Ohio State Faces Uphill Battle in Quest for Fourth-Consecutive Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Victory

By Andy Vance on December 6, 2019 at 11:28 am
Viva Las Vegas Baby!
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back at some of Ohio State's "greatest hits" at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, I made the observation that you could call the Buckeyes the "team of the decade" at the season's premier invitational folkstyle tournament. After all, Tom Ryan's teams have won six of the past 10, and placed outside of the Top 5 just once since 2009.

When this year's tournament kicks off this afternoon in Sin City, Ohio State may be fighting to place in the Top 3 rather than for a shot at a fourth-consecutive title.

In their preview of the team race, FloWrestling pegged Ohio State to finish in fourth based on pre-seeds, behind Nebraska, Arizona State and NC State. With six of the top 10 teams in the country wrestling this weekend, whichever team finishes on top will have earned their place and then some.

Ohio State fields two Number 1 seeds in senior captains Kollin Moore at 197 and Luke Pletcher at 141. The top-ranked tandem has done extremely well at the Keen, with Moore riding back-to-back individual championships.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Buckeyes have four wrestlers not seeded, including 125-pounder Malik Heinselman who faces the top seed in the class in the very first round. Presuming he doesn't upset Virginia's Jack Mueller in that opening bout, Ohio State will count on him to earn some points in the wrestlebacks.

The Buckeyes made a couple of lineup changes ahead of the Keen, having originally entered Quinn Kinner at 133 and Ke-Shawn Hayes at 157.

Assistant head coach J Jaggers told us Thursday that the staff is reevaluating the long-term wisdom of asking Kinner to keep cutting to 133 – not just for this tournament – and took Dylan Koontz to Sin City in his stead. Kinner would have been the 10th seed in the tournament had he wrestled.

At 157 Hayes continues to heal up from an injury, and with Cleary continuing to struggle against tougher competition, the Buckeyes are giving redshirt freshman Jaden Mattox, a two-time Ohio high school champion, his shot at the spot on one of the bigger stages in the early season. Hayes was slated as the 7 seed.

Koontz and Mattox join Heinselman and Gavin Hoffman at 184 pounds as wrestlers who didn't earn pre-seeds. Joining Pletcher and Moore as pre-seeds are No. 4 Chase Singletary at heavyweight, No. 4 Ethan Smith at 165, No. 6 Sammy Sasso at 149 and No. 7 Kaleb Romero at 174.

The opening round of the tournament begins at Noon and streams live via FloWrestling. Here are the matches the Buckeyes have right off the bat (the number in front of each name is tournament seed, not their national ranking):

  • 125: No. 1 Jack Mueller (Virginia) vs. Malik Heinselman
  • 133: No. 5 Josh Kramer (Arizona State) vs. Dylan Koontz
  • 141: No. 1 Luke Pletcher vs. Lukus Stricker (Harvard)
  • 149: No. 6 Sammy Sasso vs. Brigg Hoopes (Utah Valley)
  • 157: Jaden Mattox vs. Colten Carlson (South Dakota State)
  • 165: No. 4 Ethan Smith vs. Bernie Truax (Cal Poly)
  • 174: No. 7 Kaleb Romero gets a first-round BYE
  • 184: Gavin Hoffman vs. Tyler Bates (Kent State)
  • 197: No. 1 Kollin Moore vs. Ricardo Rodriguez (Grand Canyon)
  • 285: No. 4 Chase Singletary vs. Dalton Robertson (Northern Colorado)

Opening round action starts at Noon eastern, with wrestling through the Round of 16 and several rounds of consolation action happening in the afternoon session. Quarterfinal action takes place at 9 p.m. ET. Semifinal matches are Sunday at 1 p.m. with the final round kicking off at 6 p.m. 

You can access the live stream ($$) here, and access the brackets here.

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