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Let’s Talk About the Midlands and Beyond

What are the implications on Iowa’s wrestling season after the Midlands Championships?

Kemerer Midlands Joshua Housing/The Daily Iowan

The measuring stick that is the Midlands Championships proved to be exactly that over the past two days. While the two-day tournament the Hawkeyes won didn’t provide the clarity some would have liked at 165, it told us a whole bunch of other things about this team. Full results are here.

- We knew Iowa has its share of badasses (Gilman, Clark, Sorensen, etc.), but we can officially add RS freshman Michael Kemerer to that list. The 157-pounder wrestled a complete tournament, whooping a former NCAA Champ en route to a first-place finish, collecting bonus points in four of his six scraps, and oh yeah, wrestled perhaps the most exciting match of the event. He and top-seeded Tyler Berger of Nebraska each had what would’ve been championship-clinching takedowns taken away after review. The way he outlasted Berger, especially when holding on for his life in the final seconds of the second tiebreaker period was nothing short of impressive.

Matches like these can be a huge boost in a guy’s season, especially a less-experienced wrestler like Kemerer. Add in the fact 157’s been a weight where the Hawks have lacked postseason production from since Derek St. John’s departure, and this Kemerer win is an enormous step in the right direction for both the wrestler and the team.

- Speaking of Gilman and Sorensen, bravo. The 25-pounder added his third Midlands title, while Sorensen added his second in as many tries. Gilman tallied 28.5 team points for the Hawks, while Sorensen added 25 of his own at 149. Neither has given any reason to believe they won’t be right in the thick of things — again — at NCAAs.

- Cory Clark can come back at any time now. His backup, Phil Laux lost his first match before winning only two on the backside for a total of 2.5 team points. Head coach Tom Brands said the team’s taking the conservative approach (video below) with Clark on his return to the mat, which is definitely the right move, but man, the Hawkeyes look a lot less intimidating if he’s absent from the lineup. Here’s to hoping that injury doesn’t linger once he’s back.

- Sammy Brooks dropping to the backside after a quarterfinal loss was frustrating, to say the least. Credit the senior for coming back and besting Indiana’s Nate Jackson, the guy who defeated him earlier, in the third-place match. When he’s going full-steam ahead, Brooks is one of the most dangerous wrestlers on this roster. I’d hate to see one get away from him early at Big Tens or NCAAs, because there’s a huge opportunity for team points with Brooks cranked all the way up.

- This question is far from over, but 165 is still muddy for all parties involved. Do you stick with Joey Gunther, who didn’t place? Do you pull Alex Marinelli’s redshirt and give him the keys to the car after an up-and-down tournament? Is Kaleb Young the one that should have his redshirt pulled? Maybe, maybe, and no. This will take further evaluation and be a topic of conversation after Brands speaks further in the coming days, but for now, it kind of seems like Marinelli’s going to get his shot? He has the highest ceiling of the group and it’s a gamble, but at this point, why not? The Hawks are losing a lot of experience in the form of Gilman, Clark, Brooks, and Meyer after this season, so if now’s not the time to go for that elusive team title, when is?

- Again, more to come on 165, but Sam Stoll’s return to the mat was suuuuper encouraging. As Brands said, he wasn’t sure if he’d wrestle the entire tournament, and ended up losing a tough semifinal to Arizona State’s Tanner Hall before capping the third-place match with a 4:45 fall. Keep it comin’ big dog, Iowa needs you.

More to come in 2017. Have a great NYE — eat, drink, and be merry while doing so responsibly.