Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Sophomore Cole Handlovic wrestles against Penn at the Friedman Wrestling Center on 02/05/2023.

December 5, 2023

Wrestling Finishes Sixth at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

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Cornell wrestling (1-0, 1-0 EIWA) traveled out west over the weekend to face off against a stacked field in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. The most difficult in-season tournament of the Red’s season, it was one last opportunity for Cornell’s athletes to prepare before the dual meet season gets underway in late December. 

Cornell came into the tournament with seven of their ten wrestlers seeded, including sophomore Brett Ungar and seniors Jacob Cardenas and Chris Foca all seeded at No. 3 in their weight classes, with senior Julian Ramirez receiving the No. 4 seed. Other Cornell wrestlers also had impressive tournaments, with a number of high-profile upsets across the two-day invitational. 

At 125, Ungar went on a long run featuring quite a few high profile victories. After a 15-0 first round victory, he got into a rhythm and began wrestling in his extremely patient style, outlasting multiple tough opponents. After taking Diego Sotelo of Harvard down 3-2, Ungar faced off against No. 6 seed Brandon Kaylor of Oregon State. After four overtimes, Ungar finally got the advantage, escaping from Kaylor’s control before wrestling a flawless final round to win 2-1. 

After taking down an injured Michael Deaugustino, the No. 2 seed from Michigan, in the semifinals, Ungar faced off against Stanford’s No. 9 Nico Provo. Although he came out of the second round up 1-0, a late flurry from Provo won the match, and Ungar took the second place medal.

Ramirez was as impressive as Ungar at 165, and dominated the first two rounds before taking a cagey quarterfinal matchup against Oregon State’s No. 5 Matt Olguin, 3-0. Up next was No. 1 David Carr of Iowa State, a former national champion and arguably the best wrestler at any weight in the entire tournament.

After a slow first two rounds where Ramirez narrowly escaped a stalling penalty, he led 1-0 going into the third round. Following a controversial late scramble where both wrestlers were awarded three points, Ramirez took the match 4-3, setting up a finals matchup against No. 3 Lucas Olejnik of Oklahoma State. Ramirez couldn’t get a foothold throughout the match, and despite two third round escapes fell 4-2, leaving him runner up. 

For Cardenas, the tournament was filled with huge score lines as he waltzed through the 197-pound bracket. Cardenas won his first two rounds 17-0 and 13-3, before dominating last year’s Big Ten champion, No. 11 Silas Allred of Nebraska, 17-1 in the quarterfinals. Cardenas showcased ridiculous speed and strength against the Cornhusker as he scored three takedowns and numerous near fall points on blast doubles. In the semifinals, it was Cardenas who was blown out, falling 10-2, and a loss in the third place match meant he placed fourth. 

Along with their three top four finishers, Cornell had two other athletes on the podium, sophomore No. 7 Vince Cornella at 141 and senior No. 13 Lewis Fernandes at heavyweight, both of whom finished eighth. Other wrestlers also contributed to the team tally with solid early round results, with the highlight being No. 14 freshman Meyer Shapiro’s 16-4 demolition of No. 3 Bryce Andonian of Virginia Tech. 

Cornell ultimately placed sixth in the tournament, marking its best finish at this competition since a fifth-place outcome in 2015 — and a strong result, considering the conspicuous absence of No. 2 senior Vito Arujau and Foca’s early upset loss. 

Cornell next takes to the mat on Monday, Dec. 18, at the National Collegiate Wrestling Duals in Memphis. There, they will take on Little Rock (3-1, 0-0 Pac 12), No. 19 University of Pittsburgh (5-1, 0-0 ACC) and No. 8 Iowa State (3-1, 0-0 Big 12). The matches will take place at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively, and can be streamed live on Rokfin.