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Taking an early look at the 2013 Midlands field.

A week after slumping to a dispiriting 24-12 loss #1-ranked Penn State, the Iowa wrestling team is picking themselves up off the mat and heading back into action this weekend, taking on a host of challengers at the 51st Midlands Championships.

WHO: A slew of teams, including Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Illinois, Edinboro, and Michigan.
WHAT: Two-day tournament featuring wrestlers at all 10 weights.
WHERE: Evanston, IL
WHEN: December 29 and December 30
Session I: 9:30 AM Sunday
Session II: 7:00 PM Sunday
Session III: 12:00 PM Monday
Session IV: 8:00 PM Monday
TV: The finals (Session IV) will be live on BTN; I don't know if video coverage of other sessions will be available on Hawkeye All-Access ($$$)
RADIO: AM 800-KXIC (local) or Hawkeye All-Access (national; $$$)
TWITTER: @IowaWRLive, @Hawks_Wrestling, @hagertony, @Andy_Hamilton, @kjpilcher

We'll have coverage of all sessions here at BHGP as well.  The bracket is set to be announced tomorrow morning, but the pre-seeds were released earlier this week, which gives us an idea of what the bracket is likely to look like.  We'll have much more extensive preview thoughts in a little bit, but for now here's a rundown of the pre-seeds at each weight and some brief thoughts about what I want to see out of Iowa at each weight.

Quick refresher: Iowa can name 10 point-scorers for Midlands; those 10 wrestlers are the ones whose results will count when it comes to calculating the overall team scores at the event.  Iowa can distribute those 10 point-scorers however they want, meaning they could have multiple point-scorers at the same weight (although that would mean also having a weight or two with no point-scorers, too).  You don't see that unless a team thinks they're particularly well-stocked at a given weight; I think we might see it from Iowa this year at 125.

"Unattached" means that a wrestler is not an official representative of his university's team.  They don't wear their school's singlets and they can't score points for their school, either.  Typically, wrestlers compete unattached at an event to preserve their redshirt.  In Iowa's case, Brandon Sorenson (a true freshman at 149/157) and Nathan Burak are competing unattached, per Hamilton.  Sorenson is no surprise -- as a true freshman, it makes no sense for him to burn his redshirt unless he could provide Iowa with a significant upgrade at 149 this year.  As noted last week, Burak will be competing unattached at Midlands in order to allow him to preserve the opportunity to take a redshirt this season, if necessary.


1. Jesse Delgado, Illinois
2. Jarrod Garnett, Bison Wrestling Club
3. Cory Clark, Iowa
4. Thomas Gilman, Iowa
5. Dylan Peters, Northern Iowa
6. Nate Tomasello, Ohio State UNATT
7. Ryan Taylor, Wisconsin
8. Rob Deutsch, Rider
9. Kory Mines, Edinboro
10. Joey Dance, Virginia Tech
11. Conor Youtsey, Michigan
12. Jared Germaine, Eastern Michigan

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: At least one finalist.  If the pre-seeds hold, there's a chance that Clark and Gilman could meet in the finals, which would be pretty GO IOWA AWESOME.  Still, that would likely involve Gilman toppling defending NCAA champion Jesse Delgado, which is a tall ask.  Clark seems the more likely finalist, although Garnett, his potential semifinal opponent, would be a significant test.  This weight class should also give us a glimpse of the future: Clark, Gilman, Peters, and Tomasello are all freshmen and all either ranked or were highly-regarded recruits.  These guys could be vying for a spot on the podium at the NCAA Tournament in a year or two.


1. AJ Schopp, Edinboro
2. Tony Ramos, Iowa
3. Mason Beckman, Lehigh
4. Joe Colon, Northern Iowa
5. Tyler Graff, Wisconsin
6. Alan Waters, Missouri UNATT
7. Zane Richards, Illinois
8. Geoffrey Alexander, Maryland UNATT
9. Jose Mendoza, CSU Bakersfield
10. Rossi Bruno, Michigan
11. Dom Malone, Northwestern
12. Devon Lotito, Cal Poly

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: A championship, a bit of revenge, and some dominance.  In that order.  Iowa's best wrestler (arguably) faces perhaps the toughest field at Midlands.  This weight features eight wrestlers in InterMat's top 20, including half of the top ten.  Oh, and there's also one of the top 125ers in recent years, Missouri's Alan Waters, who's redshirting this season (hence the unattached designation) while he moves up to 133.  This weight is pretty stacked.  But it all sets up for a Ramos-Schopp final and a chance for Ramos to a) avenge his only loss this season and b) regain his #1 ranking at this weight.


1. Mitchell Port, Edinboro
2. Richard Durso, Franklin & Marshall
3. Adam Krop, Princeton
4. Shyheim Brown, Maryland
5. Matt Bystol, Columbia
6. Laike Gardner, Lehigh
7. Josh Dziewa, Iowa
8. Todd Preston, Harvard
9. Joey Lazor, Northern Iowa
10. Ethan Raley , Indiana
11. Pat Greco, Northwestern
12. Ryan Fillingame, Adams State

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: Show me something, Josh Dziewa.  This is Josh Dziewa's fourth year at Iowa, albeit his third year of non-redshirt competition and just his first as a starter, and we're still waiting for him to record a signature win as a Hawkeye.  This weight features eight wrestlers from InterMat's top 20, although just three from the top 10 (including Dziewa).  Dziewa got pinned by Port earlier this season but otherwise has no experience against the rest of the field here.  This weight doesn't feature the best of the best (although Port and Durso are both returning All-Americans), but these are the type of guys that Dziewa needs to be able to beat if he's going to reach All-America status this year.  Let's see him start picking up some wins over guys like this to set the table for March.


1. Jason Tsirtsis, Northwestern
2. Darrion Caldwell, RAW 241
3. David Habat, Edinboro
4. Zach Neibert, Virginia Tech
5. Eric Grajales, Michigan
6. Caleb Ervin, Illinois
7. Mitch Minotti, Lehigh
8. Mike Kelly, Iowa
9. Jake Short, Minnesota, UNATT
10. Gabe Morse, Northern Illinois
11. Blake Roulo, George Mason UNATT
12. Brandon Nelson, Purdue

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: Oh christ, just win a few matches, please.  This weight features six wrestlers in InterMat's top 20, but just one in the top 10 (Tsirtsis, #2).  T-shirt the younger, the brother of former Iowa wrestler Alex Tsirtsis, was the top-ranked recruit two years ago and he's been living up to the hype so far.  Midlands also allows wrestlers from the past the chance to dust off their wrestling shoes and take on current wrestlers; the most intriguing guy to do that this year might be Darrion Caldwell, a former NCAA champion (and recipient of an infamous Brent Metcalf shove) suiting up at this weight.  Oh, right, what about Iowa?  I expect so little out of this weight these days that any positive results would be welcome.  Seriously: just win a freaking match or two.


1. Derek St. John, Iowa
2. Taylor Walsh, Indiana
3. Joey Napoli, Lehigh
4. Isaac Jordan, Wisconsin
5. Nick Brascetta, Virginia Tech UNATT
6. Brian Murphy, Michigan
7. Zach Brunson, Illinois
8. Andrew Morse, Northern Illinois
9. Markus Scheidel, Columbia
10. John Greisheimer, Edinboro

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: A title.  Iowa's best wrestler (Ramos) faces a loaded field of challengers at 133, but his main competition for that title (St. John) features a fairly weak group of contenders at his weight.  It features six wrestlers from InterMat's top 20, but just one ranked higher than 7th (DSJ).  Outside of seeing DSJ pick up a championship here to add to his hardware collection, the most interesting thing at this weight might be seeing well-regarded Wisconsin freshman Isaac Jordan in action.


1. Nick Moore, Iowa
2. Taylor Massa, Michigan UNATT
3. Steven Monk, North Dakota State
4. Dan Yates, Michigan
5. Jackson Morse, Illinois
6. Cooper Moore, Northern Iowa
7. Brock Gutches, Southern Oregon
8. Ramon Santiago, Rider
9. Pierce Harger, Northwestern
10. Bo Jordan, Ohio State UNATT
11. Ryan LeBlanc, Indiana
12. Nazar Kulchytskyy, UW-Oshkosh

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: A top-3 finish.  This is a deceptively deep weight class; it features seven guys from InterMat's top 20, all of whom are in the top 13.  It also features two unattached wrestlers who would unquestionably be ranked if eligible; Massa would be a likely top-5 guy at this weight and Ohio State's Bo Jordan might be as well (he was the #1 ranked recruit a year ago).  This weight doesn't feature the likely NCAA finalists (Penn State's David Taylor and Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell), but it does feature a host of guys likely to be vying for All-America honors underneath them.  Nick Moore has one win over top-10 competition this year (Iowa State's Michael Moreno), but this event will give him a chance to take on many more guys from that class, which should give us a much better idea of where he stands in this weight class.  If he truly deserves the #4 national ranking he currently has, he really should be able to make the finals here.


1. Mike Evans, Iowa
2. Lee Munster, Northwestern
3. Hayden Zillmer, North Dakota State
4. Elliot Riddick, Lehigh
5. Bryce Hammond, CSU Bakersfield
6. Cody Caldwell, Northern Iowa
7. Dominic Kastl, Cal Poly
8. Tony Dallago, Illinois
9. Austin Gabel, Virginia Tech
10. Landon Williams, Wartburg College
11. Scott Liegel, Wisconsin
12. Matt Mougin, Northern Illinois

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: It's title or bust here for The 'Stache.  This weight does feature seven guys ranked in InterMat's top 20, but only two are ranked in the top 10 (Evans and Munster) and only one of those two is ranked higher than 9th (Evans).  There's a perception that the top six at this weight (Andrew Howe, Chris Perry, Matt Brown, Robert Kokesh, Logan Storley,  and Evans) are a cut above the rest of the crop at this weight; if Evans really is a member of the gang of six here, he needs to win a title at this weight.


1. Ethen Lofthouse, Iowa
2. Jimmy Sheptock, Maryland
3. Ryan Loder, Northern Iowa
4. Jake Swartz, Boise State
5. Vic Avery, Edinboro
6. Nate Brown, Lehigh UNATT
7. Ophir Bernstein, Brown
8. Jackson Hein, Wisconsin
9. Nick Vetterlein, Virginia Tech
10. Nikko Reyes, Illinois
11. Sam Brooks, Iowa
12. Dominic Abounader, Michigan

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: Give us a reason to believe in you again, Lofty.  This weight features seven wrestlers ranked in InterMat's top 20, plus another (Lehigh's Nate Brown) who would be ranked if eligible.  It also features five wrestlers ranked in the top 10, including three in the top 5; basically, all the top 184ers except Ed Ruth and Kevin Steinhaus are present here.  Lofthouse should be able to beat any of these guys -- he beat Sheptock and Swartz on his way to a 5th place finish at last year's NCAA Tournament -- but with Lofthouse there are always doubts.  Here's another chance for him to silence some of those doubters.  If Brooks does indeed wrestle at this weight (as opposed to 197), then we'll get a taste of what the future might hold for Iowa at this weight -- which could be very exciting.


1. Mario Gonzalez, Illinois
2. Christian Boley, Maryland
3. Nathan Burak, Iowa
4. Alex Polizzi, Northwestern
5. Chris Penny, Virginia Tech
6. Braden Atwood, Purdue
7. Nick Whitenburg, Eastern Michigan
8. Joe Rau, Minnesota Storm
9. John Bolich, Lehigh
10. Donald McNeil, Rider
11. James Fox, Harvard
12. Shane Siefert, UW Whitewater

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: Where is Burak at right now?  This is another weight that isn't particularly loaded; only six wrestlers are ranked in InterMat's top 20 and the highest-ranked of those is just #7 (Gonzalez) in those rankings.  The best of the best at this weight are certainly not at this event.  Still, Nathan Burak has been out of action all season while dealing with a mystery ailment, so this tournament represents a good opportunity to see where he stands right now and what he might be able to offer Iowa this season.


1. Mike McMullan, Northwestern
2. Bobby Telford, Iowa
3. Spencer Myers, Maryland
4. Adam Coon, Michigan
5. J.T. Felix, Boise State
6. Connor Medbery, Wisconsin
7. Adam Chalfant, Indiana
8. Eric Thompson, Grand View (Team name correction)
9. Chad Johnson, Augsburg
10. Adam Fager, Utah Valley
11. Ty Walz, Virginia Tech
12. Ernest James, Edinboro

WHAT I WANT TO SEE FROM IOWA: A finals appearance for Telford and, hopefully, a win.  This is one of the deeper weights at Midlands -- nine wrestlers ranked in the top 20, including seven in the top 10) -- so the path to the finals won't be easy for Telford.  But he owns win over several of the guys in this field (McMullan, Medbery, Chalfant, James) and is eminently capable of making the finals.  If the pre-seeds hold to form and McMullan and Telford both make the finals, look for a close match: both of their previous encounters went to sudden victory, with each man winning one bout.

* * *

In terms of the team race, it should be an Iowa cakewalk -- if Iowa wrestles up to seed.  Based on the pre-seeds, Iowa could/should have six finalists; no one else is predicted to have more than two finalists (again, per the pre-seeds).  If Iowa underperforms and suffers several upsets, then other teams could certainly get into the team title race, but on paper Iowa should be able to add a 23rd Midlands team title to their collection rather easily.  The bigger intrigue is in how several Iowa wrestlers perform against legit competition at their respective weights.  Iowa is a team that hasn't really been tested much this season (outside of the Penn State dual and a few weights in the Edinboro and Iowa State duals); that won't be the case after this weekend.

I'll update this post with the Midlands brackets when they become available and, again, we'll have an even more in-depth preview available on Saturday.