Wrestling Notebook: NCAA rule change boosts Midlands
By DAN McCOOL ? email@example.com ? December 18, 2008
The NCAA has helped toughen the field at the Midlands wrestling tournament in Evanston, Ill.
Because of a new qualifying standard that went into effect for this season's NCAA Championships, teams that haven't competed at Midlands for years will be back for the 46th annual event Dec. 29-30 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Tournament founder and director Ken Kraft has seen entry numbers go past the favored 350 mark as teams such as Arizona State, Old Dominion, Oregon State and Maryland are back in the competition.
"A lot of it is driven by the new NCAA qualifying," said Kraft, who was a member of the NCAA rules committee when the old process was formulated that produced a number of qualifiers for each conference or region to decide the 330-man NCAA field.
The field is culled from nine conference tournaments such as the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences and two regionals, including Northern Iowa's West Regional.
The only automatic qualifiers are the champion of each weight class. A selection committee determines the remaining 220 qualifiers. The tougher the Division I competition faced and one's ability to get ranked will help a wrestler find himself in St. Louis for the national tournament in March.
"If you do well in a tough tournament, whether it's preseason, midseason or whatever, you have a much better chance of being selected to go to the NCAA tournament," Kraft said.
The quest for tough competition has pushed Midlands entry totals to the limit, Kraft said.
"We're filled up," Kraft said. "I'm hopeful that our numbers will be south of 400. We're looking to do 360-370. I've had a bunch of them (ask), and I've had to gently tell them, 'Sorry.' "
The Midlands took a hit recently with the advent of the Southern Scuffle in North Carolina.
Several years ago, there was a tournament in Ames at the same time as the Midlands called the Midwest Championships. It was started by Iowa State coach Harold Nichols, later moved to Des Moines and then went away.
"Nick got a little mad at us (one year) because every referee didn't concede to him," Kraft said, explaining why Nichols started his own tournament. "He was going to run us out of business. He made that comment to me."
Kraft thinks Midlands fans new and old are in for a treat this year.
"It's going to be a barn burner," Kraft said. "It's not an average Midlands."