Hoping to put a poor first semester behind them, the Cyclones are at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Northwestern’s campus this week for the 54th edition of the Midlands Championships. For decades Midlands was the tournament of the season, a place where the top D-1 wrestlers took on the best talent from other divisions as well as former NCAA champs who had graduated and moved on to the world stage. However, with the emergence of the Southern Scuffle and fewer alumni showing up, Midlands was looking pretty poor just a handful of years ago, with few elite teams and wrestlers making the trip. But in the past two years there has been a resurgence in attendance, as seen by this year’s list of schools.
Midlands is unique in a couple of ways. The first is that schools are allowed to bring more than ten wrestlers - Iowa State has fifteen registered - and coaches can name whatever set of those ten they want as scorers for the purposes of the team trophy. For example, Coach Jackson might decide not to have Carson Powell’s points count at 184 but instead have both Marcus Simmons and Kyle Larson as scorers for Iowa State. This leads to a much more dynamic team race than what you see at other tournaments. The second is that Midlands allows teams to bring redshirting freshman along to compete unattached in somewhat large numbers. Because of this Midlands is often where future NCAA All Americans and Champions get the first big wins of their career. Iowa State is bringing two such redshirts to Evanston, Ian Parker at 133 and Kannen Storr at 141.
When: Dec 29th & 30th, All Day
Where: Evanston, Illinois
Stream/TV: Early rounds will stream on BTN2go (links below). Finals on BTN @ 8:00PM EST on Friday
Brackets/Live Results: Trackwrestling
Session I begins at 9:30AM CST on Thursday
Session II begins at 7:00PM CST on Thursday
Session III begins at 12:00PM CSTon Friday
|125||Markus Simmons 16/14/14||13-4|
|133||Earl Hall 11/10/15||9-3|
|149||Chase Straw UR/UR/18||12-6|
|174||Lelund Weatherspoon 12/9/12||12-4|
Key Wrestlers to Watch
125 - Marcus Simmons
Simmons has entered the rankings in the past few weeks after an 8th place finish at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Midlands is a tougher and deeper tournament that Cliff Keen so if Simmons is able to get back on to the podium he’ll cement himself in to the rankings for the year as well as putting himself in excellent position to earn an NCAA tournament bid.
133 - Earl Hall
Hall has struggled so far in his senior campaign. He has some nice wins but also some headshaking losses. While a lack of consistency has been a hallmark of his Cyclone career he is seeing himself on the losing side of a lot of tight matches where he was favored. Midlands is an opportunity for Hall to get back on track for a third All American honor this march. Hall is seeded 4th and won’t see a ranked wrestler until the semifinals so anything short of a trip to the semis and a 5th place or better finish would do damage to Hall’s seeding in March.
141 - Kanen Storr
At 19-3 on the season, Storr is putting together an extremely impressive redshirt season. But a lot of those wins are over other redshirts or lower division opponents. At Midlands the competition will be a lot stiffer than the opens Storr has been at so far this season. So we’ll get the chance to get a read on where Storr really stands and if he is going to be the future at this weight. This happens to be one of the shallower weight classes so a spot on the podium is not totally out of the question for Storr. And if he ends up on the top half of said podium there will probably be a temptation for the coaches to pull his redshirt for second semester. Especially if Meeks and Moreno continue to struggle.
157 - Colston Diblasi
Funkmaster Diblasi has a pin or be pinned approach to wrestling and his matches are always worth a watch. Colston has a win over 13th ranked Archie Colgan of Wyoming and took fourth ranked Michael Kemerer of Iowa to the brink in a 7-8 loss a few weeks ago. However, he has not yet shown up in the rankings due to some bad early losses - including getting pinned in 14 seconds by a juco wrestler at the UNK Holiday Open. Inconsistency is to be expected of freshman so a few good wins to show he’ll be more up than down this season would probably mean a spot in the rankings next week. And if he can make it to the podium he’ll be well on his way to an NCAA allocation.
Quean had a good showing in Vegas after Thanksgiving and picked up one of ISU’s only wins in the Iowa dual a week later. He’s coming in to this tournament with an 11 seed and if he can wrestle to that he’ll keep himself on track to earn an NCAA qualification. But if he can go one spot deeper and earn himself a spot on the podium he will likely see himself in the rankings for the first time in his career next week.
This is a deep tournament and the Cyclones will be missing their best wrestler, so a top team finish isn’t in cards. But at 133 and 174 the Cyclones have wrestlers who are looking to help their seeding in March. At 125, 149, 157, 165, 197, and HWT there are a set of wrestlers who have the chance to put themselves in position for an NCAA allocation. And at 141 Meeks and Moreno are just looking to show that they can salvage their senior season. A poor outing would cement this as a lost season but there’s a lot that could be gained with a strong performance over the next two days.
The Cyclones will take on Arizona State in a Beauty and the Beast event at 6:30PM on Friday, January 6th.