2023 CKLV Stock Up Report
What a weekend at the 2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational! Iowa State came away with the team title outdistancing Nebraska, who had won the previous three titles, by a mere five points. Perennial CKLV threat Ohio State finished in third two points behind the Cornhuskers.
While the team race was great, we’re focusing on some of the top individual performances. Specifically, those wrestlers who significantly improved their stock over the weekend. Not all of them are the same. Some went from All-American threat to title contender. Others went from national qualifiers to high All-American status. Some were freshmen, and some were fifth or sixth-year seniors.
Below are ten wrestlers who stood out and saw their proverbial stock rise significantly in some form or fashion over those two days in Vegas. By the way, if we were giving a team award, it would go to Stanford. We’ve highlighted two of their wrestlers but could have mentioned a few more.
Nico Provo (Stanford)
Perhaps no wrestler in the tournament improved his stock the way Nico Provo did in capturing the title at 125 lbs. Provo entered Vegas ranked #20 in the country and that gave him the ninth seed. That meant he’d have to defeat four straight opponents ranked in the top 20 to earn his title. In consecutive matches, Provo downed, #18 Kysen Terukina (Iowa State), #2 Matt Ramos (Purdue), #11 Jore Volk (Wyoming), and #8 Brett Ungar (Cornell). At the 2023 NCAA Championships, Provo went 0-2 after falling to Ramos, by a point, in the opening round. Before Vegas, Provo held a 2-0 record but didn’t have any wins that would indicate he’d walk away from Vegas the champion. In Vegas, Provo ended up being the catalyst for a Cardinal team that finished seventh with six placewinners.
Rankings Movement: #20 to #4
Izzak Olejnik (Oklahoma State)
It may not be fair to put Izzak Olejnik in this category as he was an All-American last year and was selected to compete (and win) in the NWCA All-Star Classic. Just like the All-Star event, Olejnik picked up a big win over a multiple-time All-American who had defeated him in the past (and twice) in Cam Amine of Michigan. If that wasn’t enough, Olejnik finished his tournament on top of the 165 lb bracket by defeating the returning champion, Julian Ramirez of Cornell. With just over a minute remaining in the third period, Olejnik secured the takedown that ended up pushing him past Ramirez. After just over a month of the season, you have to be encouraged by Olejnik’s move to Oklahoma State. At a bigger program, he’d had more opportunities to take on top-flight competition and has risen to the occasion. He’ll continue to have those chances as Olejnik is slated to have four more matches against returning All-Americans during the regular season.
Rankings Movement: #4 to #2
Cade DeVos (South Dakota State)
The other champion that may have changed people’s perceptions is the winner of the 174 lb bracket, Cade Devos. DeVos claimed the title at his weight class after wins over past All-Americans in back-to-back matches. In the semifinals, he needed a late takedown to get by second-seeded Carson Kharchla (Ohio State). Against Travis Wittlake (Oregon State) in the finals, DeVos grabbed a takedown in the first and second periods before holding on to win 9-7. DeVos now has a perfect 8-0 record and is in good position to get on the NCAA podium, after coming up a match short in 2023.
Rankings Movement: #7 to #4
Tyler Knox (Stanford)
One of the first opening-round surprises that woke up the Vegas crowd was Stanford’s true freshman, Tyler Knox, defeating Ohio State’s Nic Bouzakis. Knox’s mat game turned out to be the deciding factor in the Bouzakis contest. He rode the Buckeye for the entire second period, then got a reversal in the third and proceeded to ride Bouzakis for the duration of the bout, in an 11-3 major decision. In his run to the semifinals, Knox picked up wins over past national qualifiers Richie Koehler (Rider) and Reece Witcraft (Oklahoma State). Knox entered the tournament with a 2-0 record with both of his wins coming via tech fall, though neither was against a rankable opponent.
The reason we’ve mentioned Knox and not his classmate, Lorenzo Norman, is that 133 may be a weight where a freshman like Knox could have more of an impact in 2023-24.
Rankings Movement: Not Ranked to #16
Tagen Jamison (Oklahoma State)
During the offseason, Oklahoma State received a couple of impact transfers, one of which was redshirt freshman Tagen Jamison from Minnesota. It was unclear how he’d fit into the role at 141 lbs since former Rutgers national qualifier, Sammy Alvarez, has moved to Stillwater during the 2022-23 campaign. With Alvarez unable to compete until the second semester, Jamison got the first crack at locking down the starting spot at 141. After his fifth-place performance in Vegas, it’ll be difficult to unseat the young Jamison. On the front side, Jamison advanced to the quarterfinals after defeating All-Star Classic participant Josh Koderhandt (Navy). Then he fell to the defending CKLV champion Brock Hardy. There’s no shame in losing to someone of that caliber, right? Sure, but Jamison would get the chance to avenge that loss in the fifth-place bout and that he did! Jamison rolled to a 13-5 major decision over the 2023 Big Ten runner-up and All-American. Earlier in the consolations, Jamison majored 2023 EIWA champion Vince Cornella (Cornell).
Rankings Movement: #24 to #9
Ryder Downey (Northern Iowa)
Another upset that made you take notice from round one was Northern Iowa’s redshirt freshman, Ryder Downey, taking out then-tenth-ranked Trevor Chumbley (Northwestern), 6-2. He’d make sure no one thought it was a fluke by notching a pair of takedowns in an 8-5 win over Paddy Gallagher (Ohio State), ranked #16th in the nation, at the time.
This is where you can’t just look at tournament placements as to how wrestlers should be ranked. Once Downey was in the quarterfinals he fell to the second seed and eventual runner-up, Jacori Teemer (Arizona State). In the bloodround, he ran into a hot Ed Scott (NC State). The Wolfpack All-American lost in the second round and was in a furious race back to third place. The wrestlers that defeated Downey ended up finishing second and third. The ones he beat? Gallagher was seventh and Chumbley eighth.
Rankings Movement: Not Ranked to #12
Garrett Thompson (Ohio)
In week one you should’ve taken notice of Garrett Thompson after he defeated 2022 All-American Peyton Hall (West Virginia) to win the Southeast Open. Last season, Thompson went 14-9 as a redshirt freshman and saw action in four duals for the Bobcats. His exploits early this season were enough to warrant #19 ranking and the eighth seed at the 165 lb weight class. Thompson showed he was someone to take notice of by pinning Connor Brady (Virginia Tech) in order to move into the quarterfinals against top-seeded David Carr (Iowa State). Though Thompson fell, he had two more wins over top-20 competition edging Maxx Mayfield (Northwestern) and majoring Matthew Olguin (Oregon State). He’d finish in fifth after pinning Stanford freshman Hunter Garvin. Ohio is slated to hit the Midlands before getting into the meat of their conference schedule, so there should be more opportunities for Thompson to hit some of the key players at this weight.
Rankings Movement: #19 to #11
Danny Wask (Navy)
We’ve been high on Danny Wask’s potential after watching him turn in a 16-5 season while competing for the Naval Academy Prep School. In his first two duals of the season, Wask suffered losses to quality opponents like Edmond Ruth (Illinois) and Luca Augustine (Pittsburgh). In a preview, I wondered aloud whether he’d be able to turn those close losses into wins or just wrestle good competition closely. We’ve gotten the answer loud and clear. After winning the Navy Classic, Wask grabbed fourth place at the CKLV. A match after former high school teammate Lorenzo Norman (Stanford) shocked the wrestling world by upsetting 2021 NCAA champion Shane Griffith, Wask neutralized Norman to earn a berth in the semifinals. An escape with :03 left on the clock ended up giving Travis Wittlake (Oregon State) a win over Wask and a berth in the finals. In his first consolation bout, Wask defeated his second-ranked opponent of the tournament, Austin Murphy (Campbell), to be able to wrestle for third place.
Rankings Movement: #30 to #20
Sam Wolf (Air Force)
Last year, Sam Wolf finished sixth at 174 lbs in the Big 12 to earn his first trip to the NCAA Championships. Even as the #16 seed, Wolf left Tulsa without a win after giving up bonus points in both of his matches. Fast forward to this year, and up a weight class, Wolf entered Vegas a modest 4-0 - but without any significant wins. That certainly changed. In his first two matches, Wolf edged returning All-Americans Chris Foca (Cornell) and Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State) to make the semifinals. After a pair of losses, he’d finish the tournament in fifth by defeating Jaden Bullock (Michigan), who had an impressive showing himself.
Rankings Movement: #27 to #8
Joey Novak (Wyoming)
A young Wyoming team may get back into the thick of things in the Big 12 if they have freshmen like Joey Novak continue to develop. Before CKLV, Novak’s collegiate career consisted of three duals; one of which was a 2-0 loss to a ranked opponent, Levi Hopkins (Campbell). That’s reason for optimism, but at the same time, most would not have picked the true freshman to get on the podium at 197 lbs. That’s exactly what happened as Novak defeated three ranked opponents and claimed eighth place. After pinning Luke Geog (Ohio State), and defeating Jack Wehmeyer (Columbia), Novak stunned Evan Bockman (Utah Valley) in sudden victory of a bloodround match to secure a place amongst the top-eight. It wasn’t too long ago that Cowboy head coach Mark Branch and crew signed and developed a true freshman 197 lber named Stephen Buchanan. Could something like that happen again?
Rankings Movement: Not Ranked to #21
Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Recap Video
Our quartet of correspondents are back to talk all things CKLV. Ryan Holmes (Big Ten), Kevin Claunch (Big Ten), Austin Sommer (EIWA), and Robbie Wendell (ACC) recap all of the action that went down in Vegas, the upsets, the great performances, and more. The four recap the event and the stars from their respective conferences.
For the full interview: Click Here
Big 12 Weekly Recap and November Takeaways
This week saw most of the attention go to CKLV, while some great duals occurred as well. Iowa State ended up winning the tournament with seven on the podium, while Oklahoma State and South Dakota State made the top ten as well. Northern Iowa and Wyoming both had some individual under-the-radar performances. The Big 12 had the most conference champs with four, all being from different schools (OKST, SDSU, UNI, ISU). On the duals side, we saw Oklahoma on the road at Missouri and West Virginia. North Dakota State had a tough dual against Virginia and continues to look like a young developing team. The conference flexed its top-end strength and depth this weekend, and next week has a mix of teams taking the week off plus some more great conference duals.
Air Force: CKLV Brackets | Bob Smith Open Brackets
Air Force was without Wyatt Hendrickson this weekend, but still had a wrestler break out at CKLV. Sam Wolf came in as the 15 seed but finished in 5th place, going 3-2. His only losses were to Dustin Plott (OKST) and Will Feldkamp (ISU) who finished 3rd and 2nd respectively. He had big wins over Chris Foca (CORN) and Gavin Hoffman (OHST). Giano Petrucelli didn’t make the podium at 165, but got an upset win himself over Antrell Taylor (NEB). Tucker Owens suffered two upset losses, to Brendan McCrone (OHST) and Troy Hohman (NCST). Not the tournament that was expected, but Wolf breaking out shows that he could be another All-American contender for the Falcons. The team also had some backups compete at the Bob Smith Open where Joe Fernau came back with a title at 149lbs.
Next Up: The Falcons have their first conference dual at home, taking on West Virginia.
California Baptist: No Competition
Next Up: The team has a week off before taking on NIU and Kent State.
Iowa State: CKLV Brackets
If you were looking for a way for the Cyclones to win this tournament it likely would have involved a David Carr title and wrestlers like Kysen Terukina and Cody Chittum making the podium. Well the team flexed their depth and overall lineup strength by winning with only one champ in Yonger Bastida. Terukina, Chittum, and Broderson all missed the podium. Chittum had tough matches against Bryce Andonian and Daniel Cardenas while going 2-2. Evan Frost and Will Feldkamp both made the finals, and Anthony Echemendia (7th), Casey Swiderski (5th), and MJ Gaitan (8th) also made the podium. Feldkamp bounced back after his loss to Gabe Arnold with a massive first-period pin over Trey Munoz (ORST) to make the finals.
David Carr took a shocking loss to Julian Ramirez (CORN), losing a scramble late in the third period to give up the only takedown. He bounced back with a decision over Cam Amine (MICH) to place 3rd. Yonger Bastida introduced himself as a title contender, scoring a major over Nick Feldman (OHST), a tech over Grady Griess (NAVY), and a wildly entertaining decision over Lucas Davison (MICH). Winning CKLV the way they did shows that this team isn’t just looking to place top ten in March, but also compete for a team trophy.
Next Up: The team takes a week off before competing in the Collegiate Duals on December 18th.
Missouri: Dual Results | Cougar Clash Brackets
The Tigers stayed at home and got their first conference win against Oklahoma 30-12. They won seven matches, giving up a forfeit at 197lbs. Logan Gioffre got his first ranked win of the season, taking out Willie McDougald in overtime. Outside of 149 and 285, every wrestler scored bonus points. Keegan O’Toole got a ranked pin, Clayton Whiting dominated another ranked opponent in his second start, and Peyton Mocco picked apart Tate Picklo in a tech fall.
Rocky Elam didn’t wrestle in the dual but made his debut the next morning at the Cougar Clash. He won a title with a 4-2 decision over Garrett Joles (MINN). Joining him with titles were Zach Elam, Josh Edmond, and Nate Pulliam split the title with Joel Mylin at 149lbs. Current starter Zeke Seltzer had a tough weekend, dropping a close match in the dual then going 0-2 at the Clash. Colton Hawks got another big win at 184, taking out Isaiah Salazar (MINN) before losing to undefeated freshman Max McEnnely (MINN) in the finals. The Tigers have some depth at 184lbs, in a lineup battle that is likely to continue this year.
Next Up: The Tigers host another Big 12 member at home, taking on Wyoming on Dec. 8th.
North Dakota State: Dual Results
NDSU stayed at home this week and suffered a close out-of-conference loss to Virginia 21-18. Gavin Drexler and Max Petersen had close matches with the Gioffre twins, but came up just short. Petersen continues to start after Kellyn March suffered an injury earlier this year. The Bison scored two pins to grab some momentum, one at 165 and 184. Gaven Sax had a razor-close loss to top-ten Justin McCoy.
Next Up: NDSU hits the road for a dual against Minnesota on December 10th, their first against the Golden Gophers since 2011.
Northern Colorado: Cougar Clash Brackets
The Bears sent a handful of wrestlers to the Cougar Clash and came away with three titles. Dom Serrano won at 133, winning the title over a tough freshman in Ty Wells (MINN). Vinny Zerban won at 157, taking out Missouri’s J Conway in the semis and getting an injury default over Cam Steed in the finals. Baylor Fernandes was the last wrestler to win, going 4-0 at 165lbs and outplacing typical starter Ayden Rix-McElhinney who finished 4th.
Next Up: The team hosts West Virginia at home on December 10th for their first conference dual.
Northern Iowa: CKLV Brackets | Jim Koch Open Brackets
The Panthers came in projected to finish 9th on preseeds and finished just outside of the top ten at 12th, but were missing Lance Runyon and Tyrell Gordon. Parker Keckeisen won his first CKLV title, taking out conference opponent Will Feldkamp (ISU) with a major decision in the finals. Julian Farber came in unseeded at 133, and got ranked wins over Gabe Whisenhunt (ORST) and Ethan Oakley (APP) to make the podium and finish 7th. Cael Happel was the last Panther to make the podium, finishing 4th with ranked wins over Brock Hardy (NEB), Anthony Echemendia (ISU), and Sergio Lemley (MICH). Ryder Downey didn’t make the podium at 157, but had back-to-back upset wins over Trevor Chumbley (NW) and Paddy Gallagher (OHST). He ended up dropping regular decisions to Ed Scott and Jacori Teemer.
Other Panther wrestlers competed at the Jim Koch Open and came away with five titles. RJ Weston, Connor Thorpe, Jack Thomsen, Izzy Moreno, and CJ Walrath all won with a number of bonus point victories.
Next Up: The Panthers host Columbia for their first dual of the year on December 10th.
Oklahoma State: CKLV Brackets | Bob Smith Open Brackets
Coming in I thought OK State had a solid chance to surprise people and win the tournament. Unfortunately, a combination of injuries and some underperformance outweighed excellent results at other weights. Daton Fix was a late scratch, so Reece Witcraft entered and got a big win over Julian Chlebove (ASU) before dropping his next two. Jordan Williams, Brayden Thompson, and Daniel Manibog were bounced surprisingly early after some upsets and tough draws. I liked Troy Spratley’s path, but he dropped two wild matches to Tanner Jordan and Caleb Smith. Injuries hit Luke Surber and Konner Doucet, who ended up having to forfeit out of the tournament.
There were impressive performances from Dustin Plott and Izzak Olejnik. Plott and Lenny Pinto (NEB) had two must-watch matches that saw Plott avenge a quarterfinal loss to place 3rd. Olejnik upset Cam Amine (MICH) and won a title over Julian Ramirez (CORN) with some clutch third-period takedowns. With David Carr (ISU) dropping a match, Olejnik has put himself right in Big 12 and national title discussion.
Next Up: OK State has two big duals, first at home against Lehigh on December 8th, followed by the first Bedlam of the year on December 10th.
Oklahoma: Dual Results (Mizzou) | Dual Results (WVU)
The Sooners had two road duals, coming home with a 1-1 record. At Mizzou, they got ranked wins at 133 and 141, but struggled to slow down the Tigers to drop the dual 30-12. They then went to Morgantown to take on West Virginia in a dual that came down to the last match. Conrad Hendriksen got his first ranked win at 125 over Jett Strickenberger, and looks like a quality starter for the Sooners. Mosha Schwartz appeared to suffer a significant shoulder injury on a mat return gone wrong and was seen in a sling after the match. Willie McDougald got an upset win over Ty Watters after an upset loss against Mizzou. John Wiley got back in the win column with a solid win over Caleb Dowling.
Carlson went 0-2 on the weekend, getting pinned by both Hall and O’Toole. Nijenhuis started at 174, he didn’t win but Picklo’s struggle at Missouri could indicate a lineup battle. Buchanan scored a tech fall to bring the decision to the last match, where Heindselman and Wolfgram squared off for the sixth time. The two had alternated wins and losses over the years and continued here as Heindselman got the 9-7 win with a late neutral danger takedown to win the dual 21-19. The Sooners have struggled with regular-season consistency, and are still trying to find it with lineup changes at multiple weights.
Next Up: It’s Bedlam week, as the Sooners prepare to take on OK State in Norman on December 10th.
South Dakota State: CKLV Brackets
South Dakota State came in and had a solid team performance to finish 10th, without Tanner Cook or Bennett Berge. Last year, Cook was a finalist here and provided valuable points. Cade DeVos won a title as the three seed, including wins over Carson Kharchla (OHST) and Travis Wittlake (ORST). Tanner Sloan had a solid run to finish 3rd, dropping a match to Jaxon Smith (MARY) but dominating Silas Allred (NEB) with a 12-1 major and a one-sided 7-2 decision over Jacob Cardenas (CORN).
Derrick Cardinal had a breakout performance, finishing 6th after coming in unseeded. He ran to the semis with a decision over Brendan Ferretti (Navy) and majored Dom Zaccone (CAMP) before dropping matches to Kai Orine (NCST) and Nic Bouzakis (OHST). After going 11-15 last season, Cardinal looks like he could be a big point scorer for the Jackrabbits. Another wrestler who impressed was Tanner Jordan, who beat Troy Spratley (OKST) and Brendan McCrone (OHST) to finish 8th. Cael Swensen missed the podium at 157, dropping matches to Peyton Robb (NEB) and Bryce Andonian (VT).
Next Up: SDSU gets a week off before another Big 12 vs Big 10 dual against Nebraska on December 16th.
Utah Valley: CKLV Brackets
Utah Valley didn’t get anyone on the podium, but had some positive individual match results. Evan Bockman got an upset win over Nick Stemmet (STAN), but dropped his bloodround match to Joey Novak (WYO). Haiden Drury was seeded 8th, but had a tough tournament going 0-2. Jacob Armstrong scored a solid pin over Zayne Lehman (Ohio) at 184lbs, and Mark Takara had a narrow one-point loss to eventual finalist Travis Wittlake (ORST).
Next Up: The Wolverines get a week off before the Reno TOC on December 17th.
West Virginia: Dual Results
The Mountaineers took on Oklahoma at home and came razor close to pulling off the upset. A pin at 165 and an injury default at 141 gave them a great opportunity, but bonus point losses at 133 and 197 plus upset losses at 125 and 149 were too much to overcome. I’m still high on WVU’s potential, and young wrestlers like Ty Watters, Brody Conley, and Caleb Dowling to continue to develop and be impactful throughout the season.
Next Up: West Virginia heads to Colorado to take on Air Force in another conference dual on December 8th.
Wyoming: CKLV Brackets
Wyoming quietly had a very solid tournament, placing top 20 with three on the podium. Jore Volk led the way, wrestling to his 5th seed spot. He took out Brendan McCrone (OHST) and Caleb Smith (NEB), but ran into the red-hot Nico Provo (STAN) and dropped a one-takedown match to Brandon Kaylor (ORST) on the backside. Gabe Willochell at 149 made the podium, highlighted by a win over 2023 qualifier Isaiah Delgado (UVU). True freshman Joey Novak had a breakout at 197, winning four straight matches after dropping his first one. It included wins over Luke Geog (OHST), Evan Bockman (UVU), and Jack Wehmeyer (COL). The young Cowboy squad is clearly developing and looking to be even more dangerous throughout the year.
Next Up: Wyoming heads to Columbia, MO for another conference dual against Missouri.
We’re somehow already through the first month of the season, and November saw plenty of action in the Big 12. Pre-CKLV the conference had five teams in the top 15, and eight in the top 30. While not every team has hit a ton of action in the first month, there are already some takeaways and things to watch for.
Iowa State - Lost the Cy-Hawk dual, but could still be a trophy team
The Cyclones frustratingly dropped the dual against Iowa with close calls in multiple matches. However, they looked good in a number of other matches. #8 Evan Frost has been a breakout wrestler for them as a redshirt freshman, the coaches were able to get both Echemendia and Swiderski into the lineup, and David Carr looked dominant. The team is sitting outside of the top 10 currently, but I expect them to make a climb back up throughout the season.
North Dakota State - Rebuilding or Reloading?
Last year the Bison had one of their best years in nearly a decade, with two All-Americans and a top 25 finish. The offseason saw Roger Kish head to Norman, OK and Obe Blanc was elevated to the head coaching position. They brought in a solid recruiting class, and have built around returning starters Kellyn March and Gaven Sax. The team may not be ready to jump back into the rankings yet, but Gavin Drexler (141), Landon Johnson (157), Adam Cherne (184), and Maxwell Petersen (149) have all notched ranked wins this year. All of those wrestlers are either redshirt freshmen or true freshmen. Watch this team continue to develop throughout the season and if they can have an impact at Big 12’s.
West Virginia - Wildcard or Contender?
When I did my Big 12 Breakdown, I thought the Mountaineers had a high upside if things worked out, but it would take a team effort. In November, the team was 4-0 with no team scoring double digits against them. It’s not the strongest competition and it hasn’t been flawless, but the team looks to be better than last year. New starters Jett Strickenberger, Ty Watters (149), Brody Conley (174), and Dennis Robin (184) have added consistency and depth to the roster. The team is still looking for a big point scorer, as 2022 All-American Peyton Hall has taken some surprising losses to fall to #13 at 165. If he can get back to winning consistently against top competition, and a handful of others can start to break into the top 12, the team could be looking at their first top-25 NCAA finish since 2015.
Rest of the Big 12
Not every team has hit the ground running early, but that is changing with December. The CKLV has had significant impacts on rankings and how some of these teams are viewed. Many schools are starting conference duals, and should start to establish tiers within the Big 12. Missouri is still the favorite early, but haven’t seen enough competition to have truly separated. Iowa State and OK State appear right on their heels as teams battle for a team trophy in March. Schools like SDSU, OU, and UNI could give those top teams a tough fight in duals and shouldn’t be counted out either. Don’t count individual wrestlers from some of the smaller affiliate members, as they continue to develop against tough competition. Air Force and Wyoming are two schools that have stood out and are looking to build throughout the season with some of their unranked wrestlers. December starts fast with CKLV, and the landscape could look very different by New Year’s.