Nebraska hasn’t taken the mat since a very successful weekend at the Navy Classic and the Younes Hospitality Open.
The Huskers seem to be improving and hitting their stride as they approach the premier in-season tournament of the year. The Cliff Keen Invitational includes 32 teams, 12 of them ranked in the Top 25. Another, the University of Nebraska-Kearney, is ranked No. 1 in Division II.
Nebraska won the team title in 2019 before there was no tournament in 2020 due to Covid. Then in its return in 2021, Nebraska again won the team title.
But gone are the stalwarts of those squads and in comes a fresh crop of faces. This year’s field includes No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Arizona State, No. 5 Michigan, No. 8 NC State and No. 10 Virginia Tech, among others. So a third-straight team title would be a stretch for the Huskers this year.
But with all of those ranked teams and wrestlers comes opportunity, especially for the new faces looking to make a name for themselves.
How To Watch
Action begins Friday morning at 11 a.m. and will go until 6 p.m. Then in the evening session, quarterfinals and consolations will take place at 8 p.m.
On Saturday, wrestling resumes at noon with semifinals and consolation matches. The finals and placement matches will follow at 5 p.m.
Live streaming can be seen on FloWrestling.org (subscription required).
Rankings by FloWrestling
8-seed Liam Cronin
A senior, Cronin is just 1-1 on the year after missing time with an injury after the Army dual. Cronin also missed most of last season with an early season injury.
This weekend at CKLV, Cronin faces a tough road in a weight class that has nine of the Top 25 wrestlers in the country in it, led by No. 4 Michael DeAugustino of Northwestern.
Cronin could really establish himself as a Top 25 guy if he can make a run.
8-seed Boo Dryden
So far this season, the No. 17-ranked Dryden has a 5-1 record with his only loss a 6-4 decision to NC State’s No. 20 Kai Orine.
Dryden will have his opportunity for redemption as Orine is in this weekend’s field, along with 12 other ranked wrestlers. At the top of the heap are No. 3 Vito Arujau of Cornell, No. 5 Michael McGee of Arizona State, No. 6 Dylan Ragusin of Michigan and No. 7 Chris Cannon of Northwestern.
Dryden will have his work cut out for him, but with his unusual style due to his height and length, I could see him pulling a few upsets.
8-seed Brock Hardy
Just technically a redshirt freshman, Hardy comes into this week ranked No. 17 in the country. He’s had an impressive start to his season as he’s currently 10-2 with a pair of ranked wins to his credit.
This weekend, he has the chance to put himself inside the Top 10 as he’s at one of the deepest weights of the tournament. With 13 ranked wrestlers in the field, whoever wins CKLV at 141 is going to have put together some impressive wins. Northwestern’s Frankie Tal Shahar is ranked No. 5, while NC State’s Ryan Jack is No. 6. Also in the field is Michigan’s No. 9 Cole Mattin.
Replacing NCAA finalist Ridge Lovett in the lineup, Morton has struggled to start the year. He’s 1-4 with his win coming over Army’s Matt Williams via 5-1 decision.
At 149 pounds this weekend, there will be 10 ranked wrestlers, led by four guys in the Top 10 in No. 3 Jonathan Millner of Appalachian State, No. 4 Kyle Parco of Arizona State, No. 5 Sammy Sasso of Ohio State, and No. 7 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern.
A win or two would be nice at this weight.
2-seed Peyton Robb
One of the favorites to make it to the final this weekend, No. 3-ranked Peyton Robb has been dominant this season. He’s 7-0 on the year with four wins over ranked opponents already. He’ll have plenty opportunity this weekend to add to that resume.
As the 2-seed, Robb finds himself on the opposite end of the bracket as Michigan’s No. 2-ranked Will Lewan. Lewan has two career wins over Robb, so this finals matchup would be very intriguing.
Also in the field that includes 11 ranked wrestlers are No. 4 Bryce Andonian of Virginia Tech, No. 6 Jared Franek of North Dakota State, and No. 9 Jacob Wright of Wyoming.
Last year’s starter here, Wilson hit the mat for the first time this year at the Navy Classic where he went 2-2. As of now, he looks like Nebraska’s best option at this weight.
In Vegas, he’ll be in a bracket that includes 11 ranked wrestlers, led by No. 4 Cam Amine of Michigan and No. 6 Carson Kharchla of Ohio State.
2-seed Mikey Labriola
Much like at 157 pounds, Nebraska’s No. 3-ranked Labriola is set for a possible finals showdown against one of the best in the country.
Labriola and No. 2 Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech are on opposite ends of the bracket. These two have never wrestled, but Lewis did become the Hokies’ first NCAA Champion in 2019 when he won at 165 pounds.
Also in the mix at a weight that will include 11 ranked guys are No. 5 Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley and No. 6 Ethan Smith of Ohio State.
Talk about a tough test for a redshirt freshman. Pinto will compete in a bracket that has 11 ranked guys with seven of them in the Top 10. Pinto is 5-2 on the year and has shown he’s solid, but to navigate this field is a lot to ask.
Leading the contenders is No. 2 Parker Keckeisen of UNI, No. 3 Trent Hidlay of NC State, No. 4 Kaleb Romero of Ohio State, No. 6 Trey Munoz of Oregon State, No. 7 Jonathan Loew of Cornell, No. 8 Hunter Bolen of Virginia Tech, and No. 10 Matt Finesilver of Michigan.
That’s a murderer’s row right there. Good luck young Pinto.
6-seed Silas Allred
Another redshirt freshman for the Huskers, the 19th-ranked Allred has been impressive to start his varsity career. He’s 8-1 on the year with his lone loss coming to No. 9 Isaac Trumble of NC State.
It looks like Allred may get an opportunity at revenge as Trumble will be in this weekend’s field, along with No. 5 Bernie Truax of Cal Poly.
All in all, this is one of the least stacked weights of the weekend, so I definitely wouldn’t be shocked if Allred pulled some upsets and won the whole thing.
A senior who’s finally in the starting lineup, Davidson has struggled this year at heavyweight. He’s 3-6 on the year but did just finish third at the Navy Classic last time out.
Also, this could be arguably the toughest weight class of them all this weekend. Competing this weekend are No. 1 Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State, No. 3 Mason Parris of Michigan, No. 5 Yaraslan Slavikouski of Harvard, No. 6 Lucas Davison of Northwestern, No. 7 Tate Orndorff of Ohio State, and No. 9 Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force.
That’s six of the Top 10 right there. That’ll make for a tough road for Davidson. But regardless, I’ll be interested to see how he’s been progressing.