Facing the best crop of talent they’ll see until the postseason, Nebraska had some highs and some lows during the first day of the Cliff Keen Invitational Friday in Las Vegas.
On one hand, Nebraska went 10-for-10 in the opening round and put four guys into Saturday morning’s semis. On the other, four Huskers saw their tournament come to an end earlier than they no doubt intended.
Looking for its fourth straight CKLV team title, Nebraska sent its full squad and the mainstays largely have delivered so far. Nebraska saw its trio of Brock Hardy, Ridge Lovett and Peyton Robb advance rather easily along with sophomore Lenny Pinto pulling a big upset to advance to the semis.
Saturday’s Semifinal Matchups
141 - 2-seed Brock Hardy vs. 3-seed Jesse Mendez (Ohio St.)
149 - 1-seed Ridge Lovett vs. 4-seed Dylan D’Emilio (Ohio St.)
157 - 1-seed Peyton Robb vs. 4-seed Will Lewan (Michigan)
184 - 5-seed Lenny Pinto vs. 1-seed Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa)
In the team race, Nebraska sits in third place after the second day with 82.5 points. Iowa State is first with 88.5 while Ohio State is second with 86. Nebraska is one of three teams with four in the semis along with the Buckeyes and Michigan — currently in seventh with 67.5 points.
A lot will be decided tomorrow as the Huskers will get semifinal cracks at both Ohio State and Michigan. On paper, Nebraska should be favored in all three of those matchups.
2-seed Brock Hardy
Nebraska’s No. 4-ranked Hardy started his day with a 21-0 tech fall over Cole Solomey of Purdue before pinning Wyoming’s Cole Brooks in the first period in the round of 16.
In the quarters, Hardy took on 10-seed Tagen Jamison of Oklahoma State. The Cowboy came out guns blazing, but Hardy’s leg defense and ability to avoid giving up points when his opponent is in on his leg is seriously next level good. Hardy used a single takedown to get the 4-0 decision win.
That means that Hardy went through the first day at CKLV without giving up a single point — not even an escape, let alone a takedown or reversal. That’s impressive.
On Saturday, Hardy will take on Ohio State’s No. 5-ranked Jesse Mendez, a U20 World silver medalist and All-American last year as a true freshman, in the semis. He’s the real deal and I’m really looking forward to this match. It’ll be a great chance for Nebraska to jump Ohio State as it tries to catch the Cyclones.
1-seed Ridge Lovett
Nebraska’s top-ranked Lovett really announced that he’s back in the fold with a dominant Friday. He quickly pinned Hofstra’s Noah Tapia in the first round before downing Michigan’s Dylan Gilcher 11-1 via major decision in the round of 16.
149 beware… Ridge Lovett is back! pic.twitter.com/aucE5ZttPG— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) December 1, 2023
In the quarters, Lovett withstood some adversity but used his top wrestling to break the match open on the way to a 13-6 major decision win and a spot in the semis.
He’ll face 4-seed Dylan D’Emilio of Ohio State tomorrow morning for a chance at the finals. D’Emilio is ranked No. 7 in the country for the Buckeyes. This will be another great chance for Nebraska to jump/distance itself from Ohio State in the team standings.
1-seed Peyton Robb
After a slight hiccup to start the day, the 3rd-ranked Robb was dominant.
In his opening match against Columbia’s Jaden Le, Robb was caught in the first period with a big arm spin and was put on his back where he had to fight out of getting pinned. After that, it was all Robb as he poured it on with four takedowns and ten nearfall points for the 26-10 tech.
In the round of 16, Robb teched 16-seed Legend Lamer (ranked No. 27) of Cal Poly 16-0 in the second period.
Then in the quarterfinal round, Robb beat 8-seed Cael Swensen (ranked No. 14) 10-0 via major decision.
He moves on to Saturday’s semifinal where he’ll face 4-seed Will Lewan of Michigan. The Wolverine is ranked No. 6 in the country and actually has never lost to Robb — he’s 2-0 against the Husker.
5-seed Lenny Pinto
It was No. 12-ranked Pinto that provided the Huskers a boost when they needed one.
The sophomore pinned his first opponent in under a minute before downing 12-seed Dylan Fishback (ranked No. 18) 4-1 in sudden victory in the round of 16.
Then in the quarters, Pinto pulled off a comeback in his match with 4-seed Dustin Plott (ranked No. 5). Pinto used a late takedown to secure the 12-10 upset and will advance to Saturday’s semis against 1-seed and top-ranked Parker Keckeisen of UNI.
Lenny Pinto had a GRITTY comeback against Dustin Plott to advance to the semifinals of CKLV pic.twitter.com/FWO4Pu9qx8— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) December 2, 2023
4-seed Caleb Smith
At 125 pounds, 4-seed Caleb Smith (ranked No. 10) had a solid day, winning a 19-4 tech fall in the first round before taking out 13-seed Nicholas Babin of Columbia 8-6 in the round of 16. Babin is ranked No. 18 in the country.
In the quarterfinal round, Smith fell in a tough match to 5-seed Jore Volk of Wyoming. Ranked No. 16, Volk held on to beat Smith 4-1, dropping the Husker junior down to the consolation bracket.
Smith won his first consolation match, a 5-4 decision over 10-seed Troy Sprately of Oklahoma State. In the match, Smith used some type of arm throw/cement mixer for a last-second takedown as he threw Sprately over onto his back as time expired.
Check it out below (kind of)...along with the reaction from new assistant coach James Green.
He’ll face top-seeded Matt Ramos (ranked No. 3) of Purdue in Saturday’s consolations.
6-seed Silas Allred
The 11th-ranked Allred started his tournament with a quick pin in the first round before beating 11-seed Evan Bates of Northwestern 11-2 via major decision.
In the quarters, Allred ran into a buzzsaw in 3-seed Jacob Cardenas of Cornell, dropping the match via 17-1 tech fall.
In the consolations, Allred won his first match via 19-3 tech fall against 12-seed Wyatt Voelker. He’ll take on Wyoming’s Joey Novak in the next round of consolations to start Saturday.
6-seed Antrell Taylor
It was at 165 pounds that we saw redshirt freshman Antrell Taylor’s perfect season come to an end. The 17th-ranked Husker won his first match via 8-5 decision before falling to No. 19 Giano Petrucelli of Air Force in the round of 16.
In the consolations, Taylor first beat UNI’s Evan Yant 11-3 via major decision before falling to 14-seed Stoney Buell of Purdue 12-1 via major decision.
With his 2-2 record on the weekend, Taylor is now 8-2 on the year.
10-seed Jacob Van Dee
Another redshirt freshman in Jacob Van Dee also suffered a second-round loss. After a 19-3 tech fall win in his first match, Van Dee lost to Cal Poly’s Zeth Romney 10-4.
In the consolations, Van Dee first picked off Santino Sanchez 15-0 before falling to UNI’s Julian Farber 9-5.
After going 2-2 on the weekend, Van Dee is now 7-3 on the year.
At heavyweight, redshirt freshman Harley Andrews started strong with an 8-0 major decision over Ohio’s Jordan Greer before falling to top-seeded Lucas Davison of Michigan. Davison is ranked No. 3 in the country and beat Andrews via pinfall in the first period.
Andrews then finished his tournament with a 1-2 record after a 3-2 loss to UNI’s Jose Valdez in the consolations. He’s now 4-6 on the year.
Sophomore Adam Thebeau started strong with a pinfall in the first period in his opening match. Thebeau then fell via pinfall to 2-seed Carson Kharchla, the No. 4-ranked guy in the country.
Thebeau went on to drop his next match in the consolations to Ohio’s Sal Perrine. Thebeau is now 6-3 on the year.