Trio of Upperclassmen Finish in Top 10 for Wrestling at the Cliff Keen Invitational

The Harvard wrestling team took on the odds at Las Vegas’s Cliff Keen Invitational this weekend, with three members of the squad—co-captain Todd Preston, junior Nick Gajdzik, and senior Devon Gobbo—cashing out their chips for top-10 finishes.

“I think we’re all really proud of how we did this weekend,” Gobbo said. “We saw some things that needed to be fixed, and once we make those adjustments, we’ll be in an even better position going into our next competitions.”

For captain Todd Preston, this was the second consecutive tournament in which he ended the competition with a second place finish.

“Anytime you have a guy get to the finals it’s a good overall thing for the team,” Crimson coach Jay Weiss said. “We hadn’t had someone get to the championship bout in this tournament for several years, so it was a step in the right direction.”

Preston managed to hang on to a potential title run through the semifinal round, where he took on ninth-ranked Tommy Thorn. For most of the bout, the two wrestlers were at a deadlock. But down by one with eight seconds to go, Preston took a shot and registered the takedown with one second left on the clock, earning a spot in the final.


“The three guys that placed all did an impressive job,” Weiss said. “It was great to get Todd in the finals, [and] we haven’t had a guy get there in a couple years. They wrestled in some really gutsy matches to get there, so obviously those guys stand out.”

Gajdzik was another standout for the Crimson, registering a sixth-place finish in the heavyweight position. After falling in his third match, the senior battled through his next two matchups in the consolation bracket to regain his footing. He finished the weekend with two losses to the No. 8 and No. 18-ranked heavyweights.

“Nick really held his own this weekend,” Gobbo said. “He proved he can wrestle with anyone in the country.”

Gobbo was the final top finisher for the Crimson. Gobbo fell in a tightly contested consolation round matchup to Oklahoma’s ninth-ranked Clark Glass, 6-5, in the last second of regulation. The loss came after four consecutive victories from Gobbo in the consolation bracket.

“Losing one at the buzzer is always difficult,” Weiss said. “The match was a little difficult, there was a lot of confusion from the score table, but you still want to wrestle into overtime, and he dropped that in those last seconds, which was tough.”

Gobbo finished sixth at 165, dropping the next match to the eleventh-ranked wrestler in his division.

The Crimson also saw freshmen Nolan Hellickson and LJ Butler move forward in the tournament, with Hellickson recording two wins and Butler notching a victory as well.

“Nolan had been out with some injuries, so he’s really just starting to get into his groove,” Weiss said. “He did some really nice work this weekend, and he’s only going to get better.”

The Crimson finished tied for 19th place this weekend, jumping up 15 spots from last year’s 31st-place finish.

“This is a tough tournament, so there’s a lot of top guys in those weight classes,” Weiss said. “I definitely think there some weight classes we need to get better in. But we still made a lot of progress, so I have some very good overall feelings and then some good things to work on.”

—Staff writer Jillian Dukes can be reached at


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