Short-handed Ohio State wins 35th annual CKLV championship

Updated: December 3, 2016

Photo: Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello defeated Michigan’s Stevan Micic to win the 133-pound Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational championship. (Photo by Mark Lundy)

By Mike Finn

LAS VEGAS — Ohio State only sent seven of its ten starters to Nevada this weekend, but is was enough to help the Buckeyes capture the 35th annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Saturday night in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“We learned some things this weekend,” said Buckeye head coach Tom Ryan, who just saw six of his wrestlers place in the two-day tournament and first CKLV title for OSU since 2012, including a pair of defending champions — 133-pound Nathan Tomasello and 149-pound Micah Jordan — who won their second straight CKLV titles at a heavier weight.

Tomasello, the 2015 NCAA champion and 2016 All-American at 125 pounds, saw his first action of the season and left Vegas with a 3-2 victory over Michigan’s Stevan Micic, while Jordan also won all five bouts — three by fall — at his heavier weight, including a 7-4 win over Edinboro’s Pat Lugo in the final.

They are just two of several Buckeyes who moved up a weight class. Another, Myles Martin, the 2016 NCAA champion at 174 pounds, did not win the 184-pound championship in Las Vegas, but the true sophomore fought back to claim third place and clinch the team title for OSU.

“When we looked at our team last year, it made sense for some guys to sacrifice and cut down,” said Ryan. “It makes sense to what works for your team each year.

“But we also learned that Kollin Moore (a redshirt freshman and third-place finisher at 197 pounds) is good as well as (redshirt freshman) Jose Rodriquez, who came within six seconds of winning the 125-pound championship. We are going to need the young guys to perform like this if we want to do something this season.”

Ryan was without two All-Americans — defending national champion Kyle Snyder, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, who was competing overseas and 174-pound Bo Jordan who competed in another tournament as he overcame off-season surgery — and 141-pound redshirt freshman Ke-Shawn Hayes.

“To me it was common sense to wrestle your best guys on the team side but not at the expense of your individuals,” Ryan said. “The thing I likes is that we continued to score points. That’s the winning culture I like.”

Finishing in a surprising second place and five points behind Ohio State (118.5-113.5) was Wisconsin, which saw seven wrestlers place, including heavyweight Connor Medbery, the three-time All-American who returned this winter after taking an Olympic redshirt last winter.

“We have a lot of young guys buying in,” said the native of Colorado, who served a training partner at the 2016 Olympics in Rio last August and needed overtime to beat last year’s CKLV champion Ty Walz of Virginia Tech, 6-4.

Wisconsin also featured another finalist in 165-pound Isaac Jordan, who was upset by Michigan’s Logan Massa, a redshirt freshman, who used a riding time advantage to beat the defending CKLV champion.

“Getting the riding time advantage was what I was most impressed by,” said Massa. “I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my mat wrestling and not letting people out.”

A total of three number one seeds lost in the finals, including Cornell’s Brian Realbuto, who lost 3-2 to another redshirt freshman, Zahid Valencia of Arizona State, who scored the winning takedown in the closing seconds.

“I know that (Realbuto) is a short, stocky wrestler, who would be defending all my shots,” said Valencia, one of four place-winners for the Sun Devils. “I just told myself not to get frustrated.”

Seven of the finals were decided by two points or less, including at 141 pounds where Stanford’s Joey McKenna avenged an 2016 NCAA semifinal loss to Wyoming’s Bryce Meredith, 3-1.

“It was on my mind that he beat me before,” said McKenna, who settled for third place in last year’s NCAAs as a No. 2 seed. “In a way it was a revenge match.”

The most dominating wrestler on Saturday night was Cornell’s two-time NCAA champion Gabe Dean, who needed just two periods to score a technical fall over Virginia Tech’s Zack Zavatsky, after the Big Red senior scored four first-period falls before the finals.

“I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think I’m wrestling pretty well,” said Dean, who has lost just one college match the past two winters after settling for fourth place in the 2014 CKLV.

Virginia Tech finished fourth as 125-pound Joey Dance rallied to beat Ohio State’s Jose Rodriquez on a takedown in the closing seconds, while Minnesota claimed fifth, thanks to a pair of titles by 165-pound Jake Short and 197-pound Brett Pfarr.

“Right now we are wrestling with a lot of focus,” said coach Brandon Eggum, who is serving as an interim coach for the Gophers — after the off-season dismissal of legendary J Robinson — and hopes to be consider the permanent head coach next season.

2016 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

Top 10 Teams

Pl. School (Champs/Placers) Points
1. Ohio State (2/6) 118.5
2. Wisconsin (1/7) 113.5
3. Virginia Tech (1/6) 103
4. Minnesota (2/5) 100
5. Cornell (1/4) 93.5
6. Central Michigan (0/5) 90.5
7. Arizona State (1/5) 83
8. Wyoming (0/4) 77.5
9. Michigan (1/3) 73
10. Edinboro (0/4) 68.5


2016 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Finals Highlights (CKLV seeds are indicated per wrestler)

125 pounds — No. 1 Joey Dance (Virginia Tech) dec. US Jose Rodriquez (Ohio State), 4-3 — Dance, a runner-up in the 2015 CKLV, scored his only takedown with six seconds left to beat the unseeded Buckeye. Rodriquez, a two-time state of Ohio champion from Massillon (Ohio) Perry High School, scored his takedown midway the first period off a scramble that needed to be confirmed by a video review.

133 pounds — No. 1 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) dec. No. 3 Stevan Micic (Michigan), 3-2 — The Buckeye, competing at a heavier weight for the first time this season, won his second straight Cliff Keen title by scoring the bout’s only takedown with a minute left in the second period, then broke a 2-2 deadlock with a third-period escape.

141 pounds — No. 1 Joey McKenna (Stanford) dec. No. 2 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming), 3-1 — The Cardinal avenged a 2016 NCAA semifinal loss to the Cowboy when McKenna scored the bout’s only takedown with six seconds left in the second period.

149 pounds — No. 2 Micah Jordan (Ohio State) vs. No. 4 Pat Lugo (Edinboro), 7-3 — Jordan clinched a second straight CKLV title — this one up a weight from a year ago — when the Buckeye sophomore scored his final four points via a nearfall inside cradle move with 1:25 left in the bout. Lugo, a sophomore from Homestead, Fla., led 2-0 after one period from a takedown before yielding an escape and takedown to Jordan with 27 seconds left in the second frame.

157 pounds — No. 6 Jake Short (Minnesota) dec. No. 4 Colin Heffernan (Central Michigan), 3-2 — The Gopher junior, who finished second at 149 pounds in the 2015 Cliff Keen Invite, scored the bouts only takedown with 50 seconds left in the first period, then gave up a pair of escapes to Heffernan.

165 pounds — No. 2 Logan Massa (Michigan) dec. No. 1 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin), 8-7 — Riding time advantage provided the winning margin for the redshirt freshman Wolverine, who trailed 2-0 before exploding for two takedown, the second coming a 1:06 left in the second period to lead 6-3. Jordan, the defending national champion fought back with a takedown with 50 seconds left and a third escape with 15 seconds left, but was not enough to erase Massa’s riding time advantage.

174 pounds — No. 2 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) dec. No. 1 Brian Realbuto (Cornell), 3-2 — The redshirt freshman Sun Devil scored the bout’s only takedown with six seconds left to beat the defending champion at this weight. Realbuto took a 1-0 lead heading into the third period but was warned for stalling.

184 pounds — No. 1 Gabe Dean (Cornell) won by TF over No. 3 Zack Zavatsky (Virginia Tech), 19-4 (5:00) — The two-time defending national champion added a second CKLV title in dominating fashion as he scored five takedowns, earned two stalling points against the Hokie and ended the match as the second period ended with a four-point nearfall. Dean scored bonus points in every bout in the 2016 CKLV, including four by fall before this year’s final.

197 pounds — No. 1 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota) major dec. No. 2 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech), 14-1 — The Gopher, a runner-up in the 2015 Cliff Keen, twice put the Hokie on his back — the second for four points as the second period ended — to clinch the championship.

Heavyweight — No. 1 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) dec. No. 2 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech), 6-4 sudden victory — The Badger, a three-time NCAA All-American ended the match when he scored a second takedown against the Hokier with 46 seconds left in the sudden victory period. Medbery, who redshirted a year ago, scored a first-period takedown to lead 2-0 before Walz rallied to take a 4-2 lead midway through the second period on a takedown. A pair of escapes by the Badger, the second coming in the third period, forced overtime.