Wrestling Faces Test at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite

Wrestling Faces Test at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite

Three Harvard wrestlers reached the podium in 2015 (Robert Preston).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Continuing its stretch of tournaments in 2016, Harvard wrestling will travel to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite Dec. 2-3 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The meet will be broadcast live by FloWrestling.

Last Time Out
Hitting the mats at the Palestra for the Keystone Invitational, Harvard wrestling had a pair of student-athletes post top-four results, while the Crimson took eighth place as a team with 48 points, and was the second-highest placing EIWA school.

Junior Josef Johnson led the Crimson for the second-straight meet, finishing third after posting a 6-0 shutout over Eastern Michigan's Jacob Davis in the bronze-medal match at 174 pounds. Johnson went 6-1 on the afternoon, toppling opponents from four different schools each by decision.

Full Release: Johnson, Gadzjik Pace Wrestling at Keystone Classic

Scouting Harvard
Harvard returns a plethora of talented wrestlers for 2016-17, led by Johnson, who qualified for the NCAA Championships a year ago. Johnson tallied 17 victories last season, and leads the Crimson with an 11-2 mark over two tournaments. Senior Jeffrey Ott (133) led all returners with 24 victories in 2015-16, including a sterling 10-2 mark in dual action, and has posted a 5-5 mark in 2016-17. Senior Nicholas Gajdzik (285) and junior Nolan Hellickson (125) also posted double-digit victories a year ago, with 18 and 15 wins, respectively. Gajdzki has finished in the top-five in two straight tournaments, going 6-4 overall. Harvard is a combined 54-65 on the season with eight pins.

Scouting the Field
35 teams will trek to the desert for the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite, including six from the EIWA. Among the 35 are three top-10 teams (Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Cornell) and 11 in the top-25. Each team can send one student-athlete per weight class.

Last Year's Event
Led by Todd Preston '16, the Harvard wrestling team finished tied for 19th at the 34th annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

Preston finished second, marking the highest place for a Harvard wrestler at the tournament since Corey Jantzen '12 was also second at 149 lbs. in 2010. Devon Gobbo '16 placed sixth at 165, while senior Nicholas Gajdzik earned sixth at heavyweight. Harvard's 19th-place finish was the highest for the Crimson at the tournament since placing 15th in 2011.

Enter Freshmen
A trio of freshmen kicked off their careers with four or five victories at the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat open: Jaffe (141), Ladnier (149) and Kyle Bierdumpfel (165). Jaffe and Ladnier took fifth with four victories apiece, while Bierdumpfel triumphed five times en route to a sixth-place result. Ladnier followed up the performance with a sixth-place result at the Keystone Invite.

Ivy League Digital Network
The Ivy League Digital Network returns for a fourth season as the home for all live streaming and on-demand video content for each of the conference's eight institutions. Broadcast in full HD and featuring a live score bug and play-by-play and color commentary, the Ivy League Digital Network provides fans with unprecedented access to the Ancient Eight.

Multiple subscription options are available to fans, including school-specific and league-wide passes. The ILDN is also available on Apple TV and Roku. To learn more about the Ivy League Digital Network or to sign-up today, click here.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Harvard wrestling will be led by a trio of captains this season: seniors Nicholas Gajdzik and Jeffrey Ott and junior Josef Johnson. All three are in their first season in the leadership role.

The Class of 2020
Harvard wrestling announced the addition of seven newcomers for the 2016-17 campaign: Kyle Bierdumpfel, Zeth Dean, Donovan Doyle, A.J. Jaffe, Aaron Kruk, Hunter Ladnier and Connor Sakmar. The seven incoming freshmen hail from six different states and will compete in five separate weight classes.

In the Classroom
Excelling in the classroom as well as on the mat, the 2015-16 Harvard wrestling team posted the highest GPA in the nation, as announced by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. The honor marked the 14th time Harvard landed in the top-10 since the award's inception.

At the Helm
Jay Weiss is in his 23rd season as the David G. Bunning '88 Head Coach for Harvard Wrestling. Weiss is a two-time EIWA Coach of the Year, and mentored a pair of national champions in Jesse Jantzen (2004) and JP O'Connor (2010). Under Weiss' watch, Harvard has tallied 17 EIWA champions and 19 All-Americans.

What's Next?
Harvard travels to Midlands Dec. 29-30 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois. Hosted by Northwestern, the finals will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.