Alrighty guys, so we’re at the tail end of this three-week bye in Hawkeye wrestling. Finally. Our guys are healthy, Bowman has successfully made the cut to 174lbs, and more importantly, our guys are healthy. Finally. Did I say that already?
We’ve been battling the plague and catastrophic injuries alike since the beginning of the season, but the Midlands tournament will mark the first time all year we’ll get to see what our lineup looks like in its entirety. Again, you guessed it, finally!
This coming Saturday and Sunday, December 29th and 30th will mark the 56th annual Ken Craft Midlands Championships in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
The prestigious tournament was created in 1962 and Iowa has literally owned this event since they started participating in 1974. Our Hawks have won the team title 27 times in 43 attempts.
Since Tom and Terry Brands took over in 2006 we’ve won it nine times including the last four in a row. The only years we didn’t win were in 2006 (2nd place), 2010 (4th), and didn’t compete in 2012.
We crowned five individual champs en route to another team title last year. They were Alex Marinelli, Sam Stoll, Cash Wilcke, Michael Kemerer, and Brandon Sorensen. Of course Sorensen has graduated and Kemerer is out for the remainder of the season. There are a lot of other big time individual honors and if you’d like to read further into those Hawkeye exploits please check them out here.
Before we jump into the 125-157lbs weight classes let’s take a look at who we’re actually sending and some of the other major team contenders that will try to stand in our way.
125: #1 Spencer Lee
133: #9 Austin Desanto
141: #18 Max Murin
149: #8 PatLugo
157: #7 Kaleb Young
165: #4 AlexMarinelli
174: Mitch Bowman
184: #16 Cash Wilcke
197: #4 Jacob Warner
285: #2 Sam Stoll
Teams: Thanks to Wrestlestat this is supposedly the teams registered with starters. Outside of the top seven no one else is ranked on Flo, so I will include both rankings.
#3/3 Iowa #41 Old Dominion
#9/23 Princeton #43 Central Michigan
#12/ 29 Northwestern #47 Pennsylvania
#14/30 Illinois #49 Brown
#17/16 Arizona State #55 Harvard
#18/17 Wisconsin #57 Bucknell
#19/15 Northern Iowa #58 South Dakota State
#18 Army #49 Fresno State
#30 Maryland #60 Northern Illinois
#38 Buffalo #72 Cal Poly
#39 Campbell #73 Franklin & Marshall
In a straight up dual and in this case, tournament setting, there are very few teams on this list that will compete with the Hawkeyes overall. In fact, I’m going to boldly state we handle this event easily. But with that being said, there are SEVERAL very good wrestlers at each and every weight class. Make no mistake about it, we will not crown ten champions and even though we’re better than last year, we may not match last year’s output and come home with five either.
Also, rumor has it there are a few other teams sending unattached wrestlers to compete, such as: Ohio State (Sammy Sasso), Minnesota (Bobby Stevenson), and possibly Penn State (Aaron Brooks).
Weight Class Breakdown: At the time of this write-up, the tournament seedings have not been released. These are simply the rankings.
125: #1 Spencer Lee, Iowa (5-0)
#2 Sebastian Rivera, Northwestern (8-0)
#5 Ryan Millhof, Arizona State (10-1)
#11 Travis Piotrowski, Illinois (4-3)
#13 Pat Glory, Princeton (9-1)
#19 Michael McGee, Old Dominion (9-2)
#20 Drew Hildebrandt, Central Michigan (8-4)
Lee is hands down the favorite to win this and he should do it by bonus point variety. He’s already bonused Rivera, Glory, and Piotrowski in the past. Last year he entered unattached and steamrolled his way to three early wins before losing a close decision to Ronnie Bresser, who unfortunately, is not coming back to the Midlands this year. He then forfeited out of the tourney to finish sixth. A sixth place finish will not happen again this year.
I could continue to write more, but there’s just no point. Don’t be surprised if he techs his way to become a Midlands Champ. Lee is unstoppable, even when he’s sick. He’s going to show it again here.
133: #1 Seth Gross, South Dakota State (1-0)
#11 Austin DeSanto, Iowa (5-1)
#15 Dylan Duncan, Illinois (5-2)
#18 Noah Gonser, Campbell (6-6)
There are four ranked wrestlers in this class, but it will be a challenge for ADS regardless. There’s no doubt about it that Seth Gross is the best wrestler in the country at 133. There are only a few other guys in the country that can give him a run for his money, such as Nick Suriano (Rutgers), Daton Fix (Okie State), and Stevan Micic (Mich). Luckily for us they aren’t in this event.
Either way Gross should be relatively uncontested on his side of the bracket. But what makes this weight class even more exciting is the possibility of Nathan Tomasello throwing his hat into the ring. That’s right, the former NCAA Champ and 4x AA for Ohio State is entering into his 1st real competition after knee surgery following last year’s NCAA tourney.
If Nato wasn’t going ADS would be a #2 seed and would have a nice path to the finals and a shot at King Gross. Unfortunately, Nato will probably grab that seed and if he is unseeded for some reason, they will more than likely place him opposite Gross and right into the direct path of ADS.
If Austin gets a shot at either of those guys we’re going to learn rather quickly how he stacks up with the best. I don’t expect him to get throttled because his motor and bottomless tank will keep him in it, but he HAS to wrestle smart. I expect a third place finish with an outside shot at being a finalist.
*There is a possibility that Nato checks in at 125lbs, but I highly doubt it.
141: #6 Mike Carr, Illinois (4-2)
#10 Josh Alber, Northern Iowa (11-4)
#12 Bryan Lantry, Buffalo (5-0)
#13 Tristan Moran, Wisconsin (9-3)
#18 Max Murin (5-1)
Of all the ranked wrestlers Murin checks in as the lowest. This is unquestionably a fantastic barometer for Murin. If he goes in, upsets the applecart, and reaches the finals he will once again firmly place himself in the All-American conversation.
The biggest challenge standing in his was is Mike Carr, the sophomore from Illinois. Murin beat him in last year’s version of the Midlands 3-2, but after that defeat he went on quite the roll that resulted in a 2nd place finish at the B1G tourney and three wins in March. He’s been battling some injuries so far this year, but both of his losses are to #3 Jaydin Eiermann (Mizzou).
Josh Alber is the other big name that will stand in Murin’s way. Alber has beaten the guys he should and gotten handled by the guys he should lose to. But he also got pinned by Tristan Moran early in the season. Then Moran lost to Lantry, but he also controlled Vince Turk to a score of 4-0 at the UNI Open.
Anyone in this bracket can beat anyone and I’d say it’s wide open at this point. It’ll be interesting to see how Turk does and if him and Murin square off at some point. There’s going to be discussions as to whether or not Murin or Turk should start from here on out, especially if Turk goes absolutely ham and does well.
Personally, I’d say Turk has to win the entire tourney for him to jump Murin on the depth chart. Both of these guys could certainly win it, but I don’t think either will. I hope I’m wrong.
149: #1 Matthew Kolodzik, Princeton (6-0)
#9 Pat Lugo, Iowa (2-3)
#10 Josh Heil, Campbell (11-5)
#11 Max Thomsen, Northern Iowa (8-2)
Lugo should enter with a #2 seed and on the opposite side of Kolodzik. This should be his opportunity to raise his stock back up to where it should be. Sadly, we don’t live in that world and as this season has shown Lugo so far, it isn’t kind either.
But with a good showing, a run to the finals, and a close decision that could go either way with the Princeton Prince Lugo will jump back up in the rankings where he belongs.
Lugo pinned Kolodzik last year back at this very same tourney, but lost a tight match to him 7-4 when they squared off a few weeks ago. Lugo seemed to fade dramatically in the 3rd period and has struggled this year in general with illness/ injury. Let’s hope that with the three weeks off he’s fully healed and ready to pin Kolodzik once more.
Thomsen is 0-2 against Heil over the past two seasons, so if the rankings hold true and directly relate to the seedings let’s hope these guys beat up on each other before Lugo runs into them. Either way this is Kolodzik’s tourney to lose with Lugo as an outside shot at pulling off the upset.
Also, it should be noted that Sammy Sasso will be wrestling unattached. He’s a true freshman phenom from Ohio State and lost a tight 9-7 decision to #3 Micah Jordan at the Ohio Intercollegiate Open. Sasso is a big time talent, but he did lose to Max Murin this summer in freestyle. He’s a very real and very serious threat to reach the finals as well.
157: #2 Ryan Deakin, Northwestern (10-0)
#4 Larry Early, Old Dominion (12-2)
#7 Kaleb Young, Iowa (6-0)
#12 Eric Barone, Illinois (9-3)
#18 Christian Pagdilao, Arizona State (9-3)
#19 Luke Weiland, Army (13-3)
#20 Zach Hartman, Bucknell (6-3)
I’ll be the first to admit (and have) that I wasn’t the biggest Kaleb Young fan last year, but he’s really turned a corner and turned it on this year. He’s exploded up the rankings and finds himself at #7. The highest of his career.
But this is arguably the deepest weight class in this tourney and will be a tough go for Mr. Young. Outside of Ryan Deakin it’s a relatively unproven group of guys. Deakin was an NCAA qualifier last year and narrowly lost to Brandon Sorensen to end his season. So far, to start this season, he’s out for blood and has dominated everyone early on.
A few other notes of interest: #12 Barone was pinned by our own Jeren Glosser at the Lindenwood open in November. Likewise, Glosser lost a tight match to Deakin last year at the Midlands.
Also, Larry Early has catapulted up the rankings in large part to a 4-2 win over returning NCAA finalist Hayden Hidlay. He was ranked in the low teens prior to that match. It goes without saying that a lot of these guys have a lot to prove and this is the perfect tournament for that.
I look for Young and Glosser to each make a deep run into the semis with Young advancing to the finals. The talent gap between our two 157 pounders is nearly nonexistent, but Young has looked so freakin’ good so far that I won’t bet against him now. After this tourney I fully expect him to climb even further in the rankings.
Up next we’ll dive into the 165-285lbs preview, but until then: GO HAWKS!!!