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Wrestling: Buckeyes travel to Las Vegas for loaded Cliff Keen Invitational

Ohio State redshirt senior wrestler Bo Jordan battles Arizona State sophomore Zahid Valencia during a dual meet on Nov. 12. The Buckeyes won 31-12, but Jordan lost the match. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports Editor

The No. 2 Ohio State wrestling team will be competing Saturday and Sunday at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational tournament. The event will feature a team title, which the Buckeyes won last year, and individual brackets with wrestlers from schools including No. 9 Michigan, No. 12 Arizona State, No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 8 Minnesota and No. 13 Nebraska.

Missing from the Buckeye lineup

Ohio State will be without two high-ranked wrestlers. Junior Joey McKenna (141 pounds) will miss the invitational to rest after winning bronze last week in Poland at the U23 World Championships. Senior heavyweight Kyle Snyder will not wrestle either while he prepares for the World Wrestling Clubs Cup on Dec. 7 in Iran.

Sophomore Brendan Fitzgerald and redshirt freshman Kevin Snyder will be filling in for McKenna and Kyle Snyder, respectively. Each wrestler competed at last week’s Thanksgiving Throwdown meet. Kevin, the younger brother of Kyle, said he is excited to step in and compete in front of a large crowd at a prestigious tournament.

“I really want to test myself against those guys,” Kevin Snyder said. “Just looking through the teams that are registered and the guys that are going to be competing at my weight class, I’m excited for it. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. I just really want to see where I’m at against those guys. I’ve seen Kyle wrestle them and I just want to see what happens.”

The elder Snyder will have a chance to compete internationally against some of the best in the world in Iran. As an Olympic gold medalist, he occasionally finds it tough to see level adversaries while competing collegiately.

“Kyle’s always ready, man,” head coach Tom Ryan said. “He’s looking forward to competing over there. I’m pretty sure he tweeted that he wants to make sure that the best in the world is there in his weight. He’s always looking for that opportunity to be challenged at a level that can expose lesser strengths.”

Talented opposition

More than 100 ranked wrestlers will compete at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational over the weekend, seven of which are Buckeyes. Forty schools are expected to compete in the event.

Multiple conference foes will be in Las Vegas, along with an Arizona State team that Ohio State beat on Nov. 12. Bo Jordan (174 pounds) and Micah Jordan (157 pounds) will look to avenge losses to Sun Devils Zahid Valencia and Josh Shields, respectively. The rest of the Buckeyes’ will likely see their first tough opponents of the season.

“We have some great tests,” Ryan said. “A lot of our guys have not been tested yet. Obviously Bo has and Micah; Arizona State had a couple of guys that tested where we were. But we’ll see a lot of really high-level guys this weekend and get a good idea of where we are.”

Two nights in Sin City

The two-day format will be a first for Ohio State this season. The loaded field and format will serve as an early trial run for the NCAA tournament in March.

“I think it’s just a chance to learn,” Ryan said. “At the end of the day we want to be our best in March. And this event is a really good opportunity to do some things and find some things that we need to find out about our guys to be ready in March, and that’s what it’s used for.”

Buckeye wrestlers and those in the field also will have to weigh in twice, before matches on both days. This will challenge the early-season, weight-cutting abilities of each wrestler.

“We get multiple matches in a day, which we like,” Ryan said. “We like the fact that you’ve got to weigh in twice, which is the first time this will happen this year. Weighing in once and competing is one thing, having to weigh in the next morning is something else.”

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