The Harvard wrestling team took on tough national competition at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Friday and Saturday. Co-captain Steven Keith once again led the way for the Crimson, finishing the weekend in fifth place for his weight class.
Harvard ended the tournament in 24th place out of 32 participating teams.
Keith has reached the podium in all three tournaments this year, having captured fifth-place and third-place finishes earlier this season to secure a No. 15 individual national ranking.
Wrestling at 141 pounds, Keith entered the tournament seeded sixth. After winning his first match, 5-0, Keith fell to third-seeded Tyler Graff of Wisconsin, who shut him down en route to a 9-3 win.
In the wrestlebacks, Keith won two matches in decisive fashion, not surrendering a single point. The senior then suffered a 9-2 defeat to Cornell junior Michael Nevinger, who would eventually claim fourth place.
But Keith finished the tournament on a strong note and took home an 8-6 victory in a closely contested fifth-place match.
“I thought I wrestled pretty well,” Keith said. “Just like the rest of the team, I have a few things that I need to work on, and if I can fix a few things, then I think I’ll be pretty happy with my results come the end of the year.”
Crimson coach Jay Weiss shares Keith’s focus on the long run, as both believe that the season cannot be judged until the NCAA tournament in March.
“It was good that [Keith] saw some of the guys that he saw,” Weiss said. “For us, when you wrestle somebody, win or lose, you’re going to have to beat them at the end of the year.”
Keith’s three victories vaulted him into 10th place on the all-time Crimson wins list with 89 total.
One of Harvard’s top performers early this season has been freshman Jeff Ott, who went 2-2 on the weekend but failed to reach the podium for the first time in his short collegiate career.
Scoring came easy for Ott, who wrestles at 125 pounds, in his first two matches, as he tallied a combined 24 points to start the tournament. But the rookie fell in a lopsided, 15-5 contest to Ohio State senior Nikko Triggas, who had already racked up two falls in his first two matches.
Ott could not recover in the wrestlebacks, and his tournament ended with a 6-3 loss in his next match.
“[Ott] wrestled tough,” Weiss said. “Every time he goes out there he gets better and better, which is really cool to see as a freshman. He doesn’t really wrestle with too much fear, and I think the rest of the team can kind of feed off that, which is pretty neat for a freshman to do.”
Harvard’s next top performer on the mat was junior Cameron Croy, who went 2-2 on the weekend at 174 pounds. Croy’s first loss came to Nebraska sophomore Robert Kokesh, who went on to a first-place finish in the weight class.