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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Freshmen at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational: Past and Present

    2019 149 lb Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational finals between Brayton Lee and Sammy Sasso (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    The Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational is the first of the "big-three" individual bracketed tournaments that currently highlight the first half of the college wrestling season. Every year, the CKLV has an argument that it boasts the best field of any of these three tournaments. This edition of the tournament can also make that case.

    In addition to an excellent field, the CKLV is known as a breakout spot for freshmen. With the tournament falling the first week of December, most teams have only wrestled in a few dual meets or an open or two during November. Typically, those events aren't enough to always get matchups that gauge just how good a new face in the lineup can be. That is never a problem in Vegas.

    This tournament routinely features returning NCAA champions, multiple All-Americans per weight class, and dozens of ranked wrestlers. With very few exceptions, there are no "weak" brackets at the CKLV. Just placing amongst the top-eight is an excellent feat. Even more so for a freshman. Now finishing among the top-four at your respective weight class; that typically puts a wrestler in an elite category nationally.

    Over the years, there have been some memorable performances by freshmen. Hunter Stieber handing Kellen Russell the only loss of his final two collegiate seasons in 2011, Adam Coon winning heavyweight as a true freshman in 2013, and Yianni Diakomihalis and Gable Steveson in recent years. Even at the most recent tournament (2019), Brayton Lee downed Sammy Sasso in the 149 lbs, in a clash between two of the most heralded freshmen in the country.

    So it isn't a matter of "will" a freshman stand out Friday and Saturday; it's more of "which one" and "how many."

    Here are a few freshmen to watch (defined as not having competed at the 2021 NCAA Championships, not by NCAA eligibility). Ohio State's 165 lber Carson Kharchla (if he counts), Julian Ramirez (Cornell), Isaiah Salazar (Minnesota), Luke Stout (Princeton)

    Below are the freshmen who have finished in the top four at the CKLV Invitational every year since 2011. In many instances, you'll see some of the biggest stars of our sport.

    2019

    125 - Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern): 3rd

    133 - Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) 3rd

    149 - Brayton Lee (Minnesota) 1st

    149 - Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) 2nd

    157 - David Carr (Iowa State) 3rd

    157 - Kendall Coleman (Purdue) 4th

    184 - Trent Hidlay (NC State) 2nd


    2018

    133 - Micky Phillipi (Pittsburgh) 2nd

    141 - Dom Demas (Oklahoma) 4th

    149 - Austin O'Connor (North Carolina) 3rd

    165 - Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) 2nd

    174 - Mike Labriola (Nebraska) 4th

    285 - Gable Steveson (Minnesota) 1st

    285 - Tate Orndorff (Ohio State) 2nd

    285 - Zach Elam (Missouri) 3rd


    2017

    125 - Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley) 1st

    125 - Drew Mattin (Michigan) 4th

    133 - Austin DeSanto (Drexel) 4th

    141 - Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) 1st

    141 - Chad Red Jr. (Nebraska) 4th

    165 - Evan Wick (Wisconsin) 2nd

    184 - Taylor Venz (Nebraska) 3rd


    2016

    125 - Jose Rodriguez (Ohio State) 2nd

    133 - Stevan Micic (Michigan) 2nd

    133 - Mitch McKee (Minnesota) 4th

    141 - Cole Martin (Wisconsin) 3rd

    141 - Russell Rohlfing (CSU Bakersfield) 4th

    165 - Logan Massa (Michigan) 1st

    174 - Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) 1st

    174 - Myles Amine (Michigan) 3rd

    197 - Kollin Moore (Ohio State) 3rd


    2015

    141 - Micah Jordan (Ohio State) 1st

    141 - Tommy Thorn (Minnesota) 3rd

    165 - Daniel Lewis (Missouri) 3rd

    184 - Zack Zavatsky (Virginia Tech) 3rd

    285 - Tanner Hall (Arizona State) 4th


    2014

    125 - Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) 3rd

    141 - Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) 4th

    149 - Alec Pantaleo (Michigan) 2nd

    197 - Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) 3rd


    2013

    133 - Mark Grey (Cornell) 4th

    157 - Brian Realbuto (Cornell) 2nd

    165 - Cooper Moore (Northern Iowa) 4th

    184 - Gabe Dean (Cornell) 1st

    184 - TJ Dudley (Nebraska) 2nd

    285 - Adam Coon (Michigan) 1st


    2012

    125 - Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) 2nd

    125 - Josh Martinez (Air Force) 3rd

    133 - Devon Lotito (Cal Poly) 3rd

    149 - Cam Tessari (Ohio State) 4th

    174 - Blake Stauffer (Arizona State) 3rd

    174 - Mathew Miller (Navy) 4th


    2011

    133 - Logan Stieber (Ohio State) 1st

    133 - AJ Schopp (Edinboro) 2nd

    141 - Hunter Stieber (Ohio State) 2nd

    141 - Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska) 4th

    149 - David Habat (Edinboro) 3rd

    157 - James Green (Nebraska) 3rd

    165 - Robert Kokesh (Nebraska) 3rd

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