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Las Vegas Cliff Keen Invitational Preview

The Cyclone wrestlers are hoping to hit it big in Vegas this weekend

Iowa State Daily

Coming off a short recovery cycle following a 28-8 thumping from Iowa last Saturday, the wrestling team is looking to get back on track in Las Vegas this weekend for one of the biggest tournaments of the year. The Cliff Keen Invitational will feature 11 of the top 25 teams (as ranked by Intermat) and 89 ranked wrestlers among the 30+ team field. Appropriately for the location, the team has a lot to gain, or a lot to lose, depending on how they wrestle this weekend.

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

When: Friday & Saturday, December 5th & 6th, all day

Liveblog:Available Here

Stream: Flowrestling (Subscription required)

Projected Lineup

Weight Wrestler Record
125 Kyle Larson 7-2
133 #13 Earl Hall 7-2
141 Dante Rodriguez 9-2
149 Gabe Moreno 9-1
157 Daniel Woiwer 9-2
165 #3 Mike Moreno 9-0
174 #6 Tanner Weatherman 8-1
184 #18 Lelund Weatherspoon 8-1
197 #3 Kyven Gadson 9-0
HWT Quean Smith 7-2

Weight By Weight Breakdown


Larson has generally been exactly what I expected at 125 for us so far this year. Beating unranked guys, losing to ranked guys, and keeping it close in duals when outmatched. Hopefully the bracket will line up for Larson to get a match or two against one of the lower teens ranked wrestlers so that we can get a gauge for where his ceiling might be this year. And who knows, maybe he can even pick up a quality win for NCAA qualification. I don't expect Larson to end up on the podium on Saturday but I'd like to see him earn at least two wins before getting eliminated.

Expected ranked participants at 125:

2 Nahshon Garrett Cornell
5 Joey Dance Virginia Tech
7 Josh Martinez Air Force
8 David Terao American
9 Nathan Tomasello Ohio State
12 Josh Rodriguez North Dakota State
13 Tim Lambert Nebraska
16 Paul Petrov Bucknell
19 Sam Brancale Minnesota
20 Zeke Moisey West Virginia


Hall is 0-2 against ranked wrestlers since moving up to 133. He's still is holding on to his rankings based on being 7-0 against unranked guys but the closest he has to a signature win so far this season is his major decision over NCAA Qualifier Jade Rauser of Utah Valley. He should get multiple opportunities to prove himself in Vegas, with the 8th, 9th, and 10th ranked guys all in the bracket. Hall will get the chance to state his case for being seeded in the top 8 at NCAAs. But even if he fails to get a win against that group, he should get a match in the consolations against Terao and/or Norstrem to prove that he deserves to stay ranked.

Expected ranked participants at 133:

2 Chris Dardanes Minnesota
8 Johnni DiJulius Ohio State
9 Rossi Bruno Michigan
10 George DiCamillo Virginia
13 Earl Hall Iowa State
17 Josh Terao American
18 Kevin Norstrem Virginia Tech


We should see Dante Rodriguez making his second appearance in a Cyclone singlet this weekend.  Since we really haven't seen him compete much against non redshirting D-1 competition it is tough to peg expectations - he's got a close loss to #8 Levion Meyes of Missouri and that's about it.  Overall I'm just hoping to see him pick up a couple wins to give me reason to think he'll do better this year than Meeks would have.  I'd be totally thrilled if he gets a match against one of the 16-18th ranked guys so we can find out whether to expect NCAA points from Dante this season.

Expected ranked participants at 141:

1 Logan Stieber Ohio State
3 Devin Carter Virginia Tech
4 Nick Dardanes Minnesota
5 Stephen Dutton Michigan
9 Joe Spisak Virginia
11 Mark Grey Cornell
12 Todd Preston Harvard
15 Anthony Abidin Nebraska
16 Anthony Ashnault Rutgers
17 Jamel Hudson Hofstra
18 Sam Speno North Carolina State


Gabe Moreno has been sitting just outside the rankings so far this season.  With the relative dearth of ranked wrestlers at this weight he should get a seed that will set him up for an eventual matchup with either Ruggirello or Theobold, giving him the chance to get a quality win and with that the bump he needs to start showing up in the rankings.

Expected ranked participants at 149:

3 Hunter Stieber Ohio State
6 Chris Villalonga Cornell
7 Gus Sako Virginia
9 Sal Mastriani Virginia Tech
15 Cody Ruggirello Hofstra
18 Ken Theobold Rutgers


It appears that we're giving redshirt freshman Daniel Woiwer a shot here.  Since this'll be the first time he sees the lineup I don't know what to expect.  But if it had been Goettl I'd been looking for a couple wins and hopefully knocking off Schieidel or Staudenmayer.  Since we're using Wovier over Goettl, I suppose my baseline is looking for him to do the same.

Expected ranked participants at 157:

1 Dylan Ness Minnesota
2 James Green Nebraska
4 Brian Realbuto Cornell
5 Nick Brascetta Virginia Tech
6 Josh Demas Ohio State
8 Anthony Perrotti Rutgers
11 Brian Murphy Michigan
15 Markus Schieidel Columbia
20 Justin Staudenmayer Brown


With half of the top ten in attendance, there should some big matchups for Moreno at the high roller tables.  Sulzer beat Moreno 13-1 in the consolation semifinals at NCAAs this spring, so I'm sure Moreno would like to see them both make the finals for the chance at a rematch.  Short of an upset preventing Mike from reaching the finals there isn't a whole lot on the line more than pride - there isn't a big difference between being ranked 2nd vs being ranked 3rd.  But it would be really nice to see him take another step towards being a national champion this season.

Expected ranked participants at 165:

2 Nick Sulzer Virginia
3 Michael Moreno Iowa State
4 Dylan Palacio Cornell
7 Taylor Walsh Indiana
10 Bo Jordan Ohio State
11 Taylor Massa Michigan
15 Nick Wanzek Minnesota
16 Jesse Stafford Air Force
17 Austin Wilson Nebraska


Looking at the expected participants at 174, Tanner is likely to have multiple matches against the other wrestlers who are going to challenge for the 6-8 AA spots along with him in March.  As I've written about in the past, Weatherman is a good wrestler, but lacks any elite wins to push him over the top.  Though he looks to have closed the gap with Evans based on his performance in Iowa City last weekend, he still hasn't totally made the jump to being elite.  That makes a good performance this weekend very important.  Tanner needs to finish in the top five to keep his ranking (and projected NCAA seed) in the top ten, allowing him to avoid the elite tier wrestlers until the AA rounds.

Expected ranked participants at 174:

1 Logan Storley Minnesota
2 Robert Kokesh Nebraska
6 Tanner Weatherman Iowa State
8 Bryce Hammond CSU Bakersfield
9 Blaise Butler Virginia
10 Zach Epperly Virginia Tech
12 Mark Martin Ohio State
14 Davanote Mahomes Michigan
15 Duke Pickett Cornell
16 Kurtis Julson North Dakota State
17 Pete Renda North Carolina State
19 Nate Jackson Indiana
20 Ray Waters Arizona State


Lelund is in a somewhat similar situation to what Hall is at 133.  He entered the season ranked, has beaten up on all the non-ranked wrestlers he has faced, but fell short in his only matach against a ranked wrestler.  In Vegas Weatherspoon should get a shot to wrestle at least one of the mid-teens ranked wrestlers that currently sit right ahead of him in the rankings.  If Lelund can finish in the top six that would be a pretty big boost to our chances of finishing in the top ten at NCAAs.  Lacking that, since Weatherspoon is the 9th ranked wrestler in the field at 184, just finishing on the podium at all would mean climbing up the rankings.

Expected ranked participants at 184:

1 Gabe Dean Cornell
6 Kenny Courts Ohio State
7 Blake Stauffer Arizona State
8 Taylor Meeks Oregon State
11 Dominic Abounader Michigan
12 Ophir Bertnstein Brown
14 Hayden Zillmer North Dakota State
15 Brent Pfarr Minnesota
17 T.J. Dudley Nebraska
18 Lelund Weatherspoon Iowa State


197 isn't quite as deep as some of the others, but Kyven's bracket includes three title contenders in Schiller, Gadson, and super-recruit Kyle Snyder of Ohio State.  Schiller has been Kyven's kryptonite throughout his career, so a win would be an upset.  But it would also be very important - Kyven is unlikely to see Schiller or Snyder again this season, so wins over them this weekend would go a long way towards prevent the seeding committee from being able to screw him over again with a terrible seed at NCAAs.  This tournament, along with the Scuffle next month, are the two most important events on the regular season calender for Gadson's national title hopes.

Expected ranked participants at 197:

1 Scott Schiller Minnesota
3 Kyven Gadson Iowa State
7 Kyle Snyder Ohio State
12 Max Huntley Michigan
15 Zach Nye Virginia
18 Jace Bennett Cornell


Much like Larson at 125, Smith has performed so far pretty much where I expected him to.  Beating unranked guys, losing to ranked guys.  Generally holding his own but lacking any quality wins.  Really all I'd like to see here is for Smith to pick up a few wins and give me some hope he can be an NCAA qualifier for us this season.  I'd also prefer he didn't pin himself.

Expected ranked participants at HWT:

2 Nick Gwiazdowski NC State
4 Adam Coon Michigan
8 Billy Smith Rutgers
9 Ty Walz Virginia Tech
10 Evan Knutson North Dakota State
11 Nick Tavanello Ohio State
13 Adam Fager Utah Valley
14 Collin Jensen Nebraska


At a tournament this large, and this deep, everyone on the roster has a challange.  For our top guys, they have a shot to solidify their rankings and maybe move up to the top.  For our second tier guys they have a shot to show they belong in the rankings and maybe move up in the R12 conversation.  And for the rest of our lineup they have a shot to state an argument for NCAA qualification and to show their weightclasses won't be holes when we get into the meat of the season come January.

Next Up

The team will next take the mat on January 1st & 2nd, 2015 at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tenn.