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Wrestling: Huskers Complete 3-Peat, Crown Three Champs at CKLV

No. 16 Nebraska saw multiple outstanding performances on the way to its third-straight team title in Las Vegas

Nebraska’s No. 3 Mikey Labriola beat NCAA Champion Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech in the CKLV finals at 174 pounds for his second career CKLV title.
Dylan Guenther / CORN NATION

The last time a team not named Nebraska has won a Cliff Keen Invitational team title was all the way back in December of 2018 when Ohio State won it. Since then, Nebraska has captured the team title in 2019, 2021 and again this weekend.

The 16th-ranked Huskers earned the team title with 137.5 team points, a comfortable ways ahead of the second-place team NC State’s 127.5 points. South Dakota State finished third with 123 points, while Michigan took fourth with 96.5.

After a stellar Friday that saw the Huskers send five wrestlers into the semifinal round, they just kept things rolling on Saturday as they crowned three champions on the tournament, the most of any team. On top of those three champs, Nebraska had four other wrestlers make it on the podium. In all, it was an extremely impressive performance by the Huskers compared to what was expected of them. Considering the graduation of guys like Chad Red, Taylor Venz, Eric Schultz and Christian Lance — as well as Ridge Lovett’s decision to redshirt — this Husker team wasn’t talked about as a contender this year despite having won the last two CKLV tournaments.

Nebraska’s Champions

No. 17 Brock Hardy

4-0 at 141 pounds

Hardy started his tournament Friday with pinfall wins over both No. 20 Jesse Vasquez of Arizona State and No. 9 Cole Mattin of Michigan, the tournament’s 1-seed.

On Saturday, Hardy continued his assault on the 141-pound rankings as he avenged his last loss of the season with a 5-4 decision over No. 6 Ryan Jack of NC State. Jack beat Hardy 9-7 earlier in the season in a dual, but Hardy flipped the script Saturday when he scored a reversal in the final second to earn the win (see below).

Then in the final, Hardy controlled No. 15 Cael Happel of Northern Iowa for a 6-1 decision where he was never really in any danger.

Hardy has won 13 straight matches and is now 14-2 on the year. He’s bound to jump toward the top of the rankings after taking out four ranked guys in Vegas.

No. 3 Peyton Robb

5-0 at 157 pounds

After winning all three of his Friday matches via tech fall, Robb continued to cement his place at the top of the weight class on Saturday.

In the semifinal round, Robb beat NC State’s Ed Scott for the second time this season, this time a 5-2 decision. This match was much closer than the end score suggests. With time running out in the third period, Robb held a 3-2 lead but Scott had accumulated 1:02 in riding time, essentially making the score 3-3 with the match looking bound for overtime. Then with just 10 seconds left, Robb scored a throw-by takedown to score two points and eliminate Scott’s riding-time point.

In Saturday’s final against No. 11 Kendall Coleman of Purdue, Robb was never in much danger. Robb scored a first-period takedown before riding Coleman out for the rest of the period. In the second, Robb added a pair of escapes and a takedown while also giving up a takedown to Coleman. Robb then rode Coleman out for the entire third period to earn the 7-3 decision.

Robb is now 12-0 on the year, and with No. 2 Will Lewan of Michigan losing two matches this weekend, including one to Coleman in the semis, Robb will likely be ranked No. 2, possibly even No. 1.

No. 3 Mikey Labriola

4-0 at 174 pounds

Last year’s CKLV champion at 174, Labriola started his tournament with wins over three unranked opponents. Then in the semis, Labriola advanced due to a medical forfeit by No. 5 Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley.

That all set up what turned out to be the match of the tournament as Labriola squared off with NCAA Champion Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech in the final. Ranked No. 2 in the country, Lewis wrestled Labriola to a scoreless first period. Labriola then scored a second-period escape before Lewis tied things up at 1-all with an escape of his own to start the third. And that’s how things ended in regulation, so these two went to sudden victory.

In the extra period, Lewis was able to get in on Labriola’s leg and got it elevated, but Labriola did what he does best — he dove for a leg and initiated a scramble. After an extended scramble, Labriola came out with a takedown and a huge statement win, a 3-1 decision. Check it out below.

Labriola is now 11-0 on the year and will move up to No. 2 in the rankings behind Penn State’s two-time NCAA champion Carter Starocci.

Husker Placers

Liam Cronin - 3rd Place

7-1 at 125 pounds

Cronin finished third and he did it the hard way. After a first-round win, Cronin fell in the second round to No. 19 Caleb Smith of Appalachian State. He then proceeded to rattle off six wins in a row in the consolation bracket.

Cronin earned ranked wins over No. 21 Eddie Ventresca of Virginia Tech (7-3 decision) and No. 9 Brandon Kaylor of Oregon State (4-2 decision in the 3rd-place match).

Cronin is now 8-2 on the year and will likely be ranked after such an impressive weekend that saw the 9-seed Cronin vastly outperform his seed.

Bubba Wilson - 4th Place

5-2 at 165 pounds

Similar to Cronin, Wilson lost early (his loss came in the first round to the 1-seed) but came back all the way through the consolation bracket.

After losing to Ohio State’s No. 6-ranked Carson Kharchla, Wilson won five matches in a row to advance to the 3rd-place match. Along the way, Wilson earned ranked wins over No. 18 Tony Negron of Arizona State (3-1 decision) and No. 12 Joshua Ogunsanya of Columbia (4-3 decision).

In the 3rd-place match, Wilson was pinned by No. 16 Matt Olguin of Oregon State.

Wilson is now 7-4 on the year.

No. 19 Silas Allred - 5th Place

3-2 at 197 pounds

Allred won three matches on Friday, including a 5-2 decision over Ohio State’s No. 12 Gavin Hoffman in the quarterfinal round. On Saturday, Allred fell to NC State’s No. 9 Isaac Trumble 6-1, his second loss to him this season.

Allred then dropped his consolation semifinal bout to No. 8 Hunter Bolen of Virginia Tech via pinfall in the second period. Allred then placed fifth after a medical forfeit in the 5th-place match.

Allred is now 13-3 on the year and had a respectable tournament. He placed and his two losses came to the top two seeds.

Lenny Pinto - 6th Place

3-3 at 184 pounds

After a superb Friday that saw Pinto win three matches, including two over Top-10 opponents, the redshirt freshman cooled down a bit on Saturday.

Pinto beat No. 7 Jonathan Loew via injury default before beating No. 6 Trey Munoz of Oregon State 5-4 in the quarters on Friday. Then on Saturday’s semifinal, Pinto fell to No. 2 Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa 11-2 by major decision.

Pinto then got pinned in the consolation semis by No. 8 Hunter Bolen of Virginia Tech before getting pinned by South Dakota State’s Cade King in the 5th-place match.

Pinto is now 9-5 on the year, and despite losing his final three matches, he kind of put people on notice that he’s going to be a tough out this year and for years to come.