2013 MIDLANDS ROUNDTABLE PREVIEW

Tessa Hursh, Daily Iowan

It's called Midlands because it's in the middle of the lands, you see.

I gave some preliminary thoughts about the 2013 Midlands fields and what I wanted to see out of Iowa at this event yesterday, but today we're giving you a more in-depth preview.  I'm joined by Mike Riordan, a writer for Bloody Elbow, an excellent SBN blog covering MMA and our very own Tony Hager; we'll be breaking down each weight class in the tournament, talking about what we expect to see, what we hope to see, and how excited we are for the potential action to come on Sunday and Monday.

Without further ado...

MIKE: First off, I'll apologize if my excitement scores appear somewhat low. Midlands achieved its legendary status by assembling a field of wrestlers which included not only some of the best Division I talent, but past college wrestling stars, current redshirts, lower division stand outs, and the occasional high school phenom.

Based on the pre-seeds this Midlands field seems to have very little in terms of past stars, seems to be missing some key redshirts (Levi Wolfensberger and Hunter Stieber), and I don't believe we have seen a major high school participant since Corey Jantzen.

I don't blame any wrestler for not competing in this tournament, I just want to point out that it would be a lot cooler if they did. I'm still going to watch Midlands and enjoy the heck out of it, I just feel that without stronger participation from great wrestlers who won't compete for a Division I title, that this tournament just becomes little more than a way for a wrestler to improve his seed in March. I wish every weight class had a Joe Williams wrestling for his 10,000th title.

ED. NOTE: Internet gremlins ate Tony's initial responses, hence the brevity of his responses here. -- Ross

125

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

ROSS: I'm going to go with an 7.  There are a few notable names missing, but there's still the potential for some really intriguing match-ups at this weight.

MIKE: My excitement level for this weight sits at about a 6.

TONY: 9

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

MIKE: I would really like to see Clark and Gilman wrestle, because, despite the Penn State dual score, an optimally performing Iowa lineup still has an outside chance at a national title, and the 125 pound starter for Iowa factors heavily into this. Unfortunately, I think it is far more likely that Clark and Gilman both lose to the same wrestler (either Delgado or Peters, who looks fantastic so far) and place sequentially without meeting.

ROSS: I agree with Mike that a Clark-Gilman match would be a lot of fun to see (especially since Iowa didn't do proper wrestle-offs this season), but I'd also really like to see a Clark-Delgado rematch from last year's Midlands.  In the absence of a proper Iowa-UNI dual this year (again), I'd love to see Clark take on Peters; they were both decorated Iowa prep wrestlers and their college careers have gotten off to good starts.  And I'd like to see a Gilman-Tomasello match; they might be seeing a lot of each other over the next few years, so this could be an early taste of a future rivalry.

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

ROSS: I'm going to go with a Clark-Delgado rematch in the finals.

TONY: Clark-Delgado

MIKE: Clark-Delgado

4) Who wins it all?

MIKE: For the finals I’ll go ahead and pick Clark to get revenge on Garnett in the semis, and Delgado to get revenge on Clark in the finals. After January of last year, Delgado established himself as the clear #1 at this weight, and I his results so far this year confirm this.

TONY: Delgado

ROSS: My heart wants to pick another Clark win over Delgado, but Delgado has been on a tear in 2013.  I think he takes the rematch and adds a Midlands title to the Big Ten and NCAA titles he's already claimed this year.

133

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

MIKE: This beats out heavyweight for the best weight of the tournament. I think the top five seeds at this tournament will all place at nationals, and I look forward to seeing how Missouri’s Alan Waters competes against them. For some reason I have a soft spot in my heart for Waters, who often looks amazing but never seems to put his best wrestling on the mat in the last matches of the season.

ROSS: Give me a 10.  This weight class is absolutely loaded and every match from the quarterfinals to the finals could be seriously intriguing and/or entertaining.

TONY: Have to rate 133lbs at 10! This weight class is loaded this year and is a preview of what is to come in March. This weight class also features the #1 ranked wrestlers a DII and DIII, DeShazer, Nebraska-Kearney and Kenny Anderson of Wartburg.

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

ROSS: Oh man, there are so many... As I said yesterday, I really want to see a Ramos-Schopp rematch to see if Tony can avenge his loss from earlier this month.  But I'd also love to see more of guys like Beckman and Richards, highly-regarded recruits just beginning to make a name for themselves at this weight and I'd love to see how Waters fares against Ramos or Schopp or Graff.  But one match I'd really like to see is Ramos-Colon; they've been the top two 133ers in the state of Iowa over the past few years and both have several signature wins... and yet they've never faced each other.  It'd be fun to see them tussle.  And one match I don't want to see here?  Ramos-Graff.  I've seen it a few times already and a) it makes me sick to my stomach and b) Graff is one of the only wrestlers who's been able to make Tony freaking Ramos seem boring.  I don't need to see any more of that, thank you.

MIKE: n/a

TONY: #4 seed Joe Colon (UNI) vs. #5 seed Tyler Graff (Wisconsin), #3 seed Mason Beckman (Lehigh) vs. #6 seed Alan Waters (Missouri - unattached)

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

MIKE: Colon-Ramos

ROSS: Maybe I'm just blinded by my desire to see Ramos-Schopp III, but I'm picking that as my finals, even though there are plenty of guys who could spoil that all-chalk final.

TONY: Ramos-Schopp

4) Who wins it all?

TONY: Ramos

ROSS: Tony, Tony, Tony

MIKE: For the finals, just for the sake of picking an upset, I’ll predict the good version of  Joe Colon, the one who whips up on Tyler Graff and Devin Carter, to show up and beat Schopp in the semis. Tony Ramos, however should handle any version of Colon, and he will, decisively, in the finals.

141

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

ROSS: A straight 5, to be honest.  I'm curious to see how guys like Dziewa and UNI's Joey Lazor perform against All-Americans like Mitchell Port and Richard Durso, but there just isn't much starpower at this weight.

MIKE: This weight ain’t too great, I’ll be generous and put my excitement at a 3.

TONY: n/a

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

MIKE: n/a

TONY: The one guy I am excited to see watch is Gustavo Martinez of Grand View. Have to cheer for Grand View in this spot. Martinez is the #1 ranked wrestler in NAIA and returning National Champ. Looks for him to beat some quality DI guys.

ROSS: I'd say Port and Durso; I'm almost always game to watch two All-Americans wrestle.

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

ROSS: Durso defeated Princeton's Adam Krop via injury default a few weeks ago, but I think Krop ekes out a close decision over Durso in the rematch and gets a surprising win in the semifinals; he'll face Port in the finals.

MIKE: Port and Durso.

TONY: Port vs. Durso

4) Who wins it all?

MIKE: I don’t see any way Port and Durso don’t meet in the finals, and I’ll pick Port to win simply because I hope Durso saves his best wrestling for the end of the year because it would be cool to see a Dip on the podium at NCAAs, and Durso is a Dip, in fact, the very best of all the Dips.

TONY: Port

ROSS: Port has looked very strong this year and I don't expect that to change at this tournament.

149

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

ROSS: 5.  There are some solid wrestlers here and Caldwell is an intriguing addition to the field, but but there aren't a lot of blockbuster matches in the making here and Iowa's track record of futility at this weight since Brent Metcalf's departure has soured things for me even more here.

MIKE: I’ll put my excitement for this weight at a 9.

TONY: 2

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

MIKE: I want to see Darrion Caldwell wrestle more than anyone in the entire field of this tournament, for three reasons. First, he is the only post-graduate NCAA champ who has put his reputation on the line to show up and compete. Second, Caldwell still ranks as one of the most inventive and exciting wrestlers that I have ever seen, and third, he fights in the world’s #2 MMA promotion, Bellator. I have a dream that one day Midlands will become a gathering spot for the stars of MMA to show that they still have what it takes to compete on a wrestling mat, unfortunately this dream will never come true as the UFC holds the rights to most of the top MMA talent in the world, and they don’t take kindly to their fighters suiting up in other combat sports.

ROSS: It's the chalk match-up, but I'd love to see Tsirtsis versus Caldwell; Caldwell was the "it" college wrestler several years ago, while Tsirtsis might be the "it" wrestler of the next few years.  Beyond that, I'm just generally curious to see how Caldwell looks in freestyle competition after a few years away from the NCAA lifestyle and I wouldn't mind seeing a prodigy of the past (say, Eric Grajales) and a prodigy of the future (the aforementioned Tsirtsis) take on one another here.

TONY: The only thing really exciting about this weight class is watching the younger Tsirtsis in action. I think we could see him and Habat in the finals with Tsirtsis getting a possible major. He really is that good, folks, and he would have fit in nicely in the Hawkeye lineup.

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

TONY: Caldwell-Tsirtsis

ROSS: I'd like to bold enough to pick an upset here, but i just can't quite do it; give me Caldwell and T-shirt in the finals

MIKE: Caldwell vs. Tsirtsis

4) Who wins it all?

MIKE: I see Caldwell making it to the finals, but I cannot shake the memories of how mortal he looked at the final qualifier for the OTTs in 2012, so I’ll pick Jason Tsirtsis to beat him systematically and methodically.

But maybe, just maybe, Caldwell will make Tsirtsis eat his heart outTemp-320-66876126_medium_medium

via cdn0.sbnation.com

ROSS: I think Tsirtsis scores a big win by knocking off Caldwell here.

TONY: Tsirtsis

157

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

TONY: 6

MIKE: This weight offers some decent depth, but it doesn’t excite me greatly, so I’ll give it a 5 in terms of excitement.

ROSS: 5. Outside of DSJ, there are too many top guys missing at this weight to get me too intrigued.

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

ROSS: A rematch between DSJ and Napoli would be a little interesting, but St. John did defeat him 6-0 the first time they met.  I wouldn't mind seeing how St. John fares against Indiana's Taylor Walsh or Wisconsin's Isaac Jordan, too; both would be fresh opponents for him.

MIKE: I suppose I’m interested to see how Taylor Walsh does against top competition, I’m not sure if a radioactive spider bit him in the off-season or if he discovered his Kryptonian heritage, but he has done little but smash his opposition this year in impressive fashion. However, the best wrestler he has faced, Ohio’s Spartak Chino, he only beat by four points. This tournament features two lower seeded wrestlers who beat Walsh last year, so if he make the finals here, it will show just how much this new version of him has improved.

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

MIKE: Walsh v. St. John

TONY: Walsh v. St. John

ROSS: DSJ takes on Lehigh's Joey Napoli in the championship match.

4) Who wins it all?

ROSS: Derek St. John, of course.

TONY: DSJ

MIKE: I’ll pick Walsh to make the finals where he will lose to the eternally workmanlike Derek St. John.

165

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

ROSS: I'm going to go with an 8 here.  This is a deceptively strong field; it's missing the best of the best, but it's full of guys from that next tier down and that could lead to some very fun match-ups; it's also a chance to get an early read on a lot of guys with question marks -- how good are Nick Moore and the semi-mythical Steven Monk?  Is Taylor Massa the next big thing at 165?  Is Bo Jordan going to be a breakout star?

TONY: 8 because I want to see how Bo Jordan turns out.

MIKE: I’m not exactly feeling my heart-rate elevated by this weight, it registers a 4 on my excitement meter.

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

MIKE: n/a

ROSS: Again, there are a lot of potentially interesting combinations available at this weight; I'd love to see Moore take on Monk, a guy who has routinely racked up gaudy records outside the limelight in recent years, but I'd also be curious to see how Moore fares with Michigan's Dan Yates (down from 174) or Illinois' Jackson Morse (up from 157).  I'm also interested in just about any match-up involving Taylor Massa, but the most intriguing seems like a showdown with Ohio State's Jordan, since they seem poised to be stars at this weight for years to come.

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

ROSS: If the pre-seeds hold up, I think we get Moore-Morse and Massa-Monk in the semifinals at this weight.  If that's the case, I'll take Morse (who hasn't faced anyone of note this year but does have 11 bonus point wins in 12 victories) and Massa.

MIKE: Steven Monk vs. Nick Moore

TONY: Nick Moore vs. Bo Jordan (dark horse for the tournament)

4) Who wins it all?

MIKE: I’ll pick the underrated Steven Monk to win the title, Monk has only one loss this year, to Northern Iowa’s Cooper Moore, which he subsequently avenged. He will beat Nick Moore in the finals, much to the chagrin of Iowa fans.

ROSS: I think Massa takes home the title.

TONY: Moore

174

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

MIKE: I’d say I have an excitement level of 6 for this weight, where Evans should roll over his competition.

ROSS: 4.  This just isn't a very interesting weight class.

TONY: 4

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

ROSS: Somehow, Evans and Northwestern's Lee Munster have never tangled at the NCAA level; this tournament would be a good place to rectify that.  Beyond that, I wouldn't mind seeing how Tony Dallago (down from 184) handles a match with Evans.

MIKE: n/a

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

MIKE: Evans vs. Dominic Kast of Cal Poly

TONY: Evans vs. Munster

ROSS: Evans takes on the hometown favorites, Munster.

4) Who wins it all?

TONY: Evans

ROSS: This weight is Evans' to lose -- and he won't.

MIKE: I like Mike Evans a great deal, and this weight should showcase his skills perfectly. Expect an OW from Evans, who will beat pin his finals opponent who will be….let’s say Cal Poly’s Dominic Kast.

184

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

ROSS: This is a strong 8; outside of 133 and 285, this is probably the most loaded weight at the tournament.  Ruth and Steinhaus appear to be the class of this weight class, but the guys here figure to be scrambling to fill the spots on the podium behind them in March.

TONY: 7

MIKE: This is a pretty good weight and yields an excitement level of 5.

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

MIKE: I’m not terribly enthralled by any particular matchup here, but Loder and Sheptock should provide an interesting semifinal. I predict that Ethan Lofthouse will have a disappointing tournament here; however, this will end up as a positive thing for him as it (and by "it" I probably mean someone named Brands) will light a fire under his bottom for the final few months of his wrestling career.

ROSS: Iowa has faced Edinboro in two duals in the past two seasons, but Lofthouse hasn't faced Vic Avery in either dual; this would be a nice opportunity to fix that.  Lofty has also never faced UNI's Loder, so that would be another interesting match-up to see.  But I'm much more interested in seeing how Brooks fares in this tournament; Lofthouse is, at this point, a pretty known commodity for Iowa fans, while Brooks represents hope and possibility for the future -- this tournament is his chance to give Iowa fans a taste of what's to come in 2014 and beyond.

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

ROSS: Loder and Sheptock went 1-1 against one another last year, but I'll take Loder to win the rubber match and face Lofthouse in the finals.

TONY: Lofthouse vs. Loder

MIKE: Sheptock vs. Swartz

4) Who wins it all?

TONY: Lofthouse

MIKE: I’ll pick Sheptock to beat Swartz in the finals.

ROSS: Call me a pessimist, but I'll also take Loder to beat Lofthouse in the finals.

197

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

MIKE: This isn’t a great weight on paper, but I think it will yield exciting results, and find myself shockingly excited about it, I’ll give it a 7.

TONY: n/a

ROSS: 5.  197 matches are often not the most action-packed bouts around and you couple that tendency for diet heavyweight-style wrestling with a field that lacks any top guys and you have a recipe for a very uninteresting weight class.  Of course, the flip side of that is that this could be the most wide-open weight in the field and there could be a lot of upsets and drama in this bracket.

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

ROSS: Burak was thisclose to getting a decisive takedown and beating Mario Gonzalez in both of their matches last year; I wouldn't mind seeing if the third time was the charm for him here.  But really, just seeing where Burak is at right now after missing the entire season to date is the most interesting thing about this weight. If Burak is healthy and if he's taken the next step forward from where he was a year ago, he has the chance to be an All-American, which would be a nice boost for Iowa's title hopes; he might need a strong showing here to persuade Brands to burn that redshirt this year, though.

MIKE: I love watching any match Va Tech’s Chris Penny wrestles in. He probably won’t make it to the podium in March, but this is a guy who lost by major in the semifinals of the Virginia AAA state championships as a high school senior to the guy who got second. I don’t know how familiar you are with Virginia wrestling, but failing to make the big school state finals by such a wide margin indicates a low probability of success on the Division I level. In the last 4 years, Penny must have killed himself in the room (I have heard that Kevin Dresser isn’t into the whole "just practicing to get by" thing). Now as a redshirt senior, he claims a top 20 ranking and has really showed what someone can accomplish in wrestling through hard work.

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

TONY: Gonzales vs Burak

ROSS: I think Northwestern's Alex Polizzi  takes down Virginia Tech's Chris Penny in a high-scoring quarterfinal before upsetting Illinois' Mario Gonzalez in the semis; he faces Maryland's Christian Boley, who topples Burak in the other semi.

MIKE: I predict a finals between Gonzalez and Burak...

4) Who wins it all?

MIKE: ...which Gonzalez should win. Iowa fans should want Burak to build into his peak form later in the year, because he can beat any other wrestler in the nation at this weight. They should not greet a loss here with much angst.

ROSS: I'm going to go with Polizzi as a (slight) surprise winner.

TONY: Burak (People will say I am drinking that Brands Kool-Aid again, but I really liked him towards the end of the season and I think we see an upset at this weak class.)

285

1) On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about the likely/potential matchups at this weight?

ROSS: 9.  It's rare that heavyweight matches engender that much excitement, but this is a stacked field, with a huge collection of top 10 wrestlers in the mix at this weight.  Tony Nelson remains the king at this weight until further notice, but this bracket could give us a better idea of who's next in line among the big boys.

MIKE: This is a nice field of heavies, and I detect within myself an excitement level of 7. If you look around in this day and age, you won’t see many big men any more with bellies, nor will you see many heavyweight matches not involving Tony Nelson that are any more boring than an average college wrestling match.

TONY: 9

2) What match (or matches) do you really hope we get to see at this weight?

MIKE: I’m excited about Coon vs. Felix II in the quarters, McMullan vs. Coon in the semis, and McMullan vs. Telford in the finals.

ROSS: Setting aside the fact that even the most anticipated heavyweight match stands a good chance of featuring a lot of boring dancing bear-style wrestling, the two matches I'd most like to see are Mike McMullan versus Adam Coon (to see if Coon can keep up his early season momentum) and McMullan against Telford (they split a pair of sudden decision victories two years ago and I'd love to see where they stand against each other now).

3) What's your pick for the finals matchup?

ROSS: I think Coon keeps his early season winning ways going with wins over Boise State's J.T. Felix and McMullan to get to the finals, where he faces Telford.

MIKE: I think J.T. Felix gave a blueprint on how to beat Adam Coon earlier this season: get to the ankles and finish cleanly, and McMullan can do this better than anyone at this weight.

TONY: McMullan vs. Telford

4) Who wins it all?

MIKE: I’ll pick Telford over McMullan in the finals, because I really can’t pick either, and I know this will be on an Iowa blog and I don’t want too many angry comments.

ROSS: I think Telford's veteran savvy trumps Coon's raw talent in the finals.

TONY: Telford

Again, the 51st annual Midlands gets underway tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM CST.  We'll have an open thread for all the action tomorrow (and Monday), so tune your browsers to BHGP and settle back for two days of quality wrestling action.

Thanks to Tony and Mike for their contributions.  You can follow Mike on Twitter at @coachmjr and check out his writing at Bloody Elbow.

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