Dec. 26, 2010

48th Midlands Championships
Dates: Wed., Dec. 29 (9:30 a.m. CT) and Thu., Dec. 30 (Noon CT)
Site: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Ill.
TV Coverage: Big Ten Network (tape delay: 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, Jan. 8)
Live Radio Coverage: Takedown Radio

EVANSTON, Ill. -- With four nationally ranked competitors and two more in the starting lineup with only one loss on the year, No. 9 Northwestern is ready to test itself against the nation's best at the 48th annual Midlands Championships, Dec. 29-30 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.

The stellar field at Midlands means the event routinely shapes up to be a precursor to the NCAA Championships in March, and the 48th edition of the tournament is no exception. Eight teams among InterMat's top 15 tournament rankings will be in attendance, along with four top-ranked individuals and five more who boast No. 2 spots in the polls. Joining the fray this season are perennial Big 12 power Oklahoma as well as future Big Ten member Nebraska. Final seeds for the tournament will be determined Tuesday evening.

Fans can purchase all-session passes or individual session passes in advance at the Northwestern ticket office on Tuesday or at the Welsh-Ryan Arena ticket window on the day of the event. An approximate schedule of events is listed below (all times Central):

Wednesday, Dec. 29
Session I: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Session II: 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 30
Session III: Noon-3:30 p.m.
Herbert vs. Askren Super Match: 3:30 p.m.
Session IV (championship, third, fifth-place matches): 7:15 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Live radio coverage of the Midlands is available courtesy of Takedown Radio. A television broadcast of the championship matches will air on tape delay on the Big Ten Network, with the debut coming at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, Jan. 8 and a re-air scheduled for 6 p.m. CT on Friday, Jan. 14 ahead of a live broadcast of Northwestern's home dual match vs. Illinois. The Big Ten Network's Tim Johnson will handle the play-by-play duties for the broadcast with NU volunteer assistant coach and current World Team member Jake Herbert providing color analysis.


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Former NCAA Greats to Do Battle in Midlands Super Match
In addition to the dozens of intriguing matchups that are sure to play out in this year's Midlands Championships, wrestling fans will be treated to one special matchup that won't be found on their bracket sheets. The Midlands Tournament Committee has arranged for U.S. World Team member Jake Herbert to square off with current Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren in a Midlands Super Match. The match, a six-minute folkstyle bout, is expected to go off at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 30, following the semifinal rounds of the Midlands. Click here to listen as TDR's Scott Casber interviews Herbert about the Midlands and his impending match against Askren.

Both Herbert and Askren were two-time NCAA champions and Hodge Trophy winners in their collegiate days at Northwestern and Missouri, respectively. Since then, Herbert has gone on to win silver at the 2009 Wrestling World Championships while Askren has become a successful competitor in mixed martial arts.

Northwestern in the Midlands
Six Northwestern competitors were recognized in the top eight of their weight classes in the list of Top Contenders as announced by the Midlands Tournament Committee on Wednesday. Among them were two No. 2 preseeds -- 2008 Midlands champ and two-time All-American Brandon Precin (125) and 2010 NCAA qualifier Andrew Nadhir at 149 -- as well as a No. 3 in Jason Welch (157). Precin (15-0), who is aiming to become the second Wildcat to win multiple Midlands championships and claim the 16th individual title in school history, is joined in his weight class by defending NCAA and Midlands champ Matt McDonough of Iowa.

Nadhir is unbeaten this season at 14-0 while Welch, sophomore Levi Mele (133), senior Aaron Jones (184) and sophomore Brian Roddy, Jr. (174) all enter the tournament with only one loss on the year. Welch is the only other current Wildcat to have previously placed at Midlands (fifth in 2008, sixth in 2007).

NU will be fielding its full squad in the tournament, which in addition to its 10 scoring competitors will also feature a host of unattached wrestlers looking to make noise in the tournament. A number of true freshmen Wildcats have dominated open tournaments around the region in their redshirt seasons, including Pat Greco and Colin Shober at 141, Pierce Harger (165), Lee Munster (184), Alex Polizzi (197) and Mike McMullan (285).

Last Time Out: NU Tops Instate Foes to Remain Unbeaten
In the Wildcats' last outing, second-ranked Brandon Precin (125) and fifth-ranked Jason Welch (157) each pinned two opponents to lead a Northwestern team that improved to 10-0 on the year with shutout victories over Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Sunday. The 'Cats blanked the Huskies, 38-0, before blowing past host SIUE, 51-0. The 51 points amassed against the Cougars mark the first time since 1986 that Northwestern has topped the 50-point plateau in a dual match.

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