LAS VEGAS — Utah Valley University redshirt freshman Taylor LaMont knocked off four ranked foes this weekend en route to becoming UVU's first-ever Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational champion. LaMont sealed his 125-pound championship with a 4-3 victory over No. 3 seed and eighth-ranked Sean Russell of Edinboro on Saturday afternoon.
LaMont, who not only became Utah Valley's first-ever CKLV Invite champion and finalist on Saturday, also defeated the highest-ranked opponent in program history on Friday evening in the quarterfinals with a 4-3 upset win over top seed and third-ranked Ethan Lizak of Minnesota. The Wolverine 125-pound redshirt freshman went a perfect 6-0 at the prestigious tournament en route to earning his championship.
"Taylor wrestled smart throughout the tournament. As talented and determined as he is, it's his mat IQ and his ability to adapt to the different styles of his opponents that are his strongest assets," head UVU coach Greg Williams said. "Taylor's composure in his last three matches against top competition showed his growth over this past month, as he's finishing his matches better. It's going to be fun watching him continue to develop. He knows he still has a lot of work to do."
In the title bout against the returning All-American Russell of Edinboro, LaMont was the first to get on the board with a quick escape point in the second period to take a 1-0 advantage. Russell then responded with a takedown on the edge of the mat, but LaMont quickly countered with an escape to tie the bout at 2-2. With time running down in the second period, LaMont then secured a takedown of his own to take a 4-2 lead. Russell then picked up an escape in the early stages of the third to cut the lead to just one at 4-3, but LaMont managed to fight off a number of late shots to hold to the 4-3 win to seal his title.
Earlier in the day in the semifinals, fifth-seeded and 11th-ranked Connor Schram of Stanford was the first to get on the board with a second-period escape to take a 1-0 lead. LaMont then evened the score at 1-1 with an escape point of his own early in the third stanza. LaMont was then the aggressor in the third period, looking to score a takedown, but Schram managed to fight off a couple of shots en route to sending the bout to overtime. Following a scoreless sudden victory period, LaMont then managed to record an escape point followed by a takedown in the first tiebreaker to take a 4-1 advantage. He then sealed the victory by riding Schram out in the second tiebreaker to defeat the three-time NCAA qualifier and 2016 All-American to advance to the finals.
After recording first-period falls over both Cal Baptist's Alex Nunez (0:34) and Harvard's Lukus Stricker (2:11) on Friday, LaMont followed that up with an 8-5 decision over No. 9 seed and 18th-ranked Drew Mattin of Michigan to reach the quarterfinals. The eighth-seeded LaMont then picked up arguably the biggest upset of the tournament by beating the top seed and third-ranked Lizak of Minnesota in the quarters by a score of 4-3. A pair of early takedowns from the Wolverine redshirt freshman proved to be the difference in the bout, as he held on late to knock off the 2017 NCAA finalist and All-American to move on to Saturday's semifinal round.
Prior to LaMont's first-place finish on Saturday, UVU's highest-ever finish at the CKLV Invite was fourth by former heavyweight and two-time NCAA qualifier Adam Fager in 2013.
The eighth-seeded LaMont entered the tournament ranked 16th by InterMat, 12th by FloWrestling and 10th by TrackWrestling.
Sophomore 165-pounder Demetrius Romero was the only other Wolverine to advance to the premier tournament's second day of competition, but the 14th-seeded and 20th-ranked Wolverine had his 2017 CKLV Invite run come to a close just one win shy of earning a podium finish. After going 4-1 on Friday with wins over Northern Iowa's Isaiah Patton (11-9), Binghamton's Vincent Deprez (8-6), No. 8 seed and 13th-ranked Keilan Torres of Northern Colorado (3-1) and No. 11 seed and 20th-ranked Lorenzo De La Riva of CSU Bakersfield (13-9), Romero moved on to Saturday with a consolation round matchup against the fourth-seeded and eighth-ranked Anthony Valencia of Arizona State.
Romero was the first to get things going against the ranked Sun Devil by scoring a late takedown in the opening period. Valencia then countered with a pair of escapes to tie the bout at 2-2. In the final period, Romero managed to pick up a quick escape point to take a 3-2 advantage. But Valencia bounced back with a takedown and quickly managed to secure Romero's shoulders on the mat to pick up a fall and eliminate the Wolverine sophomore with a 4-2 record and just one win shy of placing at the prestigious tournament.
Senior heavyweight Dustin Dennison also wrestled well for the Wolverines at the premier tournament, but had his 2017 CKLV Invitational run come to a close in the final match on Friday evening. The 2017 NCAA qualifier, who entered the tournament seeded ninth in his weight class, also went 4-2 with wins over Oklahoma's Connor Webb (5-0), Western Wyoming's Jesse Bundy (fall, 1:11), Nebraska-Kearney's Jarrod Hinrichs (8-2) and Brown's Ian Butterbrodt (9-5). His two setbacks were to Nebraska's David Jensen (fall, 6:52) and Iowa State's Marcus Harrington (3-2).
As a team, UVU posted a 19th-place finish out of 46 teams with 42.5 points. The top-20 finish was good enough to place UVU ahead of a few of ranked opponents, including No. 20 Purdue (20th, 42) and No. 21 Oklahoma (26th, 29).
Seven other Wolverines took part in the tournament, but all seven had their 2017 CKLV Invite runs come to a close on Friday. Durbin Lloren (133 pounds) and Tanner Orndorff (197) led the group by each going 2-2. Matt Findlay (141), Matthew Ontiveros (149) and Gary Jantzer (184) were next by all going 1-2, while Kimball Bastian (174) and Landon Knutzen (157) rounded out the group with 0-2 showings.
"The team wrestled well throughout the lineup," Williams added. "This tournament is loaded with ranked guys, and in a lot of situations we wrestled tough. We also showed some passiveness at times and we can't do that at this level. There are definitely things we will take from this experience and grow from."
Utah Valley (4-2, 1-0 Big 12) will now return to Orem for its first home dual meet of the season when Big 12 foe North Dakota State comes to town on Dec. 15. The conference dual will begin at noon MST at UVU's Lockhart Arena.
CKLV INVITATIONAL RESULTS
125 – Taylor LaMont (6-0)
#10 Taylor LaMont (UVU) Fall, Alex Nunez (Cal Baptist), 0:34
#10 Taylor LaMont (UVU) Fall, Lukus Stricker (Harvard), 2:11
#10 Taylor LaMont (UVU) Dec. #18, Drew Mattin (Michigan), 8-5
#10 Taylor LaMont (UVU) Dec. #3, Ethan Lizak (Minnesota), 4-3
#10 Taylor LaMont (UVU) Dec. #11, Connor Schram (Stanford), 4-1 (TB-2)
1st Place: #10 Taylor LaMont (UVU) Dec. #8, Sean Russell (Edinboro), 4-3
133 – Durbin Lloren (2-2)
Durbin Lloren (UVU) Dec., Ty Schilling (Cal Poly), 7-3
Durbin Lloren (UVU) Major Dec., Trevor Williams (Fresno St.), 12-4
#6 Dom Forys (Pitt) Major Dec., Durbin Lloren (UVU), 12-2
Wesley Dawkins (UNK) Fall, Durbin Lloren (UVU), 1:01
141 – Matt Findlay, (1-2)
Nikko Villarreal (ASU) Dec., Matt Findlay (UVU), 9-6
Matt Findlay (UVU) Major Dec., Nate Hagan (Edinboro), 9-1
Nicholas Gil (Navy) Dec., Matt Findlay (UVU), 6-4
149 – Matthew Ontiveros, (1-2)
Hunter Ladnier (Harvard) Dec., Matthew Ontiveros (UVU), 11-9
Matthew Ontiveros (UVU) Dec., Josh Cortez (Cal Poly), 5-4
Kyle Gilva (NDSU) Dec., Matthew Ontiveros (UVU), 6-4
157 – Landon Knutzen (0-2)
Tristan Rifanburg (Binghamton) Dec., Landon Knutzen (UVU), 4-1
Brock Wilson (Harvard) Major Dec., Landon Knutzen (UVU), 17-5
165 – Demetrius Romero (4-2)
#20 Demetrius Romero (UVU) Dec., Isaiah Patton (UNI), 11-9 (SV-1)
#20 Demetrius Romero (UVU) Dec., Vincent Deprez (Binghamton), 8-6 (SV-1)
#7 Te'Shan Campbell (Ohio State) Fall, #20 Demetrius Romero (UVU), 2:15
#20 Demetrius Romero (UVU) Dec., #13 Keilan Torres (N. Colorado), 3-1
#20 Demetrius Romero (UVU) Dec., #20 Lorenzo De La Riva (CSUB), 13-9
#8 Anthony Valencia (ASU) Fall, #20 Demetrius Romero (UVU), 5:36
174 – Kimball Bastian (0-2)
#1 Zahid Valencia (ASU) Tech Fall, Kimball Bastian (UVU), 20-5 (7:00)
Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech) Dec., Kimball Bastian (UVU), 5-3
184 – Gary Jantzer (1-2)
#16 Chip Ness (UNC) Dec., Gary Jantzer (UVU), 9-3
Gary Jantzer (UVU) over Max Lyon (Purdue), Med. Forfeit
Brendan Mcrill (WVU) Dec., Gary Jantzer (UVU), 12-5
197 – Tanner Orndorff (2-2)
#1 Kollin Moore (OSU) Dec., Tanner Orndorff (UVU), 15-11
Tanner Orndorff (UVU) Dec., Tucker Ziegler (Brown), 9-2
Tanner Orndorff (UVU) Dec., Cody Vigoren (Wyoming), 6-5
#14 Jeric Kasunic (American) Dec., Tanner Orndorff (UVU), 11-6
285 – Dustin Dennison (4-2)
Dustin Dennison (UVU) Dec., Connor Webb (Oklahoma), 5-0
David Jensen (Nebraska) Fall, Dustin Dennison (UVU), 6:52
Dustin Dennison (UVU) Fall, Jesse Bundy (Western Wyo.), 1:11
Dustin Dennison (UVU) Dec., Jarrod Hinrichs (UNK), 8-2
Dustin Dennison (UVU) Dec., Ian Butterbrodt (Brown), 9-5
Marcus Harrington (Iowa State) Dec., Dustin Dennison (UVU), 3-2
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.