Harvard wrestling took its chances in Las Vegas this weekend at the 35th Annual Cliff Keen Invitational. The Crimson faced a challenge holding their own against some of the nation’s top ranked competitors.
“We were hitting a lot of close matches with highly ranked guys, but we just weren’t getting the wins,” Head Coach Jay Weiss said. “But it’s great to be in these competitions because our guys have to make decisions about how great they want to be.”
Freshman Hunter Ladnier (149 lbs.) picked up his ninth career win to start out the weekend, registering a win by decision in his opening match against Army’s Matt Kelly. The rookie was unable to keep the momentum going as the day progressed, dropping his next match against Edinboro’s Pat Lugo (No. 4) in a 4-1 decision.
“He did a really nice job,” Weiss said. “That first loss was up against the seventh ranked guy in the country,” Weiss said. “he lost to two tough guys, and he wrestled really hard.”
Harvard’s standout on the mats in Vegas was freshman AJ Jaffe, who came into the weekend with a 6-4 record at 141 lbs. Jaffe picked up two more wins during the weekend, posting the Crimson’s highest-ranking performance. Jaffe was the only Harvard wrestler to survive to the second day of competition.
“He came really close [to the podium],” Weiss said. “He listens to everything and he goes out and does it. He wrestles hard all the time and that’s hard to beat. He lost to a few guys that he was right in there with, so I’m anxious to see him over the next couple months.”
Jaffe started the weekend with a commanding victory over Minnesota’s Gannon Volk, registering his third career major decision, 11-2. His next match was more tightly contested, as the freshman took on Cal Poly’s Colt Schilling. Jaffe held on for a 6-2 win by decision. Army’s Logan Everett (No. 4) sent Jaffe to the consolation bracket with a 10-4 decision.
Junior Kanon Dean also picked up a victory for the Crimson. He won his first bout at 184 against Columbia’s Jacob Young, 5-2, before falling by major decision in his next matchup.
“He jumped two weight classes this year, so that’s a big jump,” Weiss said. “He’s getting used to it, and he just has to wrestle differently at 184 then he did at 167. He’s learning and doing a nice job.”
Another multiple match winner for the Crimson was junior Logan Kirby (197 lbs.). Kirby’s first opponent of the competition was eighth ranked Rocco Caywood. Caywood managed to edge Kirby 12-7, dropping the junior into the consolation bracket. From there, Kirby notched his third win of the season, taking down Wyoming’s Cody Vigoren. In his next match he continued this trend, earning a 9-6 decision against Ivy League foe Matt Doggett. In his final round of the weekend, Kirby lost to Air Force’s Anthony McLaughlin by fall.
The last individual winner for the Crimson was senior Jeff Ott, who recorded a win in his opening bout, pinning his opponent at 2:50. Ott then met No. 4, Anthony Tutolo who took the match, 8-3.
“On the whole, the weekend was disappointing,” Weiss said. “But there are some bright spots and we have guys who are going to keep getting better and better as competition moves on. We just didn’t get some of those matchups we were close to, but I think that in the next month and a half those will start falling our way.”
—Staff writer Jillian Dukes can be reached at email@example.com.