ASU redshirt freshman Blake Stauffer entered the 31st annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational unranked and unknown.
Stauffer turned heads this weekend with a third-place finish in the 174-pound weight class, as he led the ASU wrestling team to a 13th-place overall finish.
Stauffer, who was unbeaten heading into the tournament, finished 5-1 on the weekend and earned the Sun Devils’ biggest victory, a 6-4 decision over No. 9 Virginia redshirt junior Jon Fausey.
“It was a big win for me,” Stauffer said. “I knew going in I had a lot of opportunities, and I went out there and took advantage of them.”
Stauffer’s only loss of the weekend came to No. 11 Michigan redshirt junior Dan Yates, but Stauffer bounced back with two victories to seal third place.
“(Stauffer) was outstanding,” ASU coach Shawn Charles said. “For a freshman to be able to come to this event and place at all is a big deal, but to take third and go through some of the adversity to get there was just outstanding.”
No. 17 redshirt senior Jake Meredith matched Stauffer’s performance, earning a third-place finish in the 197-pound weight class.
Meredith went 6-1 and knocked off No. 10 Oregon State sophomore Taylor Meeks in the third-place matchup.
Meredith was satisfied with his performance on the weekend and added that the win over Meeks was crucial.
“It’s a good eye test early in the season and he was ranked higher than me, so I’ll get a higher ranking because of it,” Meredith said.
Charles was impressed with Meredith’s performance and thought the win over Meeks was very significant.
“Anytime you’re able to beat guys you have to face in the conference later is huge for us,” Charles said. “Jake has already proved that not only will he have a chance to be an All-American, but also a national champion.”
Redshirt sophomore Kevin Radford finished in seventh place in the 184-pound weight class, with his only losses coming to No. 5 Nebraska senior Josh Ihnen and No. 12 Kent State senior Casey Newburg.
The only other Sun Devil to make it to the second day of competition was No. 13 redshirt senior Levi Cooper, who won his first two matches before losing his next pair, thus missing out on placing in the heavyweight class.
“(Cooper) made a couple of technical errors in the tournament that cost him matches,” Charles said.
Charles was pleased with his team’s overall performance at this point in the season.
“It was a great showing,” Charles said. “We had some guys step up and we wrestled well as a team, but we still have a lot of room for improvement.”
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