Iowa State wrestling set to face stacked competition at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

Redshirt Freshman Kanen Storr defeats Tyson Dippery Nov. 26 in Stephens Auditorium during the Iowa State vs Rider wrestling meet. The Cyclones were defeated 15-22. 

Jack Shover

This coming weekend, the Iowa State wrestling squad will travel to Las Vegas to participate in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and compete against some of the best competition the Cyclones will wrestle all year.

According to FloWrestling, nine of the top 20 teams in the nation will be competing at the invitational which begins on Friday, Dec. 1 and ends Saturday, Dec. 2.

Some of the teams that will be competing include No. 2 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan and coach Kevin Dresser’s former team No. 10 Virginia Tech.

Dresser is anticipating the competition for his young and mostly unproven squad.

“I like to see what guys are made out of in tough situations and it’s going to get tough,” Dresser said.

It won’t just be tough. The talent level of the athletes competing is off the charts. That talent has had the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational comparable to the NCAA tournament.

“I think over half of the ranked guys at my weight class are just going to be on this one bracket, so to me it’s like a mini NCAA tournament,” said redshirt freshman Kanen Storr.

Storr is currently the No. 17 ranked 141-pound wrestler in the country according to FloWrestling. Storr dropped four spots from No. 13 after a disappointing two-loss performance at the Lindenwood Open.

The only other ranked wrestlers for Iowa State are No. 20 ranked Ian Parker at 133 and No. 18 Jarrett Degen at 149, per FloWrestling.

Several of Iowa State’s top wrestlers, including Storr, hope to increase their standings among the NCAA’s top athletes. A successful run at the invitational could vault several of Iowa State’s wrestlers up or into the ranking positions. 

“It’s a big opportunity for me to climb the ladder and show the country and show our fans what I’m all about, so [it’s] super exciting to get an opportunity to beat some top level guys,” Storr said.

Though not listed in Flo’s rankings, Dane Pestano and Marcus Harrington could both exceed expectations this weekend.

Harrington has had flashes of greatness during the season, but there have also been times when he has had poor performances. During the Lindenwood Open, Dresser believed Harrington’s lack of aggressiveness lead to a poor performance in which he did not place.

“It is not an ability thing, it’s a toughness thing. … Sometimes he has a hard time flipping that switch, but he has to learn to flip that switch and battle,” Dresser said.

After that poor showing at Lindenwood, Harrington turned around with an 8-3 decision at the Rider dual.

In contrast to open tournaments, teams are only allowed to bring one wrestler at each weight class, which equates to 10 spots.

The Cyclones will be without a wrestler at 165 pounds as both Logan Breitenbach and Skyler St. John are out with knee injuries.

St. John injured his knee early in the season at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open and Breitenbach recently had his knee scoped the day before Iowa State’s dual against Rider. In his place, 157-pound Colston DiBlasi lost by major decision 15-5.

Breitenbach could possibly return for the Wyoming dual on Dec. 9 and is expected to return in January.

Also not making the trip will be Jonathan Marmolejo, who wrestled at 125 pounds. Dresser said Marmolejo is “banged up,” but noted the injured Marmolejo is hampered by nothing serious or long-lasting.

In Marmolejo’s absence, former Iowa State Wrestling Club member and current walk-on Jakob Allison will wrestle at 125.

Though the NCAA Championship tournament is months away, this invitational will tell where Iowa State’s athletes will land during the NCAA Championships.

At the beginning of the season, Dresser said “iron sharpens iron” in regards to his athletes facing tough competition in the room and against opponents.

This weekend there will be plenty of iron.