Pac-12 Wrestling: 2016 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite
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Pac-12 Wrestling: 2016 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite

Zahid Valencia puts national field on notice, Nicholas Fiegener shows out against D1 opponents, and more!

Pac-12 Wrestling: 2016 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite
Tony Rotundo/

The entire Pac-12 conference was in action at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite on December 2nd-3rd. In its first taste of the national field, the conference got a serious reality check alongside a litmus test. Let's look at how the brackets filled out, weight-by-weight.

125lbs: Schram falters in quarters

#4-ranked Connor Schram of Stanford reached the quarterfinals from the 2-seed, facing 2015 NCAA Qualifier, 7-seed Trey Andrews of Northern Colorado. Andrews beat Schram 4-2 in an awkward affair; Schram once again found problems getting off the bottom, as was the story when he faced the now-ranked #10 freshman from Penn State, Nick Suriano. Schram would medical forfeit out of the tournament.

The rest of the Pac-12 contingent failed to advance in the championship bracket.

Despite losing in the first round to Trey Andrews by fall, CSU Bakersfield 125lber Sean Nickell bounced back and rattled off five-wins in the consolation bracket to reach the medal rounds. His wins were: 10-2 major over Drew Romero (Air Force Academy), 10-3 over Mitchell Brown (Utah Valley), 16-1 tech-fall over Jordan Gessner (Bucknell), 5-0 over Noah Baughman (Cornell), and 14-5 major over Ben Thornton (Purdue). In the consolation-semis, Nickell lost to #17 Sean Russell of Edinboro, 11-2. In his 5th-6th match, Nickell was defeated 5-0 by Eastern Michigan’s Noah Gosner, to settle for 6th-place.

Arizona State’s Josh Kramer ate his second-loss on the year to Ohio State’s Jose Rodriguez, this time getting stuck on his back in the opening-round of the tournament. It was not all bad for the Sun Devil, as he notched a fall of his own over conference-foe David Gonzalez of Cal Poly, when he spladled the Mustang in under a minute. Kramer would then beat Michigan’s talented freshman, #20 Austin Assad, 11-6. Purdue’s Ben Thornton would eliminate Kramer via 8-4 decision.

The aforementioned David Gonzalez and Oregon State’s Kegan Calkins failed to advance.

133lbs: Naser reaches quarters to challenge NCAA Champion Tomasello

Arizona State’s Ali Naser led the Pac-12 contingent performance in Las Vegas, reaching the quarterfinals to set-up a much-anticipated bout against 2015 NCAA Champion, 2x All-American, #2 Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State. Naser, prior to his recruitment to ASU, had picked up a freestyle victory over Tomasello (among others, including two Olympians). Naser notched two bonus point victories on his way to the quarters: a major over D2-opponent Bryce Shoemaker (Nebraska-Kearney) and a fall over Eli Stickley (Wisconsin). Against Tomasello, who has bumped up to 133lbs in his junior season after two seasons at the top of 125lbs, Naser looked very competent but slightly behind in terms of folkstyle mat-wrestling and neutral-defense. In terms of mat-wrestling, he seemed to favor the freestyle tripod (in fact, he used it once to set-up a Granby/forward roll to earn an escape, during the match); in terms of the neutral position, clearly the slickness has carried over from his freestyle experience, but his neutral-defense was not ready to combat (in a folkstyle context) the crispness of technique of a Nathan Tomasello just yet. (It must be noted that Naser was a 1x CA state placer, so it’s not as if he hasn’t wrestled folkstyle before, but high school is not comparable to the NCAA Division 1 level). After the initial two periods, the Ohio State Buckeye led 5-1, two takedowns to none. In the final frame, Naser trailed (essentially, considering riding time), 6-2. He would get a takedown of his own, but the window of opportunity was closing. Down 6-4, Naser cut Tomasello to attempt a short-time, standing comeback. An ill-fated head-and-arm attempt later, the final score was 9-4 for Tomasello.

Dropping into the consos, Naser topped Pac-12 opponent Carlos Herrera (CSU Bakersfield) 13-6. He then fell to Anthony Tutolo of Kent State, 10-3. In his 7th-8th place match, Naser beat Eli Stickley (Wisconsin) again, this time 10-4.

Herrera made it into the tournament round-of-12 after losing to Tutolo (Kent State), 7-5, in the opening round of the tournament. He rattled off a tech-fall over Tommy Cox (Western Wyoming, JUCO), a 9-5 decision over Dylan Hyder (Air Force Academy), and a 2-1 decision over Austin Harry (Army) on the back-side before dropping to Naser (Arizona State).

Bronco Josh Newberg (Boise State) was able to notch a win over in-conference opponent Peter Russo of Stanford, 10-4, in the consolations but that was his only victory of the tournament. Russo and Cal Poly’s Yoshi Funakoshi both failed to advance.

141lbs: McKenna outlasts field of ranked-opponents; Rohlfing raises brows

All-American Joey McKenna (Stanford) follows up his Roadrunner Open title with a Cliff Keen Las Vegas title. For the second-straight tournament, he picked up three bonus points out of five wins. He picked up a 17-2 tech over Binghamton’s Dylan Caruana, a 6-3 win over Cole Martin (Wisconsin), a fall over Northern Colorado’s Timmy Box, a 10-2 major over Army’s #12 Logan Everett (McKenna beat Everett 2-1 in the Roadrunner Open finals), and a 3-1 win over returning NCAA Finalist, #11 Bryce Meredith of Wyoming to take the tournament. The model of consistency, McKenna continues to be a stalwart for the Cardinal while defending his #2 ranking.

The Bakersfield Roadrunners’ have a diamond in the rough, or so one can hope. 2x CA state placer, RS Freshman Russell Rohlfing made waves on the national scene en route to a 4th-place finish. Starting his day with a 17-1 tech over Division 2 opponent Jeff Bizzle of Nebraska-Kearney, Rohlfing put the community on notice when he beat #14 Brock Zacherl (Clarion), 5-2. He triumphed over Michigan’s Sal Profaci, 13-6, before facing his highest competition to date, Wyoming’s #11 Bryce Meredith, in the tournament semifinals. Despite a solid showing, the Roadrunner fell, 5-4. In the consolation-semis, Rohlfing got back on track, pinning Timmy Box of Northern Colorado to reach the 3rd-place match. He would lose a close 8-7 match to Wisconsin’s Cole Martin to settle for 4th-place.

Colt Schilling of Cal Poly started his tournament with an upset 13-10 win over #18 Tyler Smith of Bucknell, the tournament 5-seed. He couldn’t capitalize, though, as he fell to Harvard’s AJ Jaffe, 6-2, in the next round. He picked up a fall over CA state placer Jacob Macalolooy (Columbia) before getting eliminated by Jack Mutchnik (American), 3-2.

#15 Joey Palmer (Oregon State) had a rough performance, losing in the first round as the 7-seed, 12-10 to William Koll of Cornell. In the consos, he beat Arizona State’s Tyler Sage by major, 10-2, and Kenny Astle (Western Wyoming, JUCO) by tech, 21-6. He would get eliminated by fall by Cole Martin (Wisconsin).

Tyler Sage (Arizona State) failed to advance.

Looking outside the Pac-12, #19 Kyle Springer of Eastern Michigan went 0-2. #18 Tyler Smith of Bucknell went 3-2, picking up a win over #14 Zacherl in the consos, but losing, as aforementioned, to Colt Schilling as well as Northern Colorado’s Timmy Box.

149lbs: Delgado places as conference faces ranked-opponents

#19 Joey Delgado (Oregon State) came out of the 9-seed and advanced to the medal rounds. He picked up 3-2 victories over Timothy Rooney (Kent State) and Stanford’s Walker Dempsey. He also picked up two-point victories over Nick Barber (Eastern Michigan) and Andrew Crone (Wisconsin). However, he lost his matches against ranked-opponents, 8-2 against both #6 Solomon Chishko (Virginia Tech) and #7 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan). He finished in 5th-place.

Coleman Hammond (CSU Bakersfield) started strong, picking up back-to-back majors over Christian Monserrat (West Virginia), 14-2, and Nick Barber (Eastern Michigan), 11-2. He would get pinned in the quarters by 2-seed, #5 Micah Jordan of Ohio State. He then lost to Chase Straw of Iowa State to get eliminated, 6-4.

Stanford’s Walker Dempsey started his day with a nice 7-5 victory over #16 Zac Hall of Michigan. He would slip, however, two-straight matches in losing to in-conference #19 Joey Delgado (Oregon State), 3-2, and Chase Straw (Iowa State), 9-5.

Josh Cortez (Cal Poly) lost by fall to Danny Reed of Columbia to start his day. In the consos, he picked up a 7-6 win over Mike Bartolo of Clarion before losing to conference opponent Josh Maruca (Arizona State), 9-2, to be eliminated. Maruca started with an 18-2 tech over Thomas Stevenson (North Idaho, JUCO) before getting trumped by #5 Micah Jordan 13-7. He would beat Josh Cortez (see above) before being eliminated by Nick Barber (Eastern Michigan), 8-3.

Dakota Wall (Boise State) failed to advance.

157lbs: Shields notches Top-5 win, Shorts places for the Mustangs

#17 Josh Shields of Arizona State put together a helluva tournament for himself picking up two decisions (10-7 and 8-5, respectively) over Zach Elvin of Navy and Jake Ryan of Ohio State. He picked up a huge victory when he pinned 3x NCAA Qualifier, All-American and #5 Brian Murphy of Michigan to reach the semi-finals. He would lose to #11 Collin Heffernan 6-3, before losing 9-5 to returning NCAA Qualifier Victor Lopez (Bucknell) in the conso-semis. Shields picked up a medical forfeit to take 5th-place.

Colton Shorts of Cal Poly had a steady performance on his way to a 7th-place finish. He earned a fall over Jaren Sumauang (North Idaho, JUCO) in the first round and a default in the second round. In the quarters, Shorts stumbled against #11 Collin Heffernan 5-3. He would beat Alex Griffin of Purdue 5-2 to make it into the medal rounds. A 4-2 loss to Archie Colgan (Wyoming) later, Shorts beat Alex Mossing (Air Force Academy) 4-1 to take 7th-place.

Abraham Rodriguez (Oregon State) failed to advance, getting topped by conference-foe Paul Fox (Stanford) via 16-4 major. He would get eliminated by Taylor Cahill of Clarion, 3-1. After the win over Rodriguez, Paul Fox fell to #5 Brian Murphy 5-3 and was eliminated by Chase Delande (Edinboro) 6-0. Besides a conso win by fall over Jaren Sumauang (North Idaho, JUCO), Fred Green of Boise State failed to advance. Similarly, Sean O’Rourke (CSU Bakersfield) picked up a 11-2 major over Ryan Winger (Western Wyoming, JUCO), but otherwise failed to advance.

California native Victor Lopez (Bucknell) was a conso-killer, after losing his opening match by fall. Facing Purdue’s Alex Griffin, Lopez (the tournament 3-seed) earned a reversal to tie the score at 7-7 with time elapsing. When he got caught riding too high, Griffin was able to score a defensive-fall with :05s left in the match. Lopez erupted in the consolation, winning six straight matches and outscoring his next seven opponents 44-15. On his way to an eventual 4th-place finish, Lopez topped #10 Russell Parsons, 7-2, and #17 Josh Shields, 9-5. In the 3rd-4th place match, he fell 2-1 to Archie Colgan of Wyoming.

165lbs: Valencia reaches semis, Subjeck reaches the quarters

Seeded 3rd, #14 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State) started his tournament with two decisions and a major over #20 Brandon Womack (Cornell). In the semi-finals, Valencia lost the battle of talented freshman, falling to Michigan’s #5 Logan Massa via major, 17-4. He would lose again in the conso-semis, to Branson Ashworth (Wyoming), 5-2, before pinning #20 Womack to take 5th-place. (Note: Valencia split matches with Ashworth during the course of the tournament.)

#13 Keaton Subjeck of Stanford reached the quarters but failed to place out of the 4-seed. He opened the tournament with a 9-8 win over Kyle Bierdumpfel of Harvard, followed by a fall over Logan Parks of Central Michigan. He would drop a 7-3 decision to #18 Austin Matthews of Edinboro, subsequently being caught in the storm that was Branson Ashworth of Wyoming, 6-0 in the consos.

Lorenzo de la Riva of CSU Bakersfield had a rough start, drawing #18 Austin Matthews of Edinboro first round. Matthews trumped de la Riva via 22-5 tech-fall. The Roadrunner would pick up three victories in the consos, including a 20-8 major over Pac-12 opponent Luke Wilson (Cal Poly). De la Riva was eliminated via 7-2 decision by Alex Lopouchanski of Air Force.

Luke Wilson of Cal Poly earned a 5-2 decision over Drew Daniels (Navy) before dropping two straight: a fall to #5 Logan Massa and a major to Lorenzo de la Riva (CSU Bakersfield), 20-8. Boise State’s Demetrius Romero picked up a tech-fall, 16-1, over Rodney Williams of Oregon State before losing two-straight by bonus points to be eliminated. Williams failed to advance.

174lbs: Zahid strikes gold for the Sun Devils

#7 Zahid Valencia went 5-0 on his day, taking the tournament title for Arizona State out of the 2-seed. In the semi-finals, Valencia beat 3-seed, #14 Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State) by 10-2 major. In the finals, Valencia beat #5 Brian Realbuto (Cornell) 3-2 on a clutch takedown to take 1st-place.

All-American, #13 Jim Wilson of Stanford started the tournament strong with four straight wins, including an out-bracket overtime fall over Jairod James of Kent State in a match that lasted over 26 minutes. He then picked up 6-2, 5-3, 9-3 decisions over Alex Aguilar (North Idaho, JUCO), Chaz Polson (Wyoming), and Jake Morrissey (Purdue). In the semis, Wilson fell to #5 Brian Realbuto 12-5. In the conso-semis, it would appear Wilson got injured, as he gave up a major in an odd match to Michigan freshman Myles Amine, 9-1. He would default to 6th place.

Austin Dewey (Boise State) and Weston Dobler (Oregon State) went 2-2 at the tournament. Dewey earned a 18-0 tech over Joe Salvi of American and a 4-0 decision over Jairod James (Kent State). He lost to #5 Brian Realbuto, 13-5, and was pinned by #19 Ryan Christensen of Wisconsin. Dobler earned 5-2 decisions over Matt Hebel of Western Wyoming (JUCO) and Ohio State’s Seth Williams. He lost by tech, 17-2 to Myles Amine of Michigan and 7-3 to D2 #7 Nolan Kistler of Cal Baptist.

Cal Poly’s Travis Berridge beat Joe Salvi (American) 5-0 in the consos, but otherwise failed to advance. CSU Bakersfield’s Bryan Battisto failed to advance.

184lbs: SJS product Nicholas Fiegener places

Matt Penyacsek (CSU Bakersfield) earned two decisions to start his day, before getting pinned by 2x defending NCAA Champion, #1 Gabe Dean (Cornell). He would go on to be eliminated by Samson Imonode (Army), 12-6.

Cal Poly’s Sohrab Movahedi was not able to recapture his glory from the Roadrunner Open in Vegas, earning two decision victories in the consolation before being eliminated via 6-1 decision by #19 Steven Schneider (Binghamton).

Kaydn del Toro (Boise State) picked up a 20-2 tech-fall over Levi Perry of North Idaho (JUCO) before getting eliminated. Connor Small (Arizona State), Bob Coleman (Oregon State), and Zack Nevills (Stanford) each failed to advance.

A high-note at 184lbs is former Cal Poly Mustang, SJS/CA product Nicholas Fiegener (ranked #5 in Division 2), who placed 7th for Cal Baptist. On his day, Fiegener went 5-2, beating Connor Small (Arizona State) by major, 12-0; Bobby Steveson (Minnesota) by tech, 16-1; Garrett Hoffman (Bucknell), 12-5; Will Sumner (Utah Valley) by fall; and Imonode (Army) by 12-1 major. Fiegener lost to #1 Gabe Dean (Cornell) by fall and to #19 Steven Schneider (Binghamton), 4-3.

197lbs: Griego bumps up

Ranked #16 at 184lbs, though likely bumping up to 197lbs due to line-up needs, Corey Griego came out and performed despite a slow start. Griego lost first round via 14-3 major to Tom Sleigh of Binghamton, then rattled off five straight wins to make it into the conso-semis. Among the wins were a 5-2 decision over 2x D2 All-American Jacob Waste (Cal Baptist) and a 6-5 decision over #19 Matt Williams (CSU Bakersfield). He then avenged his loss from earlier in the tournament to Binghamton’s Sleigh, 8-4. In the conso-semis, Griego lost to #13 Kollin Moore of Ohio State, 11-6. In his 5th-place match, he pinned Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin) to take 5th.

Roadrunner Matt Williams picked up two decisions to start the CKLV (8-5 over Cody Vigoren of Wyoming and 4-0 over Marcus Harrington of Iowa State). He then lost two-straight to two tough opponents in #3 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech), 5-3, and Corey Griego, 6-5.

Cal Poly’s Tom Lane lost opening round to #3 Jared Haught, but beat Stanford’s David Showumni in a Pac-12 match-up by tech, 17-2. He then beat Binghamton’s Mark Tracy, 9-7, before getting eliminated by Air Force’s Anthony McLaughlin, 6-3.

Austyn Harris (Arizona State), David Showumni (Stanford), and Harley DiLulo (Boise State) each failed to advance.

285lbs: Tanner Hall stakes his claim to Pac-12 heavyweight crown

Tournament 3-seed and #4-ranked heavyweight in the country, Tanner Hall of Arizona State picked up five wins at the CKLV. Hall picked up two falls and a major before beating #11 Billy Miller of Edinboro, 5-2, to advance to the semi-finals. Hall would drop a 5-3 match against #3 Ty Walz of Virginia Tech. In the conso-semis, Hall topped #10 Nathan Butler of Stanford, 3-2 tiebreakers, to beat his conference-rival outright early in the season. In his 3rd-4th place match, Hall lost to 2x All-American, #6 Mike Kroells (Minnesota), 4-3 in tiebreakers, to settle for 4th-place.

As for #10 Nathan Butler, he earned two decisions before losing to #6 Mike Kroells, 3-1, to drop into the consolation bracket. Another decision and a medical forfeit set him in the conso-semis against #4 Tanner Hall (see above). In the 5th-6th place match, Hall sealed 5th place by beating #11 Billy Miller 5-0.

Alex Encarnacion-Strand (CSU Bakersfield) picked up a decision over Ethan Daley (Clarion), 5-3, before being eliminated by #11 Billy Miller (Edinboro), 6-3, and by Garrett Ryan (Columbia) by fall. Cody Crawford of Oregon State started his day with a fall over Devin Nye of Kent State, followed by a 9-2 victory over Trevor Smith of Army. He would then lose a 17-7 major to #3 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech) before being eliminated by Gage Hutchison (Eastern Michigan), 5-1. Cal Poly’s Spencer Empey picked up a 2-0 win over CA state champion, Jeramy Sweany (Cornell) before being eliminated. Gabe Gonzalez (Boise State) failed to advance.

[FloWrestling Rankings 11/28 Edition used for D1 rankings. InterMat Rankings 10/28 Edition used for D2 rankings.]

More wrestling?

Season Round-Ups: '16-'17 Pac-12WR Season Opener / ‘16-’17 Pac-12WR Week-2 Round-Up / ‘16-’17 Pac-12WR Post-Thanksgiving Round-Up

The Creation of USAWrestling’s Atlas

Top 10 125lbs NCAA Performances: 1-5 | 6-10

Coaching Conundrum: Part 1: Fresno State / Part 2: Boise State / Part 3: Cal-Poly SLO / Part 4: CSU Bakersfield / Part 5: Stanford / Part 6: Arizona State / Part 7: Oregon State / Part 8
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