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Provo wins first title at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational; Jack finishes second

Stamford’s Nico Provo flips the legs of Cornwell’s Brett Ungas into the air during Saturday’s final at 125 pounds at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. (Photo courtesy Sam Janicki /

Stamford sophomore Nico Provo of Stratford used his skill with takedowns to beat four nationally-ranked wrestlers and win the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Saturday night at 125 pounds with a 5-1 victory over No. 6 Brett Ungar of Cornell.

Provo (7-0) got a takedown at the buzzer to clinch his championship win over Ungar. Provo also had a takedown with 44 seconds to solidify a 7-1 win over No. 16 Jore Volk of Wyoming in the semifinals.

All takedowns in college are now worth three points each.

Two key takedowns helped Provo beat No. 3 Matt Ramos of Purdue in the quarterfinals, 8-1. Provo got a second period takedown to take a 4-0 lead and when Ramos escaped in the third period to cut the lead to three, it was Provo with the crucial takedown with 1:01 remaining to retain control of the match.

Provo was not the only Connecticut native in the finals.

North Carolina State’s Ryan Jack (Danbury) earned a spot in the finals at 141 pounds after his 4-2 semifinal win over No. 3 Lachlan McNeil of North Carolina. Tied at 1-1, it was Jack who secured a crucial takedown with 29 seconds remaining to take a three-point lead.

North Carolina State, ranked No. 2 in the country in the latest top 25 poll, finished fifth in the tournament with 115 pounds with No. 24 Stanford finishing seventh with 85½ points.

No. 10 Iowa State won their first Cliff Keen Las Vegas title since 1996 and their fifth overall at the Westgate Paradise Event Center in Las Vegas. Seven Cyclones finished on the podium to allow Iowa State to nip Nebraska, 130½ to 125½ to win the championship. Ohio State was third with 123½ points.

Iowa State won 24 matches with bonus points – five pins, eight tech falls and 11 major decisions.

Sacred Heart competed in the event and was 35th with two individual victories. Fairfield’s Will Ebert (174) of Binghamton and Winsted’s Devin Matthews (141) of Long Island University each competed with Ebert winning a match and Matthews winning twice.

Provo, who was ranked No. 30 earlier this week, was the first Cliff Keen tournament champion for Stanford since 2016.

Jack’s match with Mendez was tied 1-1 after two periods. Jack (9-1) tried to secure a takedown with 1:12 remaining but Mendez countered beautifully, using his physical strength to end up with the takedown and a 4-1 lead.

Jack escaped with 19 seconds left to cut the lead to two but couldn’t get an opportunity to take another shot to try for a takedown due to Mendez’s defense. Mendez picked up a point for riding time and a 5-2 victory.

A year ago, Jack finished third in this same tournament.

The Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational started as the Western Open in 1982, created by three-time NCAA champion and UNLV head coach Mark Churella, who still runs it today with his sons.

Formerly known as the Las Vegas Classic, the tournament was renamed the Cliff Keen Invitational in 1993 to honor former Michigan wrestling coach and collegiate wrestling icon Cliff Keen.

Keen coached at Michigan for 45 years (1925-70), the longest tenure in for any coach in any NCAA sport, leading the Wolverines to 272 wins (272-91-10) and 13 Big 10 championships. His Michigan teams had 68 All-Americans. He coached the 1948 U.S. Olympic team was the first president of the National Wrestling Coaches Association. He invented and developed the first ear protection of its kind in wrestling.

2023 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational
At Las Vegas, Nev.
Team results – 1. Iowa State 130½, 2. Nebraska 125½, 3. Ohio State 123½, 4. NC State 115, 5. Oregon State 98½, 6. Cornell 93½, 7. Stanford 85½, 8. Michigan 81½, 9. Oklahoma State 78½, 10. South Dakota State 74, 11. Virginia Tech 69, 12. Northern Iowa 67½, 13. Campbell 61, 14. Arizona State 51, 15. Ohio 50, 16. Navy 48½, 17. Wyoming 43½, 18. North Carolina 37, 19. Binghamton 30, 20. Appalachian State 26½, 21. Columbia, Maryland and Purdue 24½, 24. Cal-Ply 22½, 25. Northwestern 22, 26. Air Force 20, 27. Rider 19, 28. Utah Valley 14, 29. Long Island 12, 30. Harvard 10½, 31. Cal-State Bakersfield, Citadel 7, 33. Hoftstra 5½, 34. Morgan State 2½, 35. Sacred Heart 2
125 Nico Provo (Stanford) dec. Brett Ungar (Cornell), 5-1
133 Kai Orine (NC State) dec. Evan Frost (Iowa State), 12-4
141 Jesse Mendez (Ohio State) dec. Ryan Jack (NC State), 5-2
149 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) dec. Caleb Henson (Virginia Tech), 4-3
157 Peyton Robb (Nebraska) dec. Jacori Teemer (Arizona State), 6-4
165 Izzak Olejnik (Oklahoma State) dec. Julian Ramirez (Cornell), 4-2
174 Cade Devos (South Dakota State) dec. Travis Wittlake (Oregon State), 9-7
184 Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa) dec. William Feldkamp (Iowa State), 14-4
197 Trent Hidlay (NC State) dec. Jaxon Smith (Maryland), 5-2
285 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State) dec. Lucas Davison (Michigan), 5-3
Consolation Finals (Third place)
125 Caleb Smith Nebraska) dec. Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State), 4-1 SV
133 Nic Bouzakis (Ohio State) dec. Domenic Zaccone (Campbell), 4-2
141 Lachlan Mcneil (North Carolina) dec. Cael Happel (Northern Iowa), 6-3
149 Kyle Parco (Arizona State) dec. Dylan D`emilio (Ohio State), 11-1
157 Ed Scott (NC State) dec. Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech), 18-7
165 David Carr (Iowa State) dec. Cameron Amine (Michigan), 3-1
174 Carson Kharchla (Ohio State) dec. Danny Wask (Navy), 10-3
184 Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State) dec. Lenny Pinto (Nebraska), 11-7
197 Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State) dec. Jacob Cardenas (Cornell), 7-2
285 Taye Ghadiali (Campbell) dec. Boone McDermott (Oregon State), 15-6
Fifth place
125 Jore Volk (Wyoming) M FOR Michael Deaugustino (Michigan)
133 Tyler Knox (Stanford) M FOR Derrick Cardinal (South Dakota State)
141 Tagen Jamison (Oklahoma State) dec. Brock Hardy (Nebraska), 13-5
149 Casey Swiderski (Iowa State) dec. Nash Singleton (Oregon State), 13-4
157 Daniel Cardenas (Stanford) dec. Will Lewan (Michigan), 12-10
165 Garrett Thompson (Ohio) pin Hunter Garvin (Stanford), 5:50
174 Sal Perrine (Ohio) dec. Austin Murphy Buies (Campbell), 8-5 SV
184 Sam Wolf (Air Force) dec. Jaden Bullock (Michigan), 10-9
197 Silas Allred (Nebraska) dec. Sonny Sasso (Virginia Tech), 8-5
285 Grady Griess (Navy) medical forfeit Nick Feldman (Ohio State)

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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