We have already posted the pre-seeds that were originally released on Tuesday and then updated today. Today we will begin our more in-depth look at the weight classes. I will go ahead and remind you Tony Hager and Kirk Crittenden from IAwrestle will be providing coverage for IAWrestle.com this weekend, and you can catch all of the action on BTN2GO.com.
What: The 52nd Ken Kraft Midland championships
When: December 29-30, action starting at 9:30 AM
Watch: BTN2GO.com – You will only need to have the log in information for your satellite provider to watch
Online: Right here on IAWrestle.com, we will have a separate post for each session.
Twitter: @IAwrestle or @Hagertony
Audio:IA Wrestle will also be providing an audio stream for the Midlands tournament, with more details to come!
Who:7 Teams Ranked in Top 20 (#1, 5, 9, 10, 14, 17, 19)
3 Top Ranked Wrestlers
66 Wrestlers Ranked in Top 20
Thomas Gilman is still sitting as the #1 pre-seed and with no Jesse Delgado I don’t think he will be moving down for any reason at this point. This weight features four really talented DI wrestlers in Gilman, Dance, Martinez, and Rodriguez. I fully expect if Gilman wrestles the same way he did at last year’s tournament when he won the whole thing, he should at least repeat to the finals, the question will be can he beat Joey Dance of Virginia Tech. Dance finished 4th last year at the NCAAs, and already has a win in a big way over UNI’s Dylan Peters. Dance has been solid so this is probably one of my most anticipated matches.
Ryak Finch of Grand View will be a bit of a dark horse in this bracket. I don’t want to go out and say he is going to run the table, but Finch is a wrestler who was at one time a DI athlete and so he has the talent. Under coach Mitchell at Grand View he has been high successful and I think he should be a fun wrestler to watch.
This should be a fun weight for Cory Clark, even though he has moved down to the #3 seed he has some very intriguing matchups. Ryan Taylor is another wrestler who has moved up from the 125 class and last year Clark had a big win, and a not so good loss against Taylor. Taylor made his weight bump in season so Clark may have a slight advantage there (though the winter break could have helped Taylor catch up). If Clark gets by Taylor in their quarterfinal match, he will get Jarrod Garnett, a wrestler who really helped propel Gilman’s status last season.
Last year when Gilman beat Delgado, it felt like a good win, but his finals win over Garnett helped cement that Gilman could be a legitimate contender at his weight. Clark beating Garnett could help cement that he’s one of the top guys in this 133 weight class. Those two wins can set up a finals show down with one of the few wrestlers to hand Tony Ramos a loss last year, AJ Schopp. If Clark wins this tournament he will enter into a very real NCAA champion contender.
Josh Alber is another interesting wrestler to watch here. With starter Levi Wolfensperger out of the UNI lineup a big tournament from Alber could propel him into a starting spot this year (forgoing the redshirt).
Josh Dziewa has moved into the top three here with Richard Durso going up to 149 this year. Dziewa could run into in Shyheim Brown of Maryland in the quarterfinals, which could be a tough matchup. Getting thorough that match will reward him with facing Devin Carter of Virginia Tech. Dziewa making the finals would shock a lot of people given his last year struggles, but I would like Dziewa needs to finish top three to keep his momentum going this season.
Brandon Wright of Grand View could of course ruin a Dziewa-Brown matchup and if Wright does manage to reach the quarterfinals with these pre-seeds I would be very impressed. Being that Wright is from the NAIA it’s hard to peg what he needs to do to have a successful tournament, but being as he is one of the best of his division, I think he can have a successful tourney.
Seth Gross is a pretty interesting pick for Tom Brands to bring along to this tournament. I would assume Brands thinks that A) he’s earned it so far, and B) this would be great experience for the potential starter next year. For me the 141 bracket looks tough so any wins he does notch I am probably going to come away with impressed. I think the #10 seed Joey McKenna could end up finishing really well in this bracket, so that should say something to the depth of this field. If Gross makes the stand, I am going to be happy.
This weight can go a long way into helping Tom Brands determine his starter for the rest of the season. The good news is that even though they are on opposite sides of the bracket, I wouldn’t rule out that Brandon Sorensen and Brody Grothus could meet in the finals. Sorensen will have the toughest route having to go through Richard Durso and NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis, but I think he can do it. Durso is having a fairly solid redshirt season, but with Sorensen being a true 149, I think he has a real chance at making the semifinals. There he would face Tsirtsis, who really didn’t impress me with his win over Short in the Minnesota dual. You can look at that match as “a win is a win”, but if you wrestle a lot of tight matches, you open yourself up to getting upset, and Sorensen finished 3rd in a very similar bracket a year ago, so he’s battle tested in this tourney.
Grothus will need to put together a consistent tournament. I think Brands really like Grothus (not saying he likes him more), but he wants to see the same Brody Grothus every time he steps on the at, and he wants it to be the good Grothus. If Grothus wrestles to his potential he should make his semifinals where he would run into a David Habat (the same guy he pinned last year). Not saying he will pin the All-American this year, but I think Grothus is more than capable of winning. Even if they don’t meet up, I still think it is possible for one wrestler to assert himself over the other.
This is another potential weight battle between Mike Kelly and Edwin Cooper. I am particularly intrigued by Cooper’s current draw at the #9 pre-seed. His pre-quarters match would be against Chad Welch of Purdue and a 9 seed beating an 8 seed is just a minor upset. A win there puts him against Isaiah Martinez of Illinios, who to me is the most underwhelming #1 seed in this tournament. I get Martinez’s impressive credentials out of high school, and I get that he is 11-0 this year. But to me Cooper can rack up some early takedowns on guys and if he is able to get an early score on Martinez it could completely change the match. I find this weight a little weaker than the rest so I think this could be an upset heavy weight.
Similarly with Kelly he’s on the same side as Cooper and Martinez. The #4 seed John Staudenmayer brings a 9-5 record to the tournament, so I also see him as very beatable. My pick is that the Hawks get one into the quarterfinals and I hope that the “who’s the starter” question gets answered for this weight as well.
I have been really riding the “Iowa bias” to this point in the preview, and it will slow down at this weight. Nick Moore has a tough task this weekend. Last year he made the finals and lost to a pretty solid Steve Monk, and this year he draws graduate Nestor Taffur as a quarterfinals opponent. A win over Taffur would look really nice, and then he would get Taylor Walsh of Indiana. Walsh has been a pinning machine ever since he bumped from 149 to 157 and he has continued that into his new 165 weight class. I don’t think he pins Moore, but that is a tough match for him to win. Moore still could win, but a finals showdown with Issac Jordan (a wrestler that beat both Derek St. John and James Green as a freshman) is a punch in the gut. So far this looks like the toughest draw for a Hawk to claim a title.
Three Hawkeyes in the top 9 pre-seeds, this could be a fun weight to watch. Mike Evans is the favorite, and I almost said overwhelming favorite, except one guy stands out in this field (aside from the Iowa guys) and that’s Zach Epperly. Coming into this season I would have said that between Mike Evans-Matt Brown-Robert Kokesh-Logan Storley they would lose one, *maybe* two, matches to a wrestler outside of their group of four. Zach Epperly beat Matt Brown in overtime and now I have to think he is a legitimate threat to beat Evans, even though I am taking Mike all the way.
Alex Meyer is the #6 seed so he could face Epperly in the quarterfinals. I would really like to see Meyer face Epperly, and hope he wins as next year these could be two of the top wrestlers at this weight once the Big Four graduate. Realistically Meyer wrestling to pre-seed at 6th would be good, finishing 5th or above is a great finish for him.
As for the #9 seed Burke Paddock I am not sure what we should look for out of the true freshman. For one we expect to see Paddock at 165 next year, so it’s hard to gauge how these losses should really be valued for next season. I could make it really simple and say the experience is the biggest thing Paddock needs to take away from this tournament, and any upsets is just gravy. I am not sure if Paddock will place or not, but I do think he should notch a couple wins.
This could be Iowa’s Sammy Brooks’s coming out party. Well maybe that is not the proper terminology, this could really put Brooks on the map. A lot of the industry experts still favor Gabe Dean to win the NCAA title, but with a Midland title we could see more of those guys saying it will be over Sammy Brooks (now whether we think Sammy can win the whole darn thing is a different matter). A title this weekend could go a long ways in boosting the March resume for Brooks, so I really hope he puts something good together. If he ends up wrestling to seed I still won’t be too upset, the guys at #1 an #2 are very solid wrestlers and all that matters is that Brooks beats them come March.
Nathan Burak earns the #1 pre-seed and I don’t see that changing as long as he ends up wrestling, the question is will he be 100% healthy. I think even a healthy Burak is going to have tough time winning this tournament. #2 pre-seed Alex Polizzi and #4 Branden Atwood both have wins over Burak in their careers and they are the potential semifinal and final opponents for him. In other words a tournament win would probably tell you Burak is good to go for the year.
Another sleeper in this tournament is Iowa Central’s Patrick Downey at the #10 pre-seed. Downey has wins over both Iowa (Klapprodt) and UNI (Bartel) this year and I think there is a good chance that he sneaks his way up and out-wrestles his seed.
Kris Klapprodt is also supposed to be going for Iowa and as if Iowa didn’t already have interesting story lines at 149 and 157, this “will Burak-won’t Burak wrestle” situation going on is making fans uncomfortable. It’s is still unknown to most on whether Burak is dinged up, and if he is going to be 100% to give Iowa a shot at a team title. Kris Klapprodt can go a long way into easing fans anxiety by putting on a show next week and picking up some good wins.
If Bobby Telford brings his offense to Evanston next week he will be bringing home top honors. If Telford makes the quarterfinals, he could run into Connor Medbery, who has a win in his career over Telford. After that test he would face Mike McMullan in what would be his third Midlands finals. McMullan has gotten the better of Telford for the most part in college, but Telford has shown that he can beat McMullan. If these two heavyweights reach the finals a lot of eyes will be on these two as the winner could end up the #1 ranked heavyweight.
True freshman Sam Stoll is also supposed to be in the list of contenders for the University of Iowa. Stoll comes in with only three losses (two of those to Mellon of Missouri) and this will be one of those tournaments Iowa fans can start to figure out what they have in store for next year. Of all the true freshmen I would say the big tournament experience factor matters most for Stoll. These matches will be key in helping him along his learning curve for next season.