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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Facts and Stats from the 2021 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

    197 lb CKLV champion Stephen Buchanan (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)


    College Wrestling returned to Las Vegas with a memorable version of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. As expected, Big Ten powers Nebraska and Ohio State battled for the team title, but in the end, the depth of the Cornhuskers prevailed. The finals featured an entertaining set of bouts, as some tournament finals can feature low-scoring, tentative combatants. After a long flight home and some time perusing the brackets, we've found a bunch of fun facts about the tournament, the wrestlers who participated and their teams.

    First Champions

    Both Princeton and South Dakota State crowned their first-ever Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational champions (Pat Glory - 125/Princeton and Clay Carlson - 141/South Dakota State).

    First Champions Since…

    A trio of schools ended relatively prolonged champion-less droughts.

    Evan Wick became Cal Poly's first CKLV champion since 2011 (Ryan DesRoches at 174 lbs).

    2011 also marked the last time Wyoming had a CKLV champion. That year both Shane Onufer and Joe LeBlanc won titles. This time it was Stephen Buchanan who was victorious at 197 lbs.

    Gary Traub is the first Oregon State Beaver to win the tournament since 2012, when RJ Pena won at 157 lbs.

    First Finalist

    Andrew Alirez's finals appearance at 141 lbs made him the highest placing Northern Colorado wrestler at this event.

    First Finalist Since….

    Unfortunately, 285 lber Yaraslau Slavikouski's tournament ended with an ugly-looking leg injury in the tournament finals. He is the first Crimson wrestler since Todd Preston in 2015 to make the championship match.

    Multiple-time Champions

    The only wrestlers to add additional CKLV plaques to their prior collection were Yianni Diakomihalis (2nd) and Ryan Deakin (3rd).

    Deakin has joined a select group of three-time CKLV champions over the last 15 years. Only Kollin Moore, Zahid Valencia, Nahshon Garrett, Logan Stieber (4), Andrew Howe, Mack Lewens, and Ben Askren have achieved the feat.

    Four-time Placewinner

    The only wrestler that left the tournament as a four-time CKLV placer was Nebraska's 184 lber Taylor Venz. Venz made the finals this year and in 2018. He was also third in 2017 and fifth in 2019.

    Seeding

    Seeds held to the point where the number one and number two wrestlers met in six of the ten weight classes (125, 141, 149, 157, 165, 174)

    Only four wrestlers seeded lower than third made the finals. Kaleb Romero (5th), Eric Schultz (4th), Slavikouski (4th), Traub (10th). Romero likely would have been higher, but he had not competed at all at 184 lbs prior to the tournament.

    Traub's run to a title saw him defeat the #2 Brian Andrews (Wyoming), #3 Christian Lance (Nebraska), #4 Slavikouski, and #7 Josh Heindselman (Oklahoma).

    Champions by seed: 1: (6), 3 (2), 5 (1), 10 (1)

    The Road Warriors

    We didn't have any third-place finishers that lost in the opening match and fought back for third, but two lost their second bout and proceeded to win six straight. They were Chris Foca (Cornell) at 174 and Thomas Penola (Purdue) at 197. Penola defeated a pair of returning All-Americans on the mat (Louie DePrez and Jake Woodley) and received a medical forfeit from another (Patrick Brucki).

    Champions by Conference

    The Big 12 has a pair of champions with Clay Carlson (South Dakota State) and Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming). The last time the conference had more than one champion in a single year was in 2013 when Kendric Maple, Andrew Howe, and Travis Rutt all won for Oklahoma.

    The Team Champion

    Nebraska amassed 125 team points to capture its second consecutive team crown at the event. They had eight placewinners from their nine entries (no 133 was entered). Three made the finals and Mike Labriola came away with a title at 174 lbs.

    Champ Streak

    Romero's win at 184 lbs kept Ohio State's string of consecutive years with a champion alive. They've had at least one every year the tournament has been held, dating back to 2011. It's the longest active streak by any one team.

    Placewinners

    Cal Poly finished 10th on the strength of four placewinners. That's the most for the school in at least 15 years. During that span, they have had three placers in 2011, 2009, and 2005.

    Despite being without the services of their two All-Americans, Utah Valley still put three wrestlers on the awards stand. That's the second-highest total in the school history (behind four in 2018).

    Purdue's seven placewinners was a program high and exceeded the program's previous high of five, established in 2004 and matched in 2019.

    The Binghamton Bearcats had three placers. Previously, the only time they had put two on the awards stand was in 2017.

    We already mentioned that Wyoming's last title at this event came in 2011. The last time they had more than five placers (their 2021 total) was also in 2011, when they had seven.

    Recent History

    Prior to the 2018 tournament, Northwestern had never attended the CKLV. In three appearances since, the Wildcats have amassed four individual titles and a pair of runner-up finishes. This year Deakin won again and 133 lber Chris Cannon was second.

    New Coach, Who Dis?

    Here's the performance for 2021's first-year head coaches at the tournament:

    Cornell finished seventh under Mike Grey. The Big Red had a champ and four placers total.

    Stanford was 13th with 41 team points for Rob Koll. The Cardinal had two placewinners.

    Luke Smith coached in the 2021 campaign under the interim tag for CSU Bakersfield. As the full-time head coach for the first time, he saw one of his wrestlers make the podium (Angelo Martinoni - 8th at 141 lbs). Martinoni was the first placewinner for the Roadrunners since 2017.

    Michigan

    Despite competing without four high All-Americans (Nick Suriano - 125, Stevan Micic - 141, Myles Amine - 184, and Mason Parris - 285), the Wolverines still managed to finish third as a team. Sean Bormet's team had six placewinners, led by champion Dylan Ragusin at 133 lbs. That's also with losing Kanen Storr to an injury early in his opening bout.

    OW

    Evan Wick was named the Outstanding Wrestler after prevailing in perhaps in one of the most loaded weights in the tournament. He took out returning All-American Cam Amine (Michigan) in the semis, before winning a one-sided affair against 2021 NCAA champion Shane Griffith (Stanford) in the finals.

    The Main Event

    The only possible national #1 vs. #2 match came to fruition at 149 lbs as #1 Diakomihalis and #2 Sammy Sasso clashed in the last match of the tournament. While Yianni was excellent on his feet and in scrambles, it was his top-work that nullified the dangerous Sasso for much of the bout.

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