomihalis, Cornell

#2 Sammy Sasso, Ohio State

#4 Yahya Thomas, Northwestern

#6 Jaden Abas, Stanford

#11 Ridge Lovett, Nebraska

#15 Legend Lamer, Cal Poly

#16 Mitch Moore, Oklahoma

#21 Michael Blockhus, Minnesota

#23 Kanen Storr, Michigan

#HM Cory Crooks, Oregon State

#HM Zach Price, South Dakota State

Nick Lombard, Binghamton

Chaz Hallmark, California Baptist

Zander Silva, California Baptist

Matthew Arciuolo, Columbia

Josh Brown, CSU-Bakersfield

Lukus Stricker, Harvard

Kody Komara, Kent State

PJ Crane, Navy

Sam Turner, Nebraska-Kearney

Christopher Sandoval, Northern Colorado

Josh Breeding, Princeton

Trey Kruse, Purdue

Cole McGill, Sacred Heart

Ethan Willis, The Citadel

Alex Emmer, Utah Valley

Jaron Jensen, Wyoming


157 Pounds

The Favorite

After 149, the 157-pound bracket is the deepest and “most fun” of any in Vegas (at least for me). While there isn’t a potential for a #1 vs #2 matchup, there are 4 of the top 10 wrestlers in the country here and 11 total ranked. Ryan Deakin is the clear favorite in this stacked field and will be going for his third CKLV title. Within this field, Deakin has multiple wins over #6 Qunicy Monday, #9 Will Lewan, and #12 Kendall Coleman. 

Ryan Deakin's win over Will Lewan from the 2020 Big Ten Championships:

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Top Contenders 

Quincy Monday and Peyton Robb lead the pack looking to keep Deakin from winning another CKLV title. Of the three, Peyton Robb has been the story of 157 based on his win over Austin O’Connor and taking David Carr to overtime. Robb has vaulted himself into title contention talks and the CKLV will be a true proving ground for the Husker.

While Monday hasn’t had the same level of marquee matches as Robb, he still has performed well in the early season. Quincy Monday won a controlling decision against Iowa All-American Kalen Young, 9-5, and is 5-0 on the season. If someone other than Ryan Deakin wins the CKLV at 157, expect it to be one of Monday or Robb.

Sleepers And Landmines

After the top 3, there is a large group of wrestlers who could fill out the rest of the podium at 157. #9 Will Lewan, #12 Kendall Coleman, #14 Hunter Willits, #16 Jacob Wright, #17 Justin Thomas, and #23 Bryce Hepner are the most notable from this bunch. It will be a major surprise for any of this group to win this bracket or even make the finals. However, their performance in Vegas should tell us who is a true All-American threat and who is more likely to be on the outside looking in come March.


Prediction:

1) Ryan Deakin; 2) Quincy Monday; 3) Peyton Robb; 4) Will Lewan


Every Entrant:

#2 Ryan Deakin, Northwestern

#6 Quincy Monday, Princeton

#7 Peyton Robb, Nebraska

#9 Will Lewan, Michigan

#12 Kendall Coleman, Purdue

#14 Hunter Willits, Oregon State

#16 Jacob Wright, Wyoming

#17 Justin Thomas, Oklahoma

#23 Bryce Hepner, Ohio State

#HM Andrew Cerniglia, Navy

#HM Dazjon Casto, The Citadel

Logan Gumble, Binghamton

Brawley Lamer, Cal Poly

Alejandro Raya, California Baptist

Kyle Mosher, Columbia

Adam Santoro, Cornell

Brock Rogers, CSU-Bakersfield

Trevor Tarsi, Harvard

Enrique Munguia, Kent State

Cody Eaton, Northern Colorado

Shaun Williams, Sacred Heart

Kenny O'Neil, South Dakota State

Charles Darracott, Stanford

Jaxon Garoutte, Utah Valley


165 Pounds

The Favorite

While other weights might be deeper or have higher-profile matchups, 165 might be the most intriguing weight of the CKLV Invitational. Defending national champion Shane Griffith will take the mat in Vegas and might have a chance to avenge his recent loss to Cornell’s Julian Ramirez. Despite the loss (and its controversial ending), Griffith should still be considered the favorite in Vegas but will absolutely be tested.

Though Ramirez is in the field, Evan Wick should be considered the biggest favorite after Griffith in Vegas. Wick is returning to folkstyle wrestling after taking last year to focus on Freestyle and transferring to Cal Poly. Wick, a two-time All-American (3rd in 2018 and 4th in 2019), has an incredible collegiate resume that includes wins over Alex Marinelli, Chance Marsteller, David McFadden, Logan Massa, and many other All-Americans. Evan Wick will be in title contention come March and a match-up against Shane Griffith is absolutely fascinating.

Evan Wick's dominant win in the finals of the 2021 MSU Open:

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Top Contenders

Demetrius Romero, Carson Kharchla, Cam Amine, and Julian Ramirez could all throw a wrench into the potential Wick-Griffith showdown. Romero and Amine are both returning All-Americans and have yet to face high-level competition this year. Their performance in Vegas should tell us if they’ve jumped levels and are ready to challenge for a national title or if they are still a tier behind the top guys at 165.

Kharchla and Ramirez provide huge intrigue in this bracket and are considered title contenders by many. While Ramirez has the win over Shane Griffith, he also suffered an early-season loss at the Bearcat Open to Penn State’s Matt Lee. Kharchla, on the other hand, is still undefeated in his collegiate career but has had relatively close matches against “lesser” opponents. The CKLV will be a valuable test for Ramirez and Kharchla and tell us how close they are to challenging for a national title.

Kharchla's win over Mekhi Lewis from the 2020 RTC Cup:

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Sleeper and Landmines

165 is filled with potential wrestlers who could metaphorically “blow up” this bracket in Vegas. After those already mentioned, there are 4 ranked wrestlers who will be in this bracket - #17 Phillip Conigliaro, #21 David Ferrante, HM Tanner Cook, and HM Selwyn Porter. The most dynamic of that bunch is South Dakota State’s Tanner Cook. In his recent match against Andrew Sparks, Cook showed just how wild and dangerous he is by earning a fall in the second period. The match was a roller coaster from start to finish and is a perfect example of why you need to set your alerts to tune in whenever Tanner Cook takes the mat in Vegas.

Watch Tanner Cook earn a 40-second pin at the 2021 Daktronics Open:

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Prediction:

1) Shane Griffith; 2) Evan Wick; 3) Carson Kharchla; 4) Demetrius Romero


Every Entrant:

#2 Evan Wick, Cal Poly

#4 Shane Griffith, Stanford

#13 Carson Kharchla, Ohio State

#14 Cameron Amine, Michigan

#15 Julian Ramirez, Cornell

#17 Philip Conigliaro, Harvard

#21 David Ferrante, Northwestern

#HM Tanner Cook, South Dakota State

#HM Selwyn Porter, The Citadel

Brevin Cassella, Binghamton

Josh Grant, California Baptist

Joshua Ogunsanya, Columbia

Augustine Garcia, CSU-Bakersfield

Brady Chrisman, Kent State

Cael Carlson, Minnesota

Val Park, Navy

Bubba Wilson, Nebraska

Matthew Malcom, Nebraska-Kearney

Nick Knuston, Northern Colorado

Joseph Grello, Oklahoma

Matthew Olguin, Oregon State

Emil Soehnlen, Purdue

Scott Jarosz, Sacred Heart

Danny Snediker, Utah Valley

Cooper Voorhees, Wyoming


174 Pounds

The Favorite:

Mikey Labriola will be the favorite to bring home the CKLV title at 174 this weekend in Vegas. Not only is he 5-0 on the season, but he’s also undefeated against all of the top competitors in this field. Those head-to-head wins include #11 Hayden Hastings, #20 Jared Krattiger, and #22 Troy Fisher. Simply put, the road to a CKLV title is going to go through Mikey Labriola and it’d be surprising to see anyone else atop the podium Saturday evening in Vegas.


Labriola’s win over Ethan Smith from 2019:

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Top Contenders:

Though Labriola is the big favorite, #6 Ethan Smith and #10 Chris Foca should make things interesting. Foca is currently undefeated on the year and Smith’s only loss is to national champion Mekhi Lewis. Only a freshman, Foca is still in search of a “signature win” in college and he’ll certainly have his chance at the CKLV. Smith, on the other hand, is an established All-American threat at 174 this year but is looking to move up into title contention talks. I don’t expect Smith or Foca to take out Labriola this weekend but I’d be surprised if they get upset before the semi-finals.  

Sleepers And Landmines

There are 13 total ranked wrestlers in the 174-pound bracket at the CKLV so the number of “sleepers” is relatively long. Anthony Mantanona is the obvious pick for a “landmine” because he’s known for his dynamic wrestling and unpredictable style. I don’t think he’ll win, but I do expect some crazy to come out of Mantanona in Vegas. 

While he suffered a loss last week to Cael Valencia, Wyoming’s Hayden Hastings is a more conventional pick as a sleeper. He made the round of 16 last season at NCAAs and has had consistent results over the course of his career. If Hastings is opposite Labriola, he could absolutely make a run to the finals by taking out the likes of Ethan Smith or Chris Foca.


Prediction:

1) Mikey Labriola; 2) Chris Foca; 3) Ethan Smith; 4) Jared Krattiger


Every Entrant:

#5 Mikey Labriola, Nebraska

#6 Ethan Smith, Ohio State

#10 Chris Foca, Cornell

#11 Hayden Hastings, Wyoming

#15 Gerrit Nijenhuis, Purdue

#17 Aaron Olmos, Oregon State

#19 Cade Devos, South Dakota State

#20 Jared Krattiger, Minnesota

#22 Troy Fisher, Northwestern

#HM Adam Kemp, Cal Poly

#HM Josh Kim, Harvard

#HM Anthony Mantanona, Oklahoma

#HM Tyler Eischens, Stanford

Jacob Nolan, Binghamton

Louis Rojas, California Baptist

Aaron Ayzerov, Columbia

Albert Urias, CSU-Bakersfield

Michael Ferree, Kent State

Max Maylor, Michigan

Shane Finney, Navy

Billy Higgins, Nebraska-Kearney

Damen Pape, Northern Colorado

Michael Squires, Princeton

Alex Marciniak, Sacred Heart

Cole Burke, The Citadel

Kekana Fouret, Utah Valley