What: The 34th Annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada

When: Friday – Session 1: 9:00 AM
Session 2: 6:00 PM
Saturday – Session 3: 9:00 AM
Finals: 3:00 PM

Seeded Panthers:
125: #4 Dylan Peters
133: #12 Josh Alber
165: #2 Cooper Moore
285: #3 Blaize Cabell

Coach Doug Schwab talks with his wrestlers before a dual at Missouri
Coach Doug Schwab talks with his wrestlers before a dual at Missouri

Outlook: The Panthers are coming off a tough opening dual loss to the defending MAC Champion Missouri, 24-19. While the Panthers won just four matches in the dual, three seeded wrestlers scored victories, as well as true freshmen Bryce Steiert, who was making his home debut. The team placed 14th at last years tournament after being in the top ten the previous two years. The highest finish of any current Panther in the Cliff Keen tournament was fourth in 2013 and 2014, by Cooper Moore. This is one of the toughest early-season tournaments of the year, and it will be a tough test for UNI. If their seeded guys wrestle to seed, and they get one or two breakout performances, they should be able to secure a top 10 spot in Vegas.

Number 4 seed Dylan Peters looks to improve on his sixth place finish last year, where he beat current number one seed and 2015 national champion Nathan Tomasello by pinfall. The top of this bracket will be loaded, with Tomasello as the number one seed, Virginia Tech’s Joey Dance as the second, and David Terao of American as the third. Peters’ win over Tomasello last year is the only one he has over those three wrestlers combined; he’s dropped two to Dance and one to Terao. Ronnie Bresser from Oregon State earned the 6 seed, while Barlow McGhee from Missouri earned the 10th spot, both of whom Peters has defeated this season.

A bit of a surprise came at 133 pounds, when UNI’s Josh Alber was seeded 12th after not being in the pre-seeds at all. Alber comes in one spot behind Missouri’s Zach Synon, who he lost to at the dual meet last weekend, and that is the only loss he has on the year. This will be a great opportunity for Alber to show he can wrestle with the best, and he’ll get Iowa State’s #5 seeded Earl Hall early on in the tournament. If Alber can get by Hall early, then I think he can place in the tournament.

UNI’s highest seeded wrestler is at 165 pounds in Cooper Moore. As I said before he has the highest finish of any current Panther, taking fourth each of the last two years. Ohio State’s Bo Jordan doesn’t seem to be in the mix at 165 – whether due to injury or not making weight I’m not sure – but that bumped Moore up from his #3 pre-seed to #2. That puts Moore up against either Seth Thomas, form Oregon State, or Chad Welch from Purdue, and then he’ll more than likely get Oklahoma’s Clark Glass. Moore has scored wins over both of them, by decision and tech fall, respectively, so there’s no reason to think he won’t be in the finals against Isaac Jordan.

Blaize Cabell gets his hand raised after beating #7 Ty Walz 5-3
Blaize Cabell gets his hand raised after beating #7 Ty Walz 5-3

The last (and never least) seeded wrestler for UNI is Blaize Cabell. The heavyweight secured the three spot, but there is a little bit of controversy there, at least from my perspective, as Cabell has beat both the men seeded above him. Cabell beat the number one seed, Ty Walz from Virginia Tech, twice last year and defeated Michael Kroells from Minnesota, 5-3 in sudden victory last season as well. Walz has looked really good this season, so while I don’t think the number one seed is undeserved, it just seems a bit odd (especially with Kroells being the second seed). As long as Cabell can stay on his offense, especially against bigger, heavier opponents, he should be in a great position to at least wrestle to his seed.

For the unseeded men no one can make a bigger statement than 141 pounder Trevor Jauch. The weight is generally considered to be an open race nationally, and Jauch was narrowly defeated by the 10th seed Matt Manley last weekend. This would be a great opportunity for Jauch to burst onto the national scene. The same goes for Bryce Steiert at 157 pounds; the true freshman made some noise in the West Gym last weekend, earning a win by pinfall and MAC freshman of the week honors, but can he keep it going so far away from home? 149, 174, 184, and 197 are all about finding who the guy will be for the rest of the year and if anybody can break out and put some wins together that would help solidify the UNI lineup.

We’ll have all the results from the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Innovational, so be sure to check back here today and tomorrow!