December 4, 2021

Romero Wins Title, Buckeyes Finish Second at 2021 Cliff Keen Invite

Ohio State Buckeyes

Final Team Standings

COLUMBUS, Ohio – No. 8 Ohio State finished second at the 2021 Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas Saturday with 104 points. Nebraska was the event winner with 125.

The Buckeyes have finished among the Top 3 in nine of the last 10 events and among the Top 2 eight times since 2009.

Individually, Ohio State had three wrestlers in the finals and two others in third-place bouts.

The Saturday afternoon session, championship and third-place bouts, began with the 157-pound weight class, setting up the final bout of the event at 149 pounds vs. No. 2 Sammy Sasso of Ohio State and No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell.

Diakomihalis scored the first takedown to lead after the first period 2-0. The Cornell lead was 4-0 heading into the third after Diakomihalis scored a reversal in the second. Sasso scored a takedown in the third but it was not enough in a 7-2 loss by decision. Sasso has placed second twice at the Cliff Keen Invitational in both 2019 and 2021.

Kaleb Romero advanced to the finals at 184 to meet No. 15 Taylor Venz of Nebraska. The match was scoreless after the first period. Venz started the second with an escape followed by a Romero takedown. Another escape by Venz and a Romero takedown sent the bout into the third with the Buckeyes leading 4-2.

Romero held on to earn a 7-3 win by decision and the title at 184.

In the first title bout for the Buckeyes Saturday, No. 6 Ethan Smith faced No. 3 Mikey Labriola of Nebraska in the 174-pound final.

Smith scored first with a takedown in period one and started the second tied 3-all. Smith scored on a reversal and Labriola countered with takedown to send the match into the third period tied at 5-all. The bout went into overtime where Labriola won 7-5 by decision and giving Smith second place honors.

No. 9 Carson Kharchla took third place at 165 with a 5-2 win by decision over Julian Ramirez of Cornell to start off the Ohio State afternoon session Saturday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Kharchla defeated Ramirez by major decision, 15-7, in the quarterfinals.

Kharchla led 2-1 after the first period in the third-place match and built the lead to 5-1 after period two before closing out the third allowing just an escape in the win.

No. 6 Tate Orndorff trailed No. 13 Christian Lance of Nebraska 2-1 after the first period in the third-place heavyweight match. Lance lead 5-2 after the second. Tate finished fourth after falling by decision, 9-4.

Romero became the third Buckeye to advance to the finals with a 6-3 win by decision over Tate Samuelson of Wyoming in the 184 weight class Saturday.

Smith punched his ticket to the finals at 174 with a 3-2 decision win over Adam Kemp of Cal Poly.

Sasso won his semifinal matchup against Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas Saturday morning to set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the finals of the 149 weight class.

Sasso faced top-ranked Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell Saturday evening.

At 165, Kharchla fell to No. 4 Shane Griffith of Stanford in a 5-4 decision. Kharchla then defeated Philip Conigliaro of Harvard in the consolation semifinals to advance to the third place bout.

Orndorff fell to Yaraslau Slavikouski of Harvard in the heavyweight semifinals, losing by decision, 3-2. Orndorff then won by decision (4-4, TB2) over AJ Nevills of South Dakota State to advance to the third-place match.

Earlier both Dylan D’Emilio (141) and Gavin Hoffman (197) fell in consolation matches. Malik Heinselman was a scratch in his consolation match (injury).

In the evening session Friday, Ohio State advanced five-of-eight wrestlers to the semifinals Saturday.

After Heinselman (125) and D’Emilio (141) fell to the consolation bracket in the quarterfinals, Sasso won by major decision at 149 to place the first Buckeye into the semifinals.

Kharchla (165), Smith (174), Romero (184) and Orndorff (HWT) all earned wins for Ohio State to advance to the semifinals.

The Buckeyes entered competition Saturday in second place with 71 points, behind Nebraska (79.5).

Ohio State sent eight-of-10 wrestlers into the quarterfinals after the morning session Friday.

Ohio State won 13-of-15 bouts in the championship bracket to advance eight wrestlers into the quarterfinals Friday evening.

The Buckeyes were a combined 5-0 in the Round of 32 in their respective weight classes with five others receiving first-round byes (Sasso-149, Smith-174, Romero-184, Hoffman-197 and Orndorff-HWT).

Both D’Emilio at 141 and Kharchla at 165 pinned their opponents in the opening round. Bryce Hepner (157) added a technical fall (20-0) in his first round bout. He fell in the Round of 16 but stayed alive with a win in the Consolation Round of 16.

In the Championship Round of 16 bouts, the Buckeyes went 8-2 and led in the overall team standings with 32 points. Nebraska was second heading into the quarterfinals with 28.5 points. The Buckeyes led with eight wrestlers remaining in the championship bracket.

Sasso (149) recorded a major decision with a 12-4 win over Nick Lombard of Binghampton before No. 9 Kharchla (165) won by technical fall (20-5, 6:30) over Emil Soehnien (PUR).

Smith (174) knocked off Max Major (MICH) by technical fall (26-9, 6:52) in front of Romero (184), who pinned (4:18) Sam Deprez (BING) to add bonus points to the Ohio State team score. It was the first bout of the season for Romero, who had missed the early portion of the season with injury.

Orndorff (HWT) also contributed bonus points with a pin (2:32) of Lee Herrington (UNK) after Hoffman (197) earned a win by decision (4-3) over Tanner Sloan (SDSU).

Heinselman (125) and D’Emilio (141) also won by decision in the Round of 16.

Results: 2021 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational
Dec. 3-4, Las Vegas Convention Center

125 (Heinselman is No. 3 seed/2-1)
Rnd of 32
No. 9 Malik Heinselman (OSU) def. Greg Diakomihalis (CORN) | D, 5-3
Rnd. Of 16
No. 9 Malik Heinselman (OSU) def. Eddie Flores (CSUB) | D, 4-2
No. 26 Brandon Kaylor (ORST) def. No. 9 Malik Heinselman (OSU) | D, 5-4
Consolation (Rnd. of 8 #2/Saturday)
Antonio Lorenzo (CALP) def. No. 9 Malik Heinselman (OSU) | M FF

133 (Koontz/1-2)
Rnd of 32
Dylan Koontz (OSU) def. Dillon Murphy (HARV) | D, 6-1
Rnd of 16
No. 14 Chance Rich (CSUB) def. Dylan Koontz (OSU) | SV, 7-5
Consolation (Rnd. of 16)
Caleb Gross (SDSU) def. Dylan Koontz (OSU) | D, 5-3

141 (D’Emilio is No. 6 seed/2-2)
Rnd of 32
No. 20 Dylan D’Emilio (OSU) def. Christian Nunez (CBU) | Fall, 6:43
Rnd of 16
No. 20 Dylan D’Emilio (OSU) def. Michael Jaffe (HARV) | D, 10-5
No. 11 Chad Red (NEB) def. No. 20 Dylan D’Emilio (OSU) | D, 3-2
Consolation (Rnd. of 8 #2/Saturday)
No. 30 Angelo Martinoni (CSUB) def. No. 20 Dylan D’Emilio (OSU) | D, 4-3

149 (Sasso is No. 2 seed/3-1 Second)
Rnd of 32
Rnd of 16
No. 2 Sammy Sasso (OSU) def. Nick Lombard (BING) | MD, 12-4
No. 2 Sammy Sasso (OSU) def. No. 15 Mitch Moore (OKLA) | MD, 12-0
Semifinals (Saturday)
No. 2 Sammy Sasso (OSU) def. No. 4 Yahya Thomas (NW) | D, 5-4
Finals (Saturday)
No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis (CORN) def. No. 2 Sammy Sasso (OSU) | D, 7-2

157 (Hepner is No. 10 seed/2-2)
Rnd of 32
No. 25 Bryce Hepner (OSU) def. Shaun Williams (SHU) | TF, 20-0 2:19
Rnd of 16
No. 15 Will Lewan (MICH) def. No. 25 Bryce Hepner (OSU) | D, 3-1
Consolation (Rnd. of 16)
No. 25 Bryce Hepner (OSU) def. Nathan Moore (UNCO) | D, 9-3
Consolation (Rnd. of 8)
Kyle Mosher (COL) def. No. 25 Bryce Hepner (OSU) vs. | Fall, 1:55

165 (Kharchla is No. 3 seed/5-1 Third)
Rnd of 32
No. 9 Carson Kharchla (OSU) def. Grant Speer (CIT) | F, 1:23
Rnd of 16
No. 9 Carson Kharchla (OSU) def. Emil Soehnien (PUR) | TF, 20-5 6:30
No. 9 Carson Kharchla (OSU) def. No. 17 Julian Ramirez (CORN) | MD, 15-7
Semifinals (Saturday)
No. 4 Shane Griffith (STAN) def. No. 9 Carson Kharchla (OSU) | D, 5-4
Consolation Semifinals
No. 9 Carson Kharchla (OSU) def. No. 12 Philip Conigliaro (HARV) | D, 5-3
Consolation Finals (Third Place)
No. 9 Carson Kharchla (OSU) def. No. 17 Julian Ramirez (CORN) | D, 5-2

174 (Smith is No. 2 seed/3-1 Second.)
Rnd of 32
Rnd of 16
No. 6 Ethan Smith (OSU) def. Max Major (MICH) | TF, 26-9 6:52
No. 6 Ethan Smith (OSU) def. No. 20 Gerret Nijenhuis (PUR) | MD, 14-6
Semifinals (Saturday)
No. 6 Ethan Smith (OSU) vs. No. 31 Adam Kemp (CALP) | D, 3-2
No. 3 Mikey Labriola (NEB) def. No. 6 Ethan Smith (OSU) | SV, 7-5

184 (Romero is No. 5 seed/4-0 First)
Rnd of 32
Rnd of 16
Kaleb Romero (OSU) def. Sam Deprez (BING) | Fall, 4:18
Kaleb Romero (OSU) def. No. 18 Darrien Roberts (OKLA) | D, 3-2
Semifinals (Saturday)
Kaleb Romero (OSU) def. No. 11 Tate Samuelson (WYO) | D, 6-3
Kaleb Romero (OSU) def. No. 15 Taylor Venz (NEB) | D, 7-3

197 (Hoffman is No. 10 seed/1-2)
Rnd of 32
Rnd of 16
No. 21 Gavin Hoffman (OSU) def. Tanner Sloan (SDSU) | D, 4-3
No. 8 Patrick Brucki (MICH) def. No. 21 Gavin Hoffman (OSU) | D, 8-5
Consolation (Rnd. of 8 #2/Saturday)
No. 27 Luke Stout (PU) def. No. 21 Gavin Hoffman (OSU) | D, 7-5

HWT (Orndoff is No. 1 seed/3-2 Fourth)
Rnd of 32
Rnd of 16
No. 6 Tate Orndorff (OSU) def. Lee Herrington (UNK) | Fall, 2:32
No. 6 Tate Orndorff (OSU) vs. No. 30 Joe Doyle (BING) | MD, 10-2
Semifinals (Saturday)
No. 15 Yaraslau Slavikouski (HARV) def. No. 6 Tate Orndorff (OSU) | D, 3-2
Consolation Semifinals
No. 6 Tate Orndorff (OSU) def. No. 22 AJ Nevills (SDSU) | D, 4-4 (TB2)
Consolation Finals (Third Place)
No. 13 Christian Lance (NEB) def. No. 6 Tate Orndorff (OSU) | D. 9-4

Ohio State was one of 27 teams competing for the 2021 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational title. Ohio State finished in the No. 2 spot behind Nebraska in the 2019 event, the last to be held. Schools are permitted to enter one wrestler in each weight class, simulating postseason competition.

Of the 27 teams scheduled to participate in the 39th annual event, 10 were ranked among the Top 25. The Buckeyes entered the event as the No. 8 team nationally (InterMat). The other ranked teams: Michigan (6), Nebraska (9), Cornell (11), Wyoming (13), Oklahoma (14), Minnesota (15), Northwestern (16), Purdue (19) and Oregon State (24).

Ohio State has six team titles since 2009 at the CKLVI including three-consecutive (2016, 17, 18). The Buckeyes have placed outside the Top 5 just once in the past decade and own 10 Top 3 finishes.

The last time Ohio State traveled to Las Vegas, the Buckeyes had two wrestlers crowed champions, the only school to do so. Luke Pletcher claimed the title at 141 while Kollin Moore took the top spot on the podium at 197.

Brackets: FloArena Brackets
Live video: ($)
Live results: FloArena (free) and on Twitter (@wrestlingbucks).

Friday (Dec. 3)
Noon ET | early rounds
9 p.m. ET | Quarterfinals and consolation rounds

Saturday (Dec. 4)
Noon ET | consolation rounds
1 p.m. ET | Semifinals, consolation and 5th-8th place matches
6 p.m. ET | Finals & 3rd place matches

No. 8 Ohio State CKLV LineupWeight/Place2021-22 Record
No. 9 Malik Heinselman (Sr.)1259-1
Dylan Koontz (r-Sr.)1333-5
No. 20 Dylan D’Emilio (r-So.) 14112-3
No. 2 Sammy Sasso (r-Jr.) 149/2nd10-1
No. 25 Bryce Hepner (So.) 1573-3 (8-1 Unat.)
No. 9 Carson Kharchla (r-So.) 165/3rd12-1
No. 6 Ethan Smith (r-Sr.) 174/2nd8-2
Kaleb Romero (r-Sr.)184/1st3-0
No. 21 Gavin Hoffman (r-Jr.)1976-1
No. 6 Tate Orndorff (r-Sr.)Hwt/4th10-2

• Ohio State has won the team title six times since 2009 (2009, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18). The Buckeyes earned second-place finishes in 2014, 2019 and 2021, third in 2013, fifth in 2015 and 12th in 2010. There was no event in 2020 (Covid).
• Ohio State has finished in the Top-5 nine consecutive seasons

Malik Heinselman (4-2), Dylan Koontz (4-4), Dylan D’Emilio (2-2), Sammy Sasso (7-2/2nd in 2019, 2021), Bryce Hepner (2-2), Carson Kharchla (4-1), Ethan Smith (4-2 at 165, 4-3 at 174), Kaleb Romero (5-3), Gavin Hoffmann (2-1 at 184, 1-2 at 197), Tate Orndorff (2-2).


The Buckeyes return to dual competition at the Covelli Center Dec. 12 (1 p.m.) vs. No. 22 Pittsburgh. For tickets call 1-800-Go-Bucks or visit:

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