Cyclones set to take on stacked field at Cliff Keen Invite

Beau Berkley

The ISU wrestling team got its first taste of nationally-ranked competition last weekend in Iowa City and with the first major tournament of the season coming up, they’ll have another chance at top-ranked competition. 

85 chances, to be exact. 

The Cyclones ride west this weekend for the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, which features 39 teams, 11 of which are ranked in the top 25. All in all, 85 ranked wrestlers will be at the tournament for their respective weights. 

Older faces like All-Americans Kyven Gadson and Michael Moreno, as well as two-time NCAA qualifier Tanner Weatherman, won’t be fazed by the stature of this weekend’s competition. They’ve ran the gauntlet against top-ranked foes, but the few newcomers in the lineup this weekend can’t say the same. 

True freshman Dante Rodriguez will get the nod at 141 pounds instead of John Meeks and redshirt freshman Daniel Woiwor will see the mat at 157 pounds, which is usually occupied by redshirt senior and two-time NCAA qualifier Luke Goettl. 

“Don’t make it any bigger than it needs to be,” Gadson said. “You’ve wrestled your whole life, just go out and do what you know how to do, stick to what you do well.” 

Gadson said a goal for the team heading into the weekend is to regain its footing after a crushing 28-8 defeat at the hands of in-state rival, No.1 Iowa. 

“I just want to see how resilient we are coming off of last weekend,” Gadson said. “We all saw [what happened] last weekend and the great teams, even after a bad performance, they have the type of resilience where they can rebound and come back and maybe perform the best they have all year.”

Gadson’s sentiments might ring true, especially for 133-pounder Earl Hall. Hall is returning from two straight dual losses, most recently to Iowa’s Cory Clark, who defeated Hall twice last season.

Hall has lived out this scenario before. Last season at 125 pounds, before Hall competed in his first Cliff Keen Invite, he was coming off a loss to Clark before rattling off two wins to start the invite. Hall was later pinned by Northern Iowa’s Dylan Peters in the third round before finishing eighth.

A year later and at a heavier weight class, Hall knows what to expect this weekend and what he needs to correct in order to move up on the podium. 

“I got to stay on my offense, continue to score points and I have to learn to dominate,” Hall said. “I just have to get back to my old ways, don’t hold back, don’t worry about predictions.”

The first round of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite starts at 11 a.m. CST on Dec. 5.