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Iowa State wrestling aims for signature wins at Cliff Keen Invitational

Lee Chinyama
David Carr at the ISU vs. OSU wrestling meet on Jan. 29.

The Iowa State Cyclone wrestling team will travel to Las Vegas to compete in the Cliff Keen Invitational for the first time in four years.

The Cliff Keen tournament will serve as a test and measuring stick for the Cyclones. It is one of the deepest regular-season tournaments on the NCAA wrestling calendar.

If all teams registered bring their starters, 176 ranked wrestlers will be in action which amounts to over half of all the ranked wrestlers in the country.

The Cyclones enter this weekend’s tournament losing to the No. 4 team in the country, Iowa. However, many close calls could have easily gone the Cyclones’ way to secure their first Cy-Hawk victory in 19 years.

Several Cyclones should walk out of Hilton with their heads high with how they competed against some of the best in the nation.

“I felt good,” Anthony Echemendia said. “It was a great opportunity to compete against the No.1 guy in the country. I’m grateful we got a chance to do this early on because I haven’t been wrestling in a while. I don’t feel like I am an underdog against anybody.”

No. 19 Echemendia took on No. 1 Real Woods at 141 pounds and had Woods on the ropes for the entirety of the match. After a replay review, Echemendia did not complete his move before the clock ran out and forced overtime where he ultimately lost 4-1.

Echemendia put his entire weight class on notice after nearly defeating the best and he will look to add to his reputation against top-10 opponents at the Cliff Keen Invitational.

“I’m growing. This was the first time I wrestled someone really good and I respected him,” Echemendia said. “I wasn’t doing all my stuff because I respected him but every time I compete I’m just going to let it fly. I’m going to get better every time I compete.”

Seven top-10 wrestlers are expected to participate in his bracket this weekend. He looks to start where he left off and add some more wins to his belt. Echemendia will have plenty of chances to let it fly this weekend.

Echemendia was not the only Cyclone whose match could have gone either way.

At 157 pounds, a controversial call gave the Cyclones their second heartbreak of the match.

No. 18 Cody Chittum took a shot down two at No. 2 Jared Franek with just a few seconds left on the clock and looked to have secured a three-point takedown. After review, time had run out giving Franek the victory.

“There’s a couple tough calls we lost that didn’t go our way,” head coach Kevin Dresser said. “Obviously at 141 and 157. That’s not throwing the officials under the bus, they are split-second decisions they have to make but at the end of the day that’s sports.”

Some mechanical issues and human error could have prevented Iowa State from losing its 19th match in a row to Iowa however Dresser is not making any excuses and is getting his team ready for what’s to come.

“This team’s got a lot of potential,” Dresser said. “I always say if I pick up a newspaper in March when the NCAA tournament is over and this team is right near the top, it won’t surprise me.

Fifteen of the top 20 teams in FloWrestling’s tournament rankings will send squads to Vegas. One particular Cyclone looks to win the Cliff Keen 165-pound bracket for the first time in his career.

David Carr defeated No. 5 Michael Caliendo convincingly 16-4 and has now been tested early in the
season defeating both the No. 4 and No. 5 guys early in the season.

Carr is now three wins away from becoming the 39th member of Iowa State’s 100-win club.

“There’s no pressure when you just focus on scoring points,” Carr said. “I’m not worried about who I’m wrestling and what they’re doing. I’m just working on scoring the next points.”

Carr enters the event as the No. 1 wrestler at 165 pounds and his offense should help him secure a victory in his loaded bracket.

This weekend will be a good test to see where the Cyclones are at all weight classes since nearly all brackets have multiple ranked opponents.

The Cliff Keen Invitational is set to take place Friday and Saturday in Las Vegas at the Westgate Paradise Center. Coverage begins at 11 a.m. Friday and can be streamed on FloWrestling.

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