The Midlands Championships has long been one of the nation's most-anticipated collegiate wrestling events. This year's event, which takes place Tuesday-Wednesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena on the campus of Northwestern University, is no exception. The field for the 47th Midlands Championships is expected to be loaded with talent and include four of the nation's top seven teams, three NCAA individual champions, eight wrestlers who have reached the NCAA finals, and close to 30 All-Americans. Below is a weight-by-weight breakdown of this year's event. Please Note: This preview was done prior to the release of the seeds and the field of wrestlers is subject to change. 125: Northwestern's Brandon Precin, who is redshirting this season, will look to win his second straight Midlands title. He won the Eastern Michigan Open earlier this season with a victory over No. 5 Eric Morrill of Edinboro. No. 7 Jarrod Garnett of Virginia Tech, a returning NCAA qualifier who went 38-8 as a true freshman, is 7-0 this season. Matt McDonough of Iowa, who is ranked No. 8, has been impressive in the early part of the season while going 9-0. No. 13 Andrew Long of Iowa State has a couple of tournament titles under his belt this season. His only loss has come to McDonough. No. 14 Matt Steintrager of Central Michigan, a senior and first-year starter, is 5-0. No. 16 Ben Kjar of Utah Valley placed eighth at the Midlands last season and was seventh at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational this season. No. 17 Jason Lara of Oregon State is 16-2 with one of those losses coming to Kjar. No. 18 Jasen Borshoff of American is 9-1with his only loss coming to Steintrager. 133: Defending Midlands champion Dan Dennis, who is ranked No. 4, is back to defend his title. He is 9-0 this season. No. 5 Nick Fanthorpe of Iowa State was a Midlands runner-up to Dennis last season and enters this season's event with only three matches under his belt this season. No. 6 Scotti Sentes of Central Michigan, who earned All-American honors last season as a true freshman at 125 pounds, has been dominant all season, going 7-0 with five pins and two major decisions. Steve Bell of Maryland is returning All-American who is expected to challenge for the title. Bell's only loss this season has come to Sentes by pin at the Journeymen/ASICS Northeast Collegiate Duals on November 28. Wisconsin's Tyler Graff, who is ranked No. 12, is one of the nation's top freshmen. Graff, a four-time Colorado state champion who went 162-1 as a prep wrestler, placed third at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Lou Ruggirello of Hofstra, who is redshirting this season, is a three-time CAA champion with a career record of 99-21. Kyle Hutter of Old Dominion and Kelly Kubec of Oregon State are ranked No. 14 and No. 15 respectively and should figure into the mix. 141: Interestingly, none of the returning Midlands placewinners in this weight class will be competing in the weight class this year. Two-time All-American Jimmy Kennedy of Illinois, who is redshirting this season, moves up from 133 pounds and looks to be the frontrunner in this weight class. Iowa will likely have three wrestlers entered in this weight class who should all figure into the mix: Daniel LeClere, Joe Slaton, and Montell Marion. LeClere was a Midlands champion and NCAA qualifier in 2008. He is currently 7-1 on the season with his only loss coming to No. 2 Nick Gallick of Iowa State in sudden victory. Slaton, like LeClere, had his best season in 2008 when he won a Midlands title and was an NCAA runner-up at 133 pounds. But Slaton lost his starting spot last season after struggling with his weight. He won the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open this season, going 5-0, which is the only event in which he has competed. Marion is 9-0 this season and defeated LeClere, 11-7, in a wrestle-off earlier this season. Another wrestler expected to challenge for the title is returning All-American Alex Krom of Maryland, who is currently ranked No. 10. No. 11 Tyler Nauman of Pittsburgh is a dangerous wrestler who nearly knocked off J Jaggers in the second round of the NCAAs last season, losing in sudden victory. No. 15 Seth Ciasulli of Lehigh and No. 16 Ryan Prater of Illinois are expected to battle for spots on the podium. 149: Iowa's Brent Metcalf, a 2008 NCAA champion and two-time Midlands champion, is the clear frontrunner in this weight class. Metcalf is 9-0 this season with seven pins and a technical fall. Wisconsin's Kyle Ruschell, who is ranked No. 2, was a Midlands runner-up to Metcalf a year ago, losing 14-5 in the finals. Ruschell, a Kentucky native, won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and is 10-0 on the season. No. 3 Kyle Borshoff of American, a returning All-American, has been impressive this season. He is 6-0 and defeated three-time All-American Lance Palmer of Ohio State at the NWCA All-Star Classic. No. 8 Kevin LeValley of Bucknell is 20-3 this season and lost narrowly to Metcalf, 3-2, in a dual meet. Marion Mason of Minnesota, who is ranked No. 9, was one of the nation's top recruits in 2008. This will be his first major test at the Division I level. No. 12 Tony D'Alie of Central Michigan, who placed fourth at the Midlands last season at 141 pounds, is 6-1 this season with his only loss coming to Borshoff. Iowa State's Mitch Mueller is a three-time NCAA qualifier and ranked No. 13. Another wrestler to watch is Oregon State's R.J. Pena, a talented freshman who placed seventh at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. 157: This looks to be the most wide-open weight class at this year's Midlands. No. 5 Steve Fittery of American, who is 13-1 on the season, is the highest ranked wrestler expected to compete in the weight class. Jake Patacsil, who finished up his career at Purdue last season as an All-American, is expected to compete as a post-graduate and should challenge for the title. Patacsil, who placed third at the Midlands last season at 149 pounds, is a monster on the mat. Central Michigan's Steve Brown, who was fifth at the 2008 Midlands at 149 pounds, sent shockwaves through the wrestling world when he defeated NCAA champion Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska on December 19. Minnesota's Jake Deitchler, who earned a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman team at the age of 18, is expected to make his much-anticipated collegiate debut. Deitchler has yet to step on the mat this season but is ranked No. 13. No. 18 Keegan Davis of Oregon State was an NCAA qualifier last season. Purdue's Colton Salazar is a two-time NCAA qualifier and is ranked No. 20. Kyle John of Maryland and Conrad Polz of Illinois could also figure into the mix. 165: This weight class includes four of the nation's top six wrestlers. Wisconsin's Andrew Howe, an NCAA runner-up as a true freshman last season, is ranked No. 2. Howe won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational this season. No. 3 Jon Reader of Iowa State was a Midlands runner-up a year ago and placed fourth at the NCAAs. Reader defeated Howe, 7-5, in the semifinals of the 2008 Midlands. Iowa's Ryan Morningstar, a returning All-American, is the defending Midlands champion in this weight class. Entering this season, Morningstar was 3-0 in his collegiate career against Reader, but fell to the Cyclone for the first time in his collegiate career, 4-3, on December 6. Missouri's Nick Marable, who is ranked No. 6, is a two-time All-American. Marable, who has history of winning tight, low-scoring matches, is 17-0 and has been dominant all season. Of his 17 victories, nine have resulted in bonus points. No. 12 Andy Rendos of Bucknell is a returning All-American who sports a 17-2 record. Rutgers' Scott Winston, a 2009 NCAA qualifier, placed fourth at the 2008 Midlands at 157 pounds. Nick Amuchasteui of Stanford is ranked No. 15 in the country. One non-Division I wrestler to keep your eye on is Colby's Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, a 2009 NJCAA runner-up and the younger brother of former All-American Muzaffar Abdurakhmonov of American. 174: Iowa's Jay Borschel, who has placed second and third at the Midlands, will be looking to capture his first Midlands title this season. Borschel, a 2008 All-American, is 9-0 this season and has earned bonus points in all but one of his matches. Freshman Ben Bennett of Central Michigan beat out defending Midlands champion and NCAA runner-up Mike Miller to earn the starting spot for the Chippewas, forcing Miller up to 184 pounds. Bennett is currently ranked No. 5. No. 6 Mike Letts of Maryland is 15-3 this season with two of those losses coming to No. 1 Mack Lewnes of Cornell and the other to Bennett. He placed fifth at the Midlands a year ago. No. 7 Luke Manuel of Purdue, a two-time NCAA qualifier, placed eighth in this event last year down a weight class at 165 pounds. No. 9 Jordan Blanton of Illinois was fifth at the 2008 Midlands at 184 pounds. Other ranked wrestlers expected to compete in this weight class include No. 11 Duke Burke of Iowa State, No. 12 Dorian Henderson of Missouri, No. 15 Shane Riccio of Bucknell, and No. 18 Robert Hamlin of Lehigh. 184: This is one of the most anticipated weight classes because of its overall strength. It is expected to include seven of the nation's top 12 wrestlers, including No. 1 and No. 2. Missouri's Max Askren, a two-time All-American, is ranked No. 1 but has only competed once this season. No. 2 Mike Cannon of American, also a two-time All-American, was a Midlands champion last year at 174 pounds. Iowa's Phil Keddy, a returning All-American, was a Midlands runner-up last year and is ranked No. 5. John Dergo of Illinois, who is ranked No. 6, is 13-2 this season after moving up from 174 pounds. His only losses have come to No. 1 Askren and No. 4 Kirk Smith of Boise State. Miller, a Midlands runner-up and NCAA runner-up last season at 174 pounds, will get his first major test in his new weight class. He has yet to see an opponent ranked in the top 10 this season. No. 11 David Craig of Lehigh, who was the nation's No. 1 overall wrestler in the country coming out of high school in 2006, has the tools to compete with anyone. Iowa State's Jerome Ward, an NCAA qualifier last season as a freshman, has been wrestling well this season and has a victory over Keddy. Stanford's Zack Giesen won the Reno Tournament of Champions and is ranked No. 13. 197: Iowa State's Jake Varner, a returning NCAA champion and U.S. World Team member in freestyle, is the overwhelming favorite to win the title. Varner is 8-0 this season. The only match this season in which Varner has not earned bonus points was his 5-3 victory over No. 2 Craig Brester of Nebraska at the NWCA All-Star Classic. Hudson Taylor of Maryland, one of the nation's most prolific pinners, has finished third at the NCAAs the last two seasons … but was a disappointing seventh in this event a year ago. Wisconsin's Trevor Brandvold, who is ranked No. 7, defeated Taylor before defaulting out of the tournament. Wynn Michalak of Central Michigan, who finished his collegiate career in 2008 as a three-time All-American and NCAA runner-up, is expected to compete and should challenge. Iowa's Chad Beatty, an NCAA qualifier last season, is 8-1 this season with his only loss coming to Varner. Freshman Brent Haynes is 15-3 and ranked No. 11. Logan Brown of Purdue and Chad Hanke of Oregon State are both nationally-ranked wrestlers who could figure into the mix. 285: This weight class includes five of the nation's top eight heavyweights … and that doesn't even include the wrestler who is No. 1 in the pre-tournament rankings, Aaron Anspach, a 2007 NCAA runner-up for Penn State, or defending Midlands champion and NCAA champion Mark Ellis of Missouri. Lehigh's Zach Rey, who is ranked No. 3, is 13-0 this season. Missouri's Dom Bradley, a Junior World champion in freestyle, is ranked No. 4 and has beaten Ellis in both regular-season meetings this season. Iowa State's David Zabriskie, who placed third at this event last year, is ranked No. 4. Pittsburgh's Ryan Tomei has beaten all comers this season with the exception of Rey, who had defeated the Panther twice. D.J. Russo of Rutgers, who is ranked No. 8, was unbeaten on the season before falling to Tomei (by pin) on December 12. Rider's Eddie Bordas is 13-4 this season and ranked No. 17.Digg | Del.icio.us | Reddit | Newsvine | Email | Print



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