From left: Dylan Ragusin, Vito Arujau, and Michael McGee (photos courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
One of the major landmarks of the collegiate wrestling season is the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational which is normally held during the first weekend in December. There's about a month of action underway before the tournament so we typically have a feel for who's who at each weight. Vegas is a large, individually bracketed tournament that features plenty of top teams, so it provides even more clarity once the smoke clears on Saturday evening.
The 2022 CKLV is expected to include one of the top-ranked wrestlers at his respective weight and nine of the top 20 tournament teams in the nation.
Below is a weight-by-weight preview of the action along with picks for the semifinals and finals at all ten weights, along with a final team race projection.
Ranked Wrestlers: #3 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern), #8 Matt Ramos (Purdue), #10 Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State), #11 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State), #16 Eddie Ventresca (Virginia Tech), #22 Jake Ferri (Kent State), #23 Caleb Smith (Appalachian State), #27 Liam Cronin (Nebraska), #29 Jarrett Trombley (NC State), #31 Kase Mauger (Utah Valley), #33 Kurt McHenry (Michigan)
Others: Richie Figueroa (Arizona State)
Action gets underway with the 125 lb weight class that features a pair of returning All-Americans, three top-ten wrestlers and a third of the top 33. A 2019 third-place CKLV finisher, Michael DeAugustino will look to claim his first tournament title here and starts as the top seed. A pair of Big Ten foes should be in the mix, as well with Matt Ramos and Malik Heinselman. Both have finished eighth in this tournament at one time or another. Ramos last year at 133 lbs and Heinselman in 2019. Heinselman and DeAugustino could square off in the semifinals. This is a series that the Wildcat has dominated taking two wins from Heinselman, though the Buckeye did earn a win while DeAugustino was a redshirting freshman.
The other half of the bracket features Ramos and 2021 CKLV third-place finisher Brandon Kaylor. A win over Heinselman at last year's tournament was the spark for a breakout performance from Kaylor.
Going deeper into the bracket, Kurt McHenry comes in at #11 in the preseeds, but has looked well in the early going. He's getting his first extended opportunity to start for the Wolverines and is responding well. This tournament could see him make a significant jump.
Don't be surprised if unseeded Richie Figueroa shakes up this entire bracket. He has been impressive filling in for 2021 NCAA finalist Brandon Courtney. Figueroa already has three wins over top-20 opponents this year.
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