Jackrabbits head to Las Vegas

The South Dakota State wrestling team will be part of a challenging field this weekend as it returns to tournament competition at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

Competition is slated to begin at 9 a.m. Pacific Time (11 a.m. Central) Friday at the Westgate Paradise Event Center. Action Saturday is set to begin at 10 a.m Pacific Time (noon Central). All matches will be available for viewing through the FloWestling.org streaming platform (subscription required).

Four Jackrabbit wrestlers are listed among the top eight pre-seeds in their respective weight classes for the two-day event, which will feature more than 175 ranked competitors from across the country. Returning All-American Tanner Sloan holds the top seed at 197 pounds, while three-time NCAA qualifier Cade DeVos is seeded third in the 174-pound weight class.

Rounding out SDSU’s pre-seeds are Tanner Jordan, seventh at 125 pounds, and Cael Swensen, eighth at 157 pounds.

In addition, small contingents of Jackrabbit wrestlers are also slated to compete at the Dragon Open in Moorhead, Minnesota, and the Patriot Open in Fairfax, Virginia, on Sunday.

2022 CKLV RECAP: The 2022 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational proved to be a tone-setting performance for the South Dakota State wrestling team as the Jackrabbits finished third in the team standings and placed eight wrestlers in the top six of their respective weight classes.

Leading the way for the Jackrabbits was junior 165-pounder Tanner Cook with a runner-up finish. In his title bout against second-seeded Julian Ramirez of Cornell, Cook fell behind 10-0 in the first 70 seconds of the match and was defeated by technical fall, 17-1.

Cook wasted little time in posting a 3-0 record with three pins on the first day of competition in the 165-pound division. The No. 9 seed, he totaled only 2 minutes and 13 seconds of mat time during his three matches, the last of which resulted in a 37-second pin over top-seeded and sixth-ranked Carson Kharchla of Ohio State.

Three other SDSU wrestlers who began Day 2 in the semifinals wound up with sixth-place finishes, mostly notably second-seeded Clay Carlson at 141 pounds. For the second time of the 2022-23 season, Carlson was upended by Northern Iowa’s Cael Happel, dropping a 4-1 decision after the two previously met two weeks earlier in the finals of the Daktronics Open.

Carlson later withdrew from the tournament, resulting in his sixth-place finish.

At 125 pounds, Tanner Jordan was edged, 6-3, by fifth-seeded Richard Figueroa of Arizona State in their semifinal matchup, then later was beaten by Nebraska’s Liam Cronin and Malik Heinselman of Ohio State to place sixth.

Jordan was one of four Jackrabbits to win by fall in the opening round, pinning Jacob Moon of Hofstra early in the second period. He advanced to the quarters after top seed Michael DeAugustino withdrew from the tournament after suffering an injury early in their matchup, and then outlasted eight-seeded Caleb Smith of Appalachian State, with an 8-6 sudden victory.

Eighth-seeded heavyweight A.J. Nevills’ bid to reach the title bout was thwarted by Northwestern’s Lucas Davis, 8-2. He also dropped his final two matches of the day to place sixth.

Nevills also sent shockwaves through the Las Vegas Convention Center and beyond by knocking off top-seeded and top-ranked Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State, 5-2, in quarterfinal action during the night session of Day 1. Nevills led 3-0 through two periods and sealed the victory with his second takedown of the match in the final 20 seconds.

Tanner Sloan was the Jackrabbit wrestler to find the most success on the mat on the final day of competition as the top seed in the 197-pound division posted a 3-0 record on the day to finish with a 6-1 mark in the two-day event and a third-place showing.

Sloan claimed a win by injury default 32 seconds into his match against Arizona State’s Kordell Norfleet, then tallied wins over Silas Allred of Nebraska, 12-5, and Evan Bockman of Utah Valley, 4-3.

After winning his first two matches of the tourney by fall and decision, respectively, Sloan suffered a setback against ninth-seeded Andy Smith of Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals. Sloan tied the match at 1-all with an escape early in the third period, but Smith recorded a pair of takedowns in the final minute to pull out the 5-2 victory. He came back later in the Day 1 night session with an 8-0 major decision over Cody Mulligan of Edinboro to move into Saturday’s placing matches.

Cade DeVos also wrestled for third place in the 174-pound class, but fell by a 6-4 count in his placing matchup against Christopher Foca of Cornell. DeVos began Day 2 with his second win of the tournament over North Carolina State’s Alexander Faison, 9-5, and received a medical forfeit to move into the third-place match.

Nebraska claimed the team title with 137.5 points on the strength of winning three individual titles. North Carolina State was second with 127.5 points, while the Jackrabbits finished third with 123 points. Michigan (96.5), and Northern Iowa (96) rounded out the top five in the 33-team field.

LAST WEEK: A four-match winning streak by Minnesota in the middle of the dual propelled the 13th-ranked Golden Gophers past No. 12 South Dakota State, 19-13, in a college wrestling dual Nov. 26 at the Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis.

Minnesota improved to 4-0 on the season, while the Jackrabbits suffered their first loss in falling to 3-1.

The afternoon started off well for the Jackrabbits, who recorded a pair of upsets in the first two matches of the day. At 125 pounds, Tanner Jordan used a big third period to knock off sixth-ranked Patrick McKee, 9-4. Leading 3-2 entering the final period, Jordan countered a reversal by McKee with one of his own, then tallied a three-point near-fall and another point for a riding-time advantage to complete the victory.

With his victory, the 22nd-ranked Jordan remained undefeated on the season with a 9-0 record.

At 133 pounds, 21st-ranked Derrick Cardinal avenged his lone loss of the season two weeks ago against Tyler Wells with a late flourish. After Wells took a 3-1 lead on a takedown with 45 seconds remaining, Cardinal escaped and came up with his lone takedown of the match with about 12 seconds left on the clock to pull out a 5-3 victory that pushed his season record to 9-1.

Minnesota gained the upper hand by reeling off four consecutive wins by decision to take a 12-6 lead. Vance VomBaur posted a 5-2 victory over Caleb Gross at 141 pounds, while No. 19 Drew Roberts tallied an 8-1 win over Alek Martin in the 149-pound matchup.

The 157-pound bout proved to be a swing match in favor of Minnesota as No. 13 Michael Blockhus outlasted the Jackrabbits’ 11th-ranked wrestler, Cael Swensen, in overtime. Swensen held a 4-1 lead in the closing seconds of regulation, but Blockhus forced the extra session with a late takedown, then came up with the match-winning takedown halfway through the first overtime period for a 7-4 sudden victory.

The Golden Gophers carried the momentum into the second half of the dual as Blaine Brenner recorded a 9-6 decision over Tanner Cook, who entered the week ranked 11th at 165 pounds. Cook got off to a fast start in his first action of the season, building a 6-0 lead in the first period on a takedown and three-point near-fall. However, Brenner would score the final nine points of the match, including riding out the entire third period for the final point in a 9-6 upset.

Cade DeVos, ranked seventh at 174 pounds, ended the Minnesota streak with a 4-1 decision over Sam Skillings, but Minnesota pushed its lead to 16-9 after No. 7 Isaiah Salazar turned in the first bonus-point victory of the dual for either squad with 15-3 major decision over Connor Gaynor.

Gaynor was a late replacement for SDSU at 184 pounds and wrestled up two weight classes.

SDSU’s Tanner Sloan, ranked second at 197 pounds, held serve with an 11-2 major decision over No. 17 Garrett Joles, leaving the dual to be decided at heavyweight.

Minnesota’s Bennett Tabor and SDSU’s Luke Rasmussen traded takedowns in the first three-plus minutes before Tabor grabbed control with a reversal and four-point near-fall for a 9-3 lead. Rasmussen scored the final four points of the match, but could not come up with the turn he needed as Tabor hung on for a 9-7 decision to secure the Golden Gopher team victory.

JORDAN HONORED: South Dakota State 125-pounder Tanner Jordan was honored Tuesday on NCAA Wrestling social media channels as Wrestler of the Week.

A senior from St. Paris, Ohio, Jordan knocked off sixth-ranked Patrick McKee of Minnesota, 9-3, in dual action Nov. 26 in Minneapolis. Jordan held a 3-2 lead entering the third period and was able to extend his lead with a reversal and three-point near-fall, followed by a point for a minute advantage in riding time. With his victory, Jordan remained undefeated this season at 9-0.

In addition, Jordan shared Big 12 Wrestler of the Week honors with Iowa State 133-pounder Evan Frost.

A returning NCAA qualifier, Jordan has seen a steady climb in the national rankings during the first month of the season. He rose to 16th in the individual 125-pound rankings compiled by InterMat, while moving up to 26th in this week’s FloWrestling survey. Jordan is one of eight Jackrabbit wrestlers currently in the NCAA Division I individual rankings.

RABBITS RANKED: South Dakota State began the 2023-24 season with its highest preseason ranking ever in the NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll, checking in at No. 12 in the survey, which was announced Oct. 31.

The Jackrabbits also tied their highest-ever ranking in the national poll. SDSU was previously ranked 12th for five weeks during the 2017-18 season.

SDSU was one of six Big 12 Conference teams to be ranked in the top 25. Missouri was ranked fourth, followed by Iowa State in 10th and Oklahoma State at No. 11. Also ranked were Northern Iowa at No. 17 and Oklahoma, which is tied for 20th. Defending national champion Penn State was a unanimous pick for the top spot in the poll.

Besides Missouri (Feb. 18), Oklahoma State (Feb. 10) and Oklahoma (Feb. 9), the Jackrabbits are scheduled to face at least three other teams in the preseason poll — all from the Big Ten Conference — in dual action this season. SDSU is slated to travel to 14th-ranked Minnesota on Nov. 26, followed by a Dec. 16 trip to ninth-ranked Nebraska. A Jan. 4 date against Michigan at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls further highlights the schedule.

Following their narrow dual loss at Minnesota last week, the Jackrabbits dropped two spots to No. 14 in the coaches’ poll. Individually, eight SDSU wrestlers appear in this week’s rankings conducted by InterMat and FloWrestling:
125: Tanner Jordan (16th by InterMat/26th by FloWrestling)
133: Derrick Cardinal (18th by FloWrestling)
141: Clay Carlson (6th by FloWrestling/6th by InterMat)
157: Cael Swensen (13th by InterMat/14th by FloWrestling)
165: Tanner Cook (15th by FloWrestling/28th by InterMat)
174: Cade DeVos (7th by InterMat/8th by FloWrestling)
184: Bennett Berge (19th by InterMat/21st by FloWrestling)
197: Tanner Sloan (2nd by FloWrestling/3rd by InterMat)

A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits are away for competition during finals week and will close out the first semester of competition with a Dec. 16 dual at Nebraska. Start time against the nationally ranked Cornhuskers is slated for 6 p.m. at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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