UNI comes back to the mat after an early season two-week break with a trip to the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas this weekend. The tournament is packed this season, with around 100 (depending on who’s rankings you use the number fluctuates) ranked wrestlers in action this season. Nearly half (9) of the top 20 ranked teams will be in action in Sin City.
Schedule of Events
Friday, December 1, 2017
9:00am: Round 1 Pig Tail Championship, Round 2 of (32) Championship, Round 3 Consolation of (32), Round 4 Championship of (16), Consolation 1st of (16) Round 5 Consolation 2nd of (16)
6:00pm: Round 6 Championship Quarter Finals & Consolation Round 1st of (8)
Saturday, December 2, 2017
9:00am: Round 7 Consolation 2nd of (8)
10:00am: Round 8 Championship Semi-Finals, Round 9 Consolation Semi Finals, Consolation Finals 5th & 6th, 7th & 8th Places
3:00pm: CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS 1st & 2nd, 3rd & 4th Places
It’s going to be tough to not have a word-for-word copy of Ross’ breakdown of Iowa State’s CKLV preview – as far as hyping up the tournament goes. The tournament is probably the biggest early-season test that any squad could face; traveling, two-day weigh-in, two full days of wrestling, and of course the very good competition. One thing that will run through this preview: UNI has a lot to prove at every single weight. Whether that’s maintaining a high rank or bursting onto the national scene there is work to do at every weight if they want to be considered a top 10 team this season.
For UNI a couple things stand out right away. 1 – Max Thomsen was given the number one pre-seed at 149 pounds. Of the top eight wrestlers that he has wrestled he has wins against them all. Thomsen avenged two losses – one against pre-seed #3 Justin Oliver and one against pre-seed #6 Solomon Chishko – that he suffered early in the year last year. The win against Chishko came in the fifth place match of the NCAA’s. Thomsen has the target painted on his back this season though, and he’ll be getting everybody’s best shot. A couple of repeat wins would solidify his spot as one of the best 149 pounders in the nation.
The other thing that stands out to me are how tough 174 and 184 pounds are. Taylor Lujan is the 5th pre-seed and Drew Foster is the 4th pre-seed. Starting at 174 Lujan is behind three of the best wrestlers in the nation – and Jadaen Bernstein. Yes, Bernstein did beat Lujan a year ago in the NCAA wrestlebacks, but as far as I’m concerned Lujan is the better wrestler today. If the pre-seeds hold up and the pair take care of business, they’ll meet each other in the quarterfinals. This is one of the only times Lujan will get to wrestle a couple of guys ranked above him and if he wants to be considered one of the best in the nation he’ll need to upset at least one of them.
Foster’s 4th pre-seed is a little confusing, but only a little, and it’s probably about right. Foster has a win over #3 Zack Zavatsky – the ACC Champion at 184 last season – in the NCAA Championship, he’s 1-1 against #5 Jordan Ellingwood, and has a loss this season to #6 Max Dean. Basically that all probably evens out to a 4 seed, but as with Lujan the difference between a four seed and a five seed isn’t a huge deal for this tournament.
Foster is going to have to go out and prove that he’s deserving of a high ranking early in the season though. As I say every preview: Everybody knows who Drew Foster is now and they’re all gunning for him. He’s had some conditioning issues this year – in both his regular-season dual matches he’s gassed in the third period, and had the same issue at the all-star classic.
The other pre-seeded wrestlers include #11 Jay Schwarm (125) and #6 Josh Alber (141). Both these guys have solid wins over solid competition, but both could come away with signature wins against the best. If the pre-seeds hold both would be expected to take on the #3 seed in the quarterfinals, Sean Russell at 125 and Tommy Thorn at 141. Both men already have a loss on the year to guys I expected them to beat so wins against higher-ranked guys here could prove to be big for seeding at the NCAA Tournament.
As far as the other weights go we’ll have to wait and see who UNI sends for a few of them. At 133 Jack Wagner has seen the most action for UNI and we’re still unsure about Rudy Yates’ health status. Paden Moore should be the starter at 157, Isaiah Patton at 165, and Carter Isley at heavyweight. All three of these guys need a couple wins to help boost their resumes – especially Isley as he came in with all the expectations in the world. We’re not sure who we’ll see at 197 for UNI, either Izaak Shedenhelm or Jacob Holschlag, if Holschlag is healthy.
This is a big test for the Panthers. Like I said at the beginning of the preview UNI has a lot to prove here, especially with the upset loss at Cornell earlier in the year. If they want to be considered one of the best teams UNI will have to prove it against the best and this year there’s no better place to do that than in Las Vegas.