Young Sun Devils showcase their talents at day 1 of CKLV

Updated: December 2, 2016

Photo: Arizona State’s Anthony Valencia defeated Cornell’s Brandon Womack in the quarterfinals of the 165-pound weight class. (Mark Lundy photo)

By Mike Finn, WIN Editor

LAS VEGAS — Many wrestling fans already knew that this season’s Arizona State wrestling team, while young, was also talented … considering the Sun Devils recruiting class two years ago was rated No. 1 in the country.

Fast forward to Dec. 2, 2016 and those young Sun Devils are now starting for coach Zeke Jones and using the 35th annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational to prove how talented these kids are as four ASU wrestlers have advanced to Saturday morning’s semifinals in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Only first place Ohio State (five semifinalists) and second place Virginia Tech (six), two teams separated by just two points (73-71) in the team race, feature more semifinalists than the Sun Devils, tied for fifth in the standings, as four members of ASU’s coveted recruiting class in 2015 are still alive for a CKLV championship.

That includes three redshirt freshmen — Josh Shields (157 pounds), Anthony Valencia (165) and Zahid Valencia (174) — and true sophomore heavyweight Tanner Hall who each won three bouts on Friday.

And while the Valencia brothers and Hall — who qualified for last year’s NCAA Championships as a true freshman — were all high seeds in this year’s Cliff Keen, Shields was only seeded No. 8 in this year’s tournament. But the native of Murrysville, Pa., proved he was just as valuable for Arizonan State, especially when he pinned top-seed Brian Murphy of Michigan in 3:20 of their quarterfinal bout.

“Josh really is not a surprise for me,” said Jones, the former US national freestyle coach who is now in his third year coaching his alma mater. “He is really coming along. He loves to wrestle hard. He likes to take 11 minutes of action and smash it into seven.”

“I feel as strong as ever,” said Shields, who won a Pennsylvania state championship in 2015 for Franklin Regional High School. “It’s just a belief in our coaches, who are the best in the world. If you believe what they are telling you, you are going to get better every single match.”

Shields, who also defeated Navy’s Zach Elvin and Ohio State’s Jake Ryan, in his first Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, will take on Central Michigan’s Colin Heffernan in Saturday’s semifinals. With a victory, the Sun Devil will face either Virginia Tech’s Sal Mastriani or Minnesota’s Jake Short in Saturday afternoon’s final.

Mastriani, who is a senior for the Hokies, proved to be just as surprising as the young Sun Devils, as the No. 7 seed reached the semifinals with a 10-3 victory over second-seed Russell Parsons of Army in a consolation bout.

A native of Towaco, N.J., Mastriani has enjoyed other good moments at this event, including two years ago when the Hokies went 3-2 in Las Vegas and later qualified for the NCAAs. But he could only watch his teammates finish among the top four schools in the 2016 NCAAs after Mastriani compiled just a 9-11 mark last spring when he wrestled at 149 pounds.

“Last year was a big disappointment for myself,” said Mastriani, who defeated Eastern Michigan’s Zac Carson, Iowa State’s Colton DiBiasi and American’s Cole Moseley before pinning Murphy. “I knew what I was capable of this year. With this being a new weight class, this is a fresh start.”

While 20 wrestlers, seeded among the Top 8 in their weight class, were upset in the first two rounds of the CKLV, many of the top seeds held as four weight classes will feature the top four seeds in their weight classes and nine top-seeds were all undefeated on Friday.

Cornell's two-time NCAA champion Gabe Dean pinned Mark Penyacsek of CSU Bakersfield to reach Saturday's semifinals at 184 pounds. (Mark Lundy photo)

Cornell’s two-time NCAA champion Gabe Dean pinned Mark Penyacsek of CSU Bakersfield to reach Saturday’s semifinals at 184 pounds. (Mark Lundy photo)

2016 CKLV Top 10 Teams

Place Team (Semifinalists/Cons.) Points
1. Ohio State (5/1) 73
2. Virginia Tech (6/0) 71
3. Minnesota (4/2) 61.5
4. Cornell (3/3) 59.5
5. Arizona State (4/1) 57
5. Central Michigan (3/5) 57
7. Wisconsin (2/6) 55
8. Edinboro (3/2) 45.5
9. Michigan (2/3) 39.5
10. Stanford (2/3) 37.5


2016 CKLV Semifinalists (CKLV Seeds attached to wrestlers)

125 pounds

#1 Joey Dance (Virginia Tech) vs. #4 Sean Russell (Edinboro)

US Jose Rodriquez (Ohio State) vs. #7 Trey Andrews (Northern Colorado)

133 pounds

#1 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) vs. #5 Mark Grey (Cornell)

#3 Stevan Micic (Michigan) vs. #7 Mitch McKee (Minnesota)

141 pounds

#1 Joey McKenna (Stanford) vs. #4 Logan Everett (Army)

#2 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming) vs. US Russell Rohlfing (CSU Bakersfield)

149 pounds

#1 Solomon Chishko (Virginia Tech) vs. #4 Pat Lugo (Edinboro)

#2 Micah Jordan (Ohio State) vs. #3 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan)

157 pounds

#8 Josh Shields (Arizona State) vs. #4 Colin Heffernan (Central Michigan)

#6 Jake Short (Minnesota) vs. #7 Sal Mastriani (Virginia Tech)

165 pounds

#1 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) vs. #5 Austin Matthews (Edinboro)

#2 Logan Massa (Michigan) vs. #3 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)

174 pounds

#1 Brian Realbuto (Cornell) vs. #5 Jim Wilson (Stanford)

#2 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) vs. #3 Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State)

184 pounds

#1 Gabe Dean (Cornell) vs. #4 Jordan Ellingwood (Central Michigan)

#2 Myles Martin (Ohio State) vs. #3 Zack Zavatsky (Virginia Tech)

197 pounds

#1 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota) vs. #4 Kellon Moore (Ohio State)

#2 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech) vs. #3 Jake Smith (West Virginia)


#1 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) vs. #4 Michael Kroells (Minnesota)

#2 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech) vs. #3 Tanner Hall (Arizona State)



Note: A total of 20 wrestlers, seeded among the Top 8 in their weight class, were upset in the first two rounds of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational:

125 – No. 3 Josh Terao (American U.) lost to Noah Baughman, 7-5 (2nd round); No. 5 Austin Assad (Michigan) lost to Noah Gonser (Eastern Michigan), 6-3 (2nd round); No. 6 Brent Fleetwood (Central Michigan) lost to Jose Rodriquez (Ohio State), 4-3 (2nd round)

141 – No. 3 Brock Zacherl (Clarion) lost to Russ Rohlfing (CSU Bakersfield), 5-2 (2nd round); No. 5 Tyler Smith (Bucknell) lost to Colt Schilling (Cal Poly), 13-10 (1st round); No. 6 Jared Prince (Navy) lost to Sal Profaci (Michigan), 10-4 (2nd round); No 7 Joey Palmer (Oregon State) lost to Will Koll (Cornell), 12-10 (1st round); No. 8 Kyle Springer (Eastern Michigan) lost to Timmy Box (Northern Colorado), 16-8 (1st round);

149 – No. 6 Joe Galasso (Cornell) lost to Cole Mendenhall (Wyoming), 7-3 (1st round); No. 8 Zac Hall (Michigan) lost to Walker Dempsey (Stanford), 7-5 (1st round);

157 – No. 3 Victor Lopez (Purdue) lost by defensive fall to Alex Griffin (Purdue), 6:55 (1st round); #5 Casey Sparkman (Kent State) lost by fall to Colt Shorts (Cal Poly), 2:42 (2nd round)

165 – No. 8 Evan Delong (Clarion) lost to Andrew Mendel (Army), 7-4 (2nd round)

174 – #4 Jadaen Bernstein (Navy) lost to Jake Morrissey (Purdue), 3-2 (2nd round); No. 8 Ryan Christiansen (Wisconsin) lost to Kimball Bastian (Utah Valley), 9-4 (2nd round).

184 – #5 Steven Schneider (Binghamton) lost to Dakota Geer (Edinboro), 2-1 (2nd round)

197 – No. 5 Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin) lost Mark Tracy (Binghamton), 10-5 (1st round); No. 8 Rocco Caywood (Army) lost to Ben Honis (Cornell), 4-3 (1st round)

Hwt – No. 7 Jeramy Sweany (Cornell) lost to Spencer Empey (Cal Poly), 2-0 (pigtail); No. 8 Dustin Dennison (Utah Valley) lost by fall to Quean Smith (Iowa State), 1:24 (1st round);