The Iowa Hawkeyes won their third straight Midlands championship (and their 24th Midlands title overall) last week, finishing ahead of fellow Big Ten teams Nebraska and Rutgers. Iowa cruised to victory in the early rounds of the tournament but went just 3-4 in the semifinal round on Wednesday afternoon, which tightened up the team race a bit. Iowa pulled away with several wins in the consolation bracket, as well as three wins in the finals on Wednesday night.
One of the losses Iowa suffered in the semifinal round was by Cory Clark, a heavy favorite at 133, who took a medical forfeit in that match (and all of his remaining matches in the tournament). It sounds like Clark and the coaches were simply being cautious with his health, though, and his availability for the remainder of the season shouldn't be impacted:
Per Brands, Clark "Could have wrestled tonight" he said if it was the NCAA Championships, he "certainly would have." Was Clark's call, also.— Jordan Hansen (@JordyHansen) December 31, 2015
As noted above, all three Iowa wrestlers who won in the semifinals (Thomas Gilman at 125, Brandon Sorensen at 149, and Nathan Burak at 197) also won their finals matches to bring home individual Midlands championships. Gilman made his third straight appearance in the Midlands finals, bringing home his second title at 125 lbs (he finished second last year and won it all in 2013). Brandon Sorensen finished 3rd at Midlands in 2013 (when he wrestled unattached as a true freshman) and in 2014 (when he wrestled for Iowa as a redshirt freshman), but broke through with a title this year. Finally, Nathan Burak followed up his Midlands title in 2014 with another championship in 2015.
1) Iowa -- 152
2) Nebraska -- 135
3) Rutgers -- 110
4) NC State -- 95.5
5) Rider -- 67
Iowa's performance at the 2015 Midlands was a definite step back from their record-setting performances from the past few seasons. Iowa set an event record with 187.5 points in 2013, then broke that record with 189 points in 2014. They also had five finalists and four champions (Gilman, Clark, Mike Evans at 174, and Burak) last year, an improvement on this year's showing.
Overall, the field at Midlands ended up being somewhat weaker than originally envisioned when the initial list of Top Contenders was released, as Oklahoma's Cody Brewer and the entire Illinois team (among others) not taking part in the competition. Consequently, Iowa wrestlers weren't able to gain as much in the way of potential seeding advantage in March as we might have hoped. But let's run down the individual performances for the Hawkeyes this year.
Thomas Gilman (4-0, CHAMPION)
Round One: BYE
Round Two: Gilman MAJ DEC (19-6) UN Shakur Laney (Ohio)
Quarterfinals: Gilman FALL (2:53) #8 Kegan Calkins (Oregon State)
Semifinals: Gilman DEC (4-1) #5 Josh Rodriguez (North Dakota State)
Finals: Gilman DEC (5-1) #2 Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State)
Gilman had the easiest path to a title of any Iowa wrestler as a small field at 125 meant that he only needed to wrestle four matches over two days to claim his title (contrast that to Brandon Sorensen, who had to win six matches at 149 to earn a title this year). Gilman didn't really receive any breaks in terms of his opponents -- he wrestled the highest-seeded wrestler he could have in the quarterfinals and finals and saw the 5th-seeded wrestler (instead of the 4th-seeded wrestler) in the semifinals -- and he cruised through them. If there was a disappointment, it was that Gilman wasn't able to get bonus points in either the semifinals or finals -- Bresser was the only top 10 opponent Gilman saw, but he's been able to get bonus points against lower tier top ten opposition in the past (see: Klimara, Eddie). Gilman got the results he needed, which is good, but it would have been nice to see more of the ultra-attacking and aggressive Gilman that we've seen for much of this season.
Cory Clark (3-0*, 6TH PLACE)
Round One: BYE
Round Two: Clark FALL (1:48) UN Nicolas Colunga (North Dakota State)
Round Three: Clark TECH FALL (18-0) UN Jacob Colon (Grand View)
Quarterfinals: Clark DEC (7-1) UN Angelo Amenta (Columbia)
Semfinals: Clark loses via MED FORFEIT
Consolation: Clark loses via MED FORFEIT
5th Place Match: Clark loses via MED FORFEIT
Clark's losses via medical forfeit don't count against his record and, as noted above, it doesn't sound as though his injury is a major concern at this point. He wrestled well on the first day of the tournament, with two lopsided bonus point wins and a comfortable decision win among his three wins.
Topher Carton (2-2, DNP)
Round One: Carton TECH FALL (21-6) UN Colton McCrystal (Nebraska)
Round Two: Carton WINS VIA MEDICAL FORFEIT #10 Jameson Oster (Northwestern)
Round Three: #7 Steve Bleise (Northern Illinois DEC (8-4) Carton
Consolation: Carton DEC (8-7) UN Vince Turk (Iowa-unattached)
Consolation: UN Seth Gross (South Dakota State) DEC (7-2) Carton
Vince Turk (2-2, DNP)
Round One: #3 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) TECH FALL (20-5) Turk
Consolation: Turk DEC (5-3) Matthew Adcock (Wisconsin-unattached)
Consolation: Turk MAJ DEC (11-3) Will Clark (North Carolina)
Consolation: Turk WINS VIA MED FORFEIT #13 Ian Nickell (CSU Bakersfield)
Consolation: UN Topher Carton (Iowa) DEC (8-7) Turk
Paul Glynn (1-2, DNP)
Round One: Glynn DC (6-2) UN Brandon Lapi (Buffalo)
Round Two: UN Gabe Grahek (Wisconsin) DEC (3-0) Glynn
Consolation: UN Jack Mutchnik (American) DEC (4-1) Glynn
Brody Grothus did not compete at Midlands, so we're still waiting for his debut at 141 lbs. Perhaps it will happen this coming weekend when Iowa heads on the road to face Illinois and Northwestern in dual meets.
Carton and true freshman Vinnie Turk were the main Iowa wrestlers at 141 and neither did much to stake their claim for the starting job. Carton's tournament started well with a big technical fall win over Nebraska's Colton McCrystal, but he got knocked out of the championship bracket by NIU's Steve Bleise and won a narrow decision over Turk before losing a decision to former teammate Seth Gross.
Turk had generated some buzz as potentially being the first true freshman under Tom Brands to join the starting lineup (excluding Nathan Burak, who spent a year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado between high school and college and was a true freshman with unusual circumstances), but his results so far this year (and again here) haven't really borne that out as a viable option. He got dominated by Rutgers' Anthony Ashnault in his first match, then got eliminated by Carton later in the consolation bracket. Iowa's hopes of getting much production out of this weight come Big Ten and NCAA Tournament time is likely going to rest on Grothus' ability to hold this weight and be productive.
Brandon Sorensen (6-0, CHAMPION)
Round One: Sorensen FALL (4:07) UN Jake Deangelo (NC State)
Round Two: Sorensen TECH FALL (17-1) UN Jason Bing (Franklin & Marshall)
Round Three: Sorensen DEC (6-0) UN Josh Maruca (Arizona State-unattached)
Quarterfinals: Sorensen DEC (9-5) #8 Ken Theobald (Rutgers-unattached)
Semifinals: Sorensen DEC (7-4) #4 Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska)
Finals: Sorensen DEC (3-1 SV) #2 Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern)
Michael Kemerer (5-2, 5TH PLACE)
Round One: Kemerer TECH FALL (18-3) #11 Clayton Ream (North Dakota State)
Round Two: Kemerer MAJ DEC (11-3) UN Cullen Cummings (Ohio)
Round Three: Kemerer DEC (8-3) #6 Matthew Kraus (Arizona State)
Quarterfinals: #3 Alexander Richardson (Old Dominion) DEC (11-9) Kemerer
Consolation: Kemerer FALL (4:46) #12 Joey Delgado (Oregon State)
Consolation: Kemerer MAJ DEC (20-7) #7 Gabe Moreno (Iowa State)
Consolation: #4 Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska) DEC (8-7) Kemerer
5th Place Match: Kemerer wins via MED FORFEIT
Sorensen improved on back-to-back 3rd place finishes at Midlands with his first championship, taking down frequent rival Jason Tsirtsis in the finals. In a true shocker, the two had a low-scoring match that went to overtime; Sorensen took a 3-1 victory with a takedown early in sudden victory. The win evened their series up at two wins apiece, although there will be several more showdowns to come between them this season, with the first coming next weekend at the Iowa-Northwestern dual meet. Prior to the finals, Sorensen recorded solid wins over Rutgers' Theobald (currently redshirting) and Nebraska's Sueflohn, a top ten opponent. If there's a complaint about Sorensen's performance, it's the same one that we levied against Gilman: not enough bonus points. Only one of his six wins featured bonus points and will not racking up lopsided results against Sueflohn or T-shirt is no crime, it would be nice to see more offense against lesser opponents.
Speaking of bonus points... welcome to the show, Mr. Kemerer. On the down side, Kemerer finally suffered his first losses of the season, dropping narrow decisions to #3 seed Alexander Richardson and #4 seed Jake Sueflohn. On the bright side, Kemerer won five other matches (plus a medical forfeit) and recorded bonus points in four of those matches (a pin, a technical fall, and two major decisions). He didn't just beat up on lesser lights, either -- three of the four opponents that he bonused were seeded wrestlers at Midlands. Kemerer still has a few things to fine tune, but his scoring potential is exhilarating and he'll be a very exciting addition to the Iowa lineup next year.
Edwin Cooper, Jr. (3-2, DNP)
Round One: Cooper MAJ DEC (16-4) UN Logan Peterson (South Dakota State)
Round Two: Cooper DEC (7-1) UN Doug Welch (Purdue)
Round Three: Cooper DEC (3-2) #10 John Van Brill (Rutgers)
Quarterfinals: #2 Thomas Gantt MAJ DEC (17-6) Cooper
Consolation: #8 Richie Lewis (Rutgers) DEC (6-5) Cooper
Cooper's tournament started off well with three straight wins, but it fell apart after that. There's no shame in losing to the Gantt, a top ten wrestler at 157, but Cooper got absolutely dominated by him, which is discouraging for those of us hoping that Cooper might be able to earn Iowa a few points in March. Likewise, it's also disappointing that Cooper wasn't able to make a run in the consolation bracket -- and that he lost to a wrestler that he'd just defeated a few weeks ago (Lewis) at the Iowa-Rutgers dual. Consistency is still a pretty big issue for Cooper.
Patrick Rhoads (4-2, 7TH PLACE)
Round One: BYE
Round Two: Rhoads DEC (3-2) UN Joe Brewster (South Dakota State)
Round Three: Rhoads DEC (6-5) UN Tyler Rill (Buffalo)
Quarterfinals: #4 Tanner Weatherman FALL (0:46) Rhoads
Consolation: Rhoads DEC (5-2) UN Austin Reese (Ohio)
Consolation: #2 Austin Wilson (Nebraska) DEC (4-2) Rhoads
7th Place Match: Rhoads FALL (6:42) UN Tyler Rill (Buffalo)
165 hasn't been much of a bright spot for Iowa this season, but credit to Rhoads who was able to grind out a 7th place finish at Midlands by picking up some narrow decision wins to make the quarterfinals and then squeezed out a few wins in the consolation bracket to make it onto the podium. Rhoads had a better Midlands than guys at several other weights and while concerns about 165 will persist, the results at this event were a nice surprise.
Alex Meyer (4-1, 3RD PLACE)
Round One: Meyer MAJ DEC (11-1) UN Drew Foster (UNI)
Round Two: Meyer DEC (3-2) UN Jason Grimes (American)
Quarterfinals: Meyer DEC (3-1) #9 Phil Bakuckas (Rutgers)
Semifinals: #4 Cody Walters (Ohio) DEC (7-0) Meyer
Consolation: Meyer DEC (3-2) #12 David Kocer (South Dakota State)
3rd Place Match: Meyer wins via MED FORFEIT
On the other hand, results at this weight were a not-so-nice surprise. Meyer won four matches (plus a medical forfeit), but the one loss came in the semis and featured him being completely dominated by Walters, a fringe top ten guy at 174. He didn't look great in several of his wins, either, and they weren't against cream of the crop opposition at the weight. Right now Meyer looks far away from being a guy who could contend for a championship at 174 -- he looks like a guy who will be in a battle to make it onto the podium. Meyer needs to find his offense in a hurry if he wants to be a factor at this weight.
Sammy Brooks (5-2, 4TH PLACE)
Round One: Brooks TECH FALL (20-4) UN Derek Hillman (Eastern Michigan)
Round Two: Brooks MAJ DEC (17-5) UN Drew Pestano (Iowa State)
Round Three: Brooks DEC (9-4) UN Ben Schwery (South Dakota State)
Quarterfinals: Brooks DEC (5-2) #5 Hayden Zillmer (North Dakota State)
Semifinals: #1 David Taylor DEC (7-2) Brooks
Consolation: Brooks DEC (8-7) #6 Pete Renda (NC State)
3rd Place Match: #5 Hayden Zillmer (North Dakota State) DEC (9-5) Brooks
Cash Wilcke (1-2, DNP)
Round One: BYE
Round Two: #10 Cody Caldwell (UNI) DEC (6-3) Wilcke
Consolation: Wilcke DEC (2-1) UN Josh Casperson (South Dakota State)
Consolation: UN Ben Schwery (South Dakota State) DEC (3-0) Wilcke
Hopes of Sammy Brooks taking home a Midlands championship were dashed when David Taylor decided to enter Midlands and compete at this weight (and Taylor did indeed win the title at 184) and even a 2nd place finish was out of the question when Brooks got drawn on the same side of the bracket as Taylor. But I harbored hopes that he would be able to bounce back and place 3rd at the event. Instead, he dropped to 4th after losing to Zillmer (who he had beaten in the quarterfinals a day before) in the 3rd place match. Brooks also barely got by NC State's Pete Renda and, frankly, looked more like a guy who will be battling for a spot on the bottom of the podium than a guy in the top five at this weight. I thought Brooks entered Midlands with the most to gain and/or prove, but his results were not what we were hoping to see.
Wilcke was the third of four true freshmen to compete at Midlands (Turk, Kemerer, and Steven Holloway were the others) and he went just 1-2 at this event. Wilcke has some work to do before he's ready to compete for a starting job; luckily, Iowa won't need him until at least the 2017-18 season.
Nathan Burak (5-0, CHAMPION)
Round One: Burak TECH FALL (19-4) UN Nate Hall (Ohio)
Round Two: Burak MAJ DEC (16-3) UN Marcus Harrington (Iowa State)
Quarterfinals: Burak DEC (8-2) #8 Michael Boykin (NC State)
Semifinals: Burak DEC (4-2) #5 Aaron Studebaker (Nebraska)
Finals: Burak DEC (6-1) #14 Derek White (Nebraska)
Steven Holloway (1-2, DNP)
Round One: #3 Nate Rotert (South Dakota State) DEC (11-9) Holloway
Consolation: Holloway DEC (8-5) UN Logan Paxton (North Dakota State)
Consolation: #13 Ryan Wolfe DEC (10-4) Holloway
Burak was Iowa's third individual champion at Midlands, winning his second-straight title at Midlands. He started the event with a bang, picking up a technical fall and a major decision (over hyped Iowa State prospect Marcus Harrington, no less) in his first two matches before settling into a series of fairly comfortable decision wins in his remaining wins on the way to the title. The competition at this weight wasn't the most impressive, but Burak did what he was supposed to do and brought home the title. A few more bonus points would have been nice, especially after the impressive start to the season that Burak has had.
Holloway was the final true freshman to compete at Midlands and, like Wilcke, he went 1-2. Unlike Wilcke, Iowa will need him to get ready sooner -- Burak will graduate after this season and leave a hole at the 197 starting spot; Holloway seems like the most likely name on the Iowa roster to fill that spot. He did look competitive against Rotert, a fringe top ten guy, but he's going to need to continue to get better quickly for Iowa to avoid having a notable hole at this weight next season.
Sam Stoll (4-2, 3RD PLACE)
Round One: BYE
Round Two: Stoll DEC (4-1) UN Chace Eskam (Arizona State)
Round Three: Stoll DEC (6-3) UN Brock Horwath (Wisconsin)
Quarterfinals: Stoll DEC (2-0) #5 Billy Smith (Rutgers)
Semifinals: #1 Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State) MAJ DEC (10-1) Stoll
Consolation: Stoll FALL (6:42) #12 Dawson Peck (Maryland)
3rd Place Match: Stoll MAJ DEC( 11-1) #6 Ross Larson (Oklahoma)
Finally, Sam Stoll had a solid showing overall at Midlands, finishing above his seed (one of just three Iowa wrestlers to do so -- Kemerer and Rhoads were the others) and picking up solid wins over Smith, Peck, and Larson as well. It was nice to see Stoll beat Smith (for the second time in three weeks) by putting on a hard ride and earning a riding time point. We always want to see takedowns, of course, but riding time points can be vital at heavyweight and riding opponents had been a problem for Stoll at times this season, so it was good to see him show an improved ability on that front. That said, it was also good to see him unload the offense on Larson and pick up a major decision win -- Stoll has the potential to be one of the more exciting heavyweights that Iowa has had in a while. It was less good to see him get ragdolled by Gwiazdowski in the semifinals, even knowing that Gwiaz has done (and will do) that to a lot of guys this year; Stoll has looked good much of this year, but there's clearly still quite a bit more work for him to do in order to catch up to the top guys at 285 -- which is not surprising, given that he's a redshirt freshman. Heavyweight is often a pretty unforgiving weight to younger guys.
NEXT: Iowa returns to action next weekend with a pair of road dual meets -- they take on #11 Illinois (8-0) on Friday, January 8 and unranked Northwestern (1-5) on Sunday, January 10.
H/T to the good folks at IAWrestle for their help with the photo for this post, as well as their A+ coverage of the event last week. You should definitely be checking them out if you're not already doing so.