The 57th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championship is upon us and the Hawkeye are eyeing our seventh straight team title. With Tom Brands leading the way we’ve won 10 of 12 since 2006, with a runner-up finish in 2006 and a 4th place finish in 2010. If we’re able to secure another team title Monday night, that’ll make 29 total. The next closest on that leaderboard is Iowa State, with 8. For more fun stat-filled excellence please check out the Hawkeyes official notes page, here.
Our Hawkeyes are sitting at 4-0 as we edge toward the new year with all ten guys ranked, including nine in the top eight. With a solid showing here this weekend, there’s no reason why we can’t push the entire team back up to where it belongs.
So far, The Midlands seems to be a bit discombobulated (per usual) because we don’t have brackets and we’re less than a day away from first whistle. In fact, we don’t even have a complete list of the teams that are attending, much less the actual wrestlers that will be competing.
But let’s get down to what we do know. The Hawks have reported a “probable” list of 23 guys going. Of course, only ten can officially be attached for Iowa, while all the others will be unattached.
As of right now, Wrestlestat.com has compiled a list of 26 teams that include: #8 Wisconsin, #10 Northwestern, #11 Princeton, #18 North Carolina, and #20 Virginia.
I wouldn’t exactly call this murderer’s row since we dominated Wiscy and Princeton, but individually there are several guys that will be there that can and will cause us some serious trouble. I don’t think the team title is going to be seriously threatened by the time the semi-finals rolls around on Monday because of our overall depth, but we are not the top dog at a few weights, which could make things interesting.
At the time of this writing, wrestlers, seedings, and brackets have not been released. This is purely speculation on my part and is based off Intermat rankings.
#1 Spencer Lee (Iowa)
#2 Jack Mueller (Virginia)
#3 Pat Glory (Princeton)
#5 Devin Schroeder (Purdue)
#9 Drew Hildebrandt (Central Michigan)
#10 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern)
#17 Jacob Schwarm (Northern Iowa)
N/A Aaron Cashman (Iowa)
The biggest question of the tournament is whether or not Lee actually goes. He’s fresh off a dominating performance after winning the US Senior National Championships and qualifying for the Olympic Trials in April. Can he amp himself up enough for two big tournaments two weekends in a row? The dual schedule picks up in a couple of weeks and he undoubtedly will be going to a couple of international tournaments to try and pick up placement points for freestyle. He’s going to need rest, but when and where is what we don’t know.
On the other hand, Tom and Terry Brands and Spencer have been quite adamant about the college regimen being his primary source for training. What better way to stay savvy than to potentially face his NCAA finals counterpart, #2 Jack Mueller again Monday night? Mix in #3 Glory and this turns into a tough little weekend. Lee is also eyeing a Hodge Trophy and the handful of matches this weekend has to offer can go a long way to helping that dream materialize.
If Lee is a no-go, Aaron Cashman will slide into the starting spot and represent Iowa. He’s going to have a bumpy road ahead, but he has a legit shot at reaching the quarterfinals unscathed. With a good showing he can even find himself sitting in the semi-finals against Mueller or a rematch against Glory.
#1 Austin DeSanto (Iowa)
#2 Seth Gross (Wisconsin)
#3 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern)
#9 Travis Piotrowski (Illinois)
#11 Noah Gonser (Campbell)
N/A Paul Glynn (Iowa)
N/A Gavin Teasdale (Iowa)
Austin DeSanto is going to have every opportunity to hold onto his #1 ranking and he’s going to have to earn it. #2 Seth Gross and #3 Sebastian Rivera (who has beaten Spencer Lee twice) have put a bullseye on DeSanto’s back and are looking to knock him down a peg or two.
Whoever comes out on top of this tournament will be ranked #1.
If the seeding committee sticks to the individual rankings we should see a semi’s matchup between Gross and Rivera, which will be pure fireworks. Gross is looking to avenge his loss a few weeks ago to Austin so I fully expect him to carpet bomb his way through his side of the bracket until he reaches Rivera… and even then, I think (and hope) that ol’ Sebastian is in for a rude awakening.
But if Rivera somehow comes out on top, I’m willing to bet nothing would make Austin happier than to avenge Lee and fireman’s carry Rivera into oblivion. We can all dream, can’t we?
#5 Dom Demas (Oklahoma)
#7 Josh Heil (Campbell)
#8 Max Murin (Iowa)
#9 Tristan Moran (Wisconsin)
#12 Michael Blockhus (Northern Iowa)
N/A Carter Happel (Iowa)
N/A Just Stickley (Iowa)
If the rankings hold par, Murin could run into #7 Heil in the semis, but other than that he will probably have a favorable draw up until that point. He’s looking for his 2nd consecutive Midlands finals, but he’ll have a tough matchup with Heil if he makes it that far. Heil is a 2x NCAA qualifier, but has made a bit of a leap this year after wrestling last year at 149lbs.
Last year’s 4th place finisher, Dom Demas, is going to snag the #1 overall seed and will more than likely face the winner of the Murin/ Heil semi-final bout. This is going to be a hell of a test of Murin, but if he’s able to reach the finals again and hang tough with Demas, it’ll go a long way to showing how far he’s come since last season.
#1 Austin O’Connor (North Carolina)
#3 Pat Lugo (Iowa)
#7 Max Thomsen (UNI)
#8 Yahya Thomas (Northwestern)
#9 Griffin Parriott (Purdue)
#13 Mike Carr (Illinois)
#14 Mike D’Angelo (Princeton)
#17 Cole Martin (Wisconsin)
N/A Jeren Glosser (Iowa)
N/A Vince Turk (Iowa)
Lugo is a returning All-American and is undoubtedly the starter for Iowa, but keep your eyes on Jeren Glosser and Vince Turk who are both aiming to upset the applecart and fight their way into the lineup. Turk didn’t place in last year’s version, but he’s been looking great so far when wrestling unattached. Likewise, Glosser finished 5th a year ago while up at 157 and had perhaps the best run of the entire tournament from someone that didn’t win it. He lost in the opening round, then rattled off eight consecutive wins to get himself into medal contention.
Lugo is undefeated on the year, but he’s been far from dominate. If Glosser, and more specifically Turk, place higher we could see a shakeup at 149.
Regardless of who Iowa sends out, this is #1 O’Connor’s tournament to lose. He’s 6-0 on the year with a 100% bonus rate. He’s plowing through the field and it’s all but guaranteed that either Glosser or Turk are going to run into him early on.
Either way, if Lugo wants to lock down his starting spot and really crank up the heat, it starts tomorrow. If he manages to win this whole thing he could be the new #1 ranked wrestler at 149.
#1 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern)
#5 Quincy Monday (Princeton)
#8 Kaleb Young (Iowa)
#9 Kendall Coleman
#10 Anthony Artalona
#17 Justin Thomas (Oklahoma)
#19 Justin Ruffin (SIU Edwardsville)
#20 A.C. Headlee (North Carolina)
Young has tumbled down the rankings after losing to #3 David Carr (ISU) and most recently, #5 Quincy Monday during the Princeton dual. This was the tourney last year that KY showed his true potential and racked up bonus point wins. We need him to find that once more and do it again. But in order to make the finals for a rematch against #1 Deakin, he’s going to have to exercise his demons and get revenge on Monday, who tore him apart a few weeks back. KY has the ability to win this thing, after all he did beat Deakin twice last year in the NCAA’s, but he won’t do it unless he gets to his offense early and often. He needs a wake up call and it starts here.
#2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa)
#3 Evan Wick (Wisconsin)
#11 Cael McCormick (Army)
#16 Quentin Perez (Campbell)
#18 Shayne Oster (Northwestern)
N/A Jeremiah Moody (Iowa)
This will be the Marinelli & Wick show. I don’t expect anyone to seriously challenge these guys on their way to another collision course in the finals. This is turning into one of the great rivalries in college wrestling and Monday night will add another chapter to their heated careers.
The Bull has now beaten the Wisconsin star four consecutive times (each by two points or less) and you damn well know Wick is getting sick and tired of the domination. Marinelli always seems to rise to the occasion and I expect another low scoring brawl between these two in the finals.
#3 Michael Kemerer (Iowa)
#4 Dylan Lydy (Purdue)
#5 Bryce Steiert (UNI)
#10 Joey Gunther (Illinois)
#11 Ben Harvey (Army)
#20 Clay Lautt (North Carolina)
Kemerer is a 2x Midlands champ and is looking for his third crown in four attempts. I don’t see anybody that should stand in his way until he reaches the finals, where he could run into UNI’s All-American, #5 Bryce Steiert or #4 Dylan Lydy from Purdue. FWIW, Steiert got smoked by Marinelli in last year’s NCAA’s medal round, 9-3.
Kemdog has been fantastic this year, but Steiert will mark his toughest competition to date. It’ll be a fantastic barometer to see how he really stacks up at his new weight.
Also, keep on eye on former Hawkeye, Joey Gunther (Ill). He’ll probably sang a #3 seed and could face off with Steiert in the semis. Another name to eyeball is #11 Ben Harvey (Army). For whatever reason, these Army wrestlers always scare me a bit. They’re tough, strong, and never back down. I don’t imagine Harvey challenging Kemerer, but he could rattle the cage if he ends up on the other side of the bracket.
#4 Taylor Lujan (UNI)
#10 Tanner Harvey (American)
#12 Noah Stewart (Army)
#13 Trevor Allard (Bloomsburg)
#14 Nelson Brands (Iowa)
#19 Travis Stefanik (Princeton)
#20 Johnny Sebastian (Wisconsin)
N/A Cash Wilcke (Iowa)
N/A Abe Assad (Iowa)
After Nelson dropped his match to #19 Travis Stefanik, 7-6, in the Princeton dual, he’s plummeted down the rankings and it more than likely cost him the #2 overall seed for this tournament. He’ll probably snag a #3 or #4 seed and could have a rematch with Stefanik if they both advance to the semis, depending on where Stefanik is seeded. With that said, even if Nelson is labeled the Iowa rep, he’s far from locking it down. Cash Wilcke is a former 2018 Midlands champ and is desperately trying to reclaim is starting spot in the Hawkeye lineup. To do so, he’ll probably have to go through Johnny Sebastian, who beat him 7-5 SV2, earlier this month.
Nelson and Cash will probably be on opposite sides, so if they face off in the finals, that could be the deciding factor for who ultimately starts for the rest of the season.
Also, Abe Assad is entering in the for first time. He’s redshirting, but he definitely has the ability to hang with the top guys here. He’s 11-2 while wrestling unattached.
Either way, this is probably #4 Taylor Lujan’s weight to lose. He’s a 2x round of 12 guy and he’s been wrestling at a high level this year. He’s at the top of this class until someone knocks him off.
#2 Jacob Warner (Iowa)
#3 Patrick Brucki (Princeton)
#7 Thomas Lane (Cal Poly)
#8 Christian Brunner (Purdue)
#9 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma)
#16 Jay Aiello (Virginia)
N/A Jacob Holschlag (UNI - 2018 AA)
N/A Zach Glazier (Iowa)
N/A Connor Corbin (Iowa)
Warner has looked like a man on a mission to start the season and already owns a win over #3 Patrick Brucki. However, Warner crapped the bed last year after looking solid early on. Tanner Sloan was last year’s culprit that wrecked his tournament and thankfully won’t be participating this time around, but there are a few other’s that could give him trouble.
Warner has to come out and stay aggressive. When he knocked off Brucki he proved to the NCAA landscape that he can beat anyone, anywhere, anytime. But now, he needs to harness that and do it on a consistent basis.
Perhaps it’s stupid to say that a returning All-American needs a coming out party, but this is exactly what this weekend represents with Warner. A win here could shift him into the next gear and get him primed for a late push in March.
Also, our redshirt freshman, Zach Glazier, will be making his Midlands debut. Glazier is 14-0 on the year while wrestling unattached, but this is easily the toughest competition he’ll face (probably all year).
Furthermore, let’s keep an eye on 2018 5th placer, Jacob Holschlag (UNI). He’s been hurt much of the year, but there’s some rumblings that he could make his return this weekend.
#4 Tony Cassioppi (Iowa)
#5 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin)
#8 Matt Stencel (Central Michigan)
#12 Jere Heino (Campbell)
#15 Carter Isley (UNI)
N/A Aaron Costello (Iowa)
Last year, Big Cass brought home 7th place, this year he’ll more than likely enter with the #1 seed. He already owns a win over returning AA, #5 Trent Hillger (Wiscy), but he also got stuck by #8 Matt Stencel in :43 seconds and majored by #12 Jere Heino (Campbell) at this very same tournament last year.
Point is, this isn’t a lock for Cass and he needs to be ready to go. He has the firepower to do so, now he needs to put it together for an entire tournament and get it done. I officially hopped on the Cassioppi Express a couple weeks back, but a win here will certainly set that locomotive full speed ahead.
Though I doubt it’ll happen, but it is possible that the Hawks push all ten guys into the finals for Monday night. It would be an outright success and a dominating team win if that happens, but I don’t think it will.
Realistically, I think we can match or slightly surpass last year’s six, but even if we don’t, I can’t see another team staying with us down the stretch. There simply isn’t anyone else in the fray that has the depth up and down the lineup like we do.
This will be a big test for us and is perhaps the toughest Midlands tournament over the past several years. There’s potentially NCAA finals matchups at 125, 133, 149, 157, and 165. And while the team race shouldn’t be that close, Monday’s action with the semi-finals and finals will be explosive, can’t miss wrestling action.
Get ready Hawk fans, it’s going to a be wild ride!