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Jack, Provo advance to semifinals at Cliff Keen Invitational

Danbury High graduate Ryan Jack, right, has moved into the semifinals of the Cliff Keen Invitational for the second consecutive year.

Two Connecticut natives are in the semifinals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in Las Vegas after the first day of wrestling competition on Friday.

Danbury’s Ryan Jack of North Carolina won three matches including a 15-6 win over Northern Iowa’s Cael Happel to earn a spot in the semifinals at 141 pounds. Stratford’s Nico Provo of Stanford won three times including an 8-1 win over top-seeded Matt Ramos of Purdue to earn a spot in the semifinals at 125 pounds.

Jack is one of three wrestlers for No. 2 North Carolina State in the semifinals and one of seven Wolfpack wrestlers still alive in the tournament. Danbury native A.J. Kovacs (165) went 1-2 in the tournament and Danbury graduate Jakob Camacho, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the country at 125 pounds, didn’t compete in the tournament.

After one day of wrestling, Iowa State leads with 88½ points and seven wrestlers remaining, including four in the championship brackets. Oklahoma State is second with 81 points with four-time defending champion Nebraska third with 77½ points. NC State, which is ranked No. 2 in the country, is fifth with 68½ points, just behind Cornell with 69½ points.

Sacred Heart entered 10 wrestlers in the tournament, that includes 16 of the top 25 teams in the country. The Pioneers picked up individual victories from Andrew Fallon (133) and Scott Jarosz (165).

Binghamton’s Will Ebert (Fairfield Warde) went 1-2 at 174 pounds while Long Island University’s Devin Matthews (Gilbert-Winsted) went 2-2 at 141 pounds before being eliminated.

The tournament, which is being streamed on FloWrestling, resumes Saturday at 1 p.m. with the semifinals and other consolation round action. The championship finals and consolation finals will begin at 6 p.m.

Jack, currently ranked No. 7 in the country, is in the semifinals for the second straight year. He beat Caleb Gross of South Dakota State in the first round, 4-1 before beating No. 32 McKenzie Bell of Rider, 14-8. In the quarterfinals, Jack had four takedowns in a 15-6 win over No. 18 Cael Happel of Northern Iowa.

Jack (8-0) will face No. 3 Lachlan McNeil of North Carolina (9-0) in the semifinals.

Provo (5-0) opened the tournament with a 13-2 win over Trevvor Anderson of Northern Iowa before getting three takedowns to beat Kysen Terukina of Iowa State, 12-5 in the second round.

In the quarterfinals, Provo, who came into the tournament ranked No. 30 in the country, beat No. 3 Matt Ramos of Purdue, 8-1 to earn a spot in the semifinals. An escape and takedown in the second period gave Provo a 4-0 lead. Ramos escaped early in the third period to cut the lead to three but Provo seized control with a takedown with 1:01 remaining.

Provo will face No. 16 Jore Volk of Wyoming (5-0) in the semifinals.

The Pioneers scored two points in the tournament and will finish last among the 35 teams in the tournament. Eight of Sacred Heart’s wrestlers lost their first two matches and were eliminated.

Fallon and Jarosz dropped their opening matches before winning in the first round of consolations. Fallon (133) beat Air Force’s Brenden Barnes in the first consolation round, 9-4 and Jarosz (165) outlasted Cal-Poly’s Elijah Blake, 2-0.

Ebert (5-6) beat Sacred Heart’s Owen Ayotte, 19-4 for a win by technical fall at 174 pounds before losing to No. 11 Travis Wittlake of Oregon State, 18-3 (tech fall in 3:19) and Cornell’s Benny Baker, 5-0. It was Eberg’s first technical fall win of the season and the second of his career.

Matthews (141) picked up a win over Utah Valley’s James Emmer in the consolation round, 5-1 and a forfeit victory before being eliminated by Wyoming’s Cole Brooks, 13-2. Matthews is 7-4 on the season.

2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational results and brackets

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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