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    Dec. 3, 1997

    1997 Midlands Weight-by-Weight Preview

    The 35th Anniversary of the Midlands Wrestling Championships once again will bring together some of the best wrestlers in the country. This year's tournament will be held Dec. 29-30 in Welsh-Ryan Arena on the campus of Northwestern University. Six of last year's 10 NCAA champions participated in the Midlands, and another All-American field is expected this year. Here's a weight-by-weight preview of the 1997 Midlands Wrestling Championships:

    118 pounds - Defending champion David Morgan (Michigan State) is expected to defend his title this year. Morgan is ranked second in the preseason Amateur Wrestling News/NWCA poll. Iowa State's Cody Sanderson, ranked sixth at 118 pounds, should give Morgan a run for his money. Other top contenders for the title should be Chuckie Connors (North Carolina), Eric Keller (Northern Iowa), Michael Kauamioa (Arizona State) and Steve Garland (Virginia).

    126 pounds - This should be a very wide-open field, led by Iowa State's Dwight Hinson, last year's Midlands runner-up at 134 pounds. He is currently ranked third in the NWCA/AWN poll. Among the contenders could be Edinboro's Kevin Saniga, who finished in fourth place at 118 last year, and 1993 Midlands champion Eric Akin, who finished fourth at 126 last year. Other top challengers should include Danny Felix (Arizona State), Jermaine Wilder (Nebraska) and Dale Eggert (Wildcat Wrestling Club). Eggert finished seventh last year at the age of 39.

    134 pounds - The favorite is two-time defending champion Mark Ironside of Iowa. He needs just three wins to become just the eighth wrestler ever to record 20 wins in his first four Midlands tournaments. This could be one of the toughest brackets as the nation's second-ranked wrestler, Jeremy Ensrud of Oregon, and fourth-ranked wrestler, Northwestern's Scott Schatzman, should be in the field. Also in the field should be Ohio State's Jeff Bucher (ranked No. 5) and Nebraska's Brad Canoyer (ranked No. 6).

    142 pounds - Three-time Midlands champion, and defending 142-pound champion, Cary Kolat is expected to return once again. Kolat won last year's NCAA championships and took second at the world championships. Iowa's Jeff McGinness (ranked No. 3 by NWCA/AWN), Penn's Brent Matter (ranked No. 4), and Central Michigan's Casey Cunningham (ranked No. 5) are also expected to be in this year's field. McGinness won the 1995 Midlands title at 126 pounds.

    150 pounds - This weight class, although dominated by post-collegians, certainly has many familiar names for wrestling fans. Former Iowa State standout Chris Bono is expected to headline this weight class. Bono, now wrestling for the Sunkist Kids, won the 1996 NCAA title and finished second last year, in addition to a runner-up finish at last year's Midlands. Former Indiana 142-pounder Roger Chandler, who finished second at last year's NCAA championships, should also be in the field. In addition, don't count out Charley Branch (a member of the exclusive 20-in-4 club), Illinois' Eric Siebert (ranked No. 2), Iowa's Kasey Gillis (ranked No. 6), Northwestern's Drew Pariano (ranked No. 7) and Lassen College's T.J. Williams, who took fifth place at last year's tournament. Plus, there's the ageless Mike Schmidlin, back for his 15th-straight Midlands.

    158 pounds - Nebraska's Temoer Terry, currently ranked No. 2 by NWCA/AWN, enters as the tournament favorite, but will be tested hard by the 1992 158-pound Midlands champ, Ken Ramsey. Top challengers in this weight class should include Arizona State's Matt Suter (ranked No. 5), Brown's Tivon Abel (ranked No. 7), Central Michigan's Ryan Cunningham and Edinboro's Mark Samples.

    167 pounds - Three-time champion Joe Williams is expected to be back to try for a fourth-straight Midlands crown. Williams is ranked No. 1 at 158 pounds, but will move up a class for this year's tournament. The current top-ranked 167 pounder, Penn's Brandon Slay, is expected to be in the field and should contend for his first Midlands crown. Last year's Midlands 167-pound champion, Casey Strand of Arizona State, defeated Slay in the finals and returns in his quest for back-to-back titles. Other top wrestlers in the field should be Central Michigan's Mike Greenfield (ranked No. 6) and Northwestern's Mark Bybee.

    177 pounds - Defending Midlands champion Aaron Simpson of Arizona State returns to defend his title. He'll be pressed by the current NWCA/AWN No. 1 ranked wrestler, Ohio State's Mitch Clark. Watch for Edinboro's Jim Straight (ranked No. 4), Illinois' Jevon Herman (ranked No. 6), Indiana's Mike Powell (ranked No. 8), Cavalier WC's Jon McGovern (third at last year's Midlands) and Northwestern's Joel Goeden to make some noise in this class as well.

    190 pounds - This weight class could rematch last year's Midlands finalists of Edinboro's Jason Robison and Iowa's Lee Fullhart. Robison won last year's crown, 3-2, but Fullhart knocked off Robison in the NCAA semifinals, 7-4, en route to an NCAA crown. Fullhart is currently ranked No. 1 while Robison is No. 5. Also watch out for Northern Illinois' Jeremy Goeden (ranked No. 6 ), Northwestern's Sam Neider (ranked No. 7) and North Carolina's Scott Stay (ranked No. 8) to contend for the title.

    Heavyweight - Defending Midlands champ and current top-ranked heavyweight Stephen Neal of Cal State Bakersfield is expected to return for a shot at another crown. Be sure to keep an eye on Syracuse's Jason Gleasman, currently ranked No. 4 and a member of last year's U.S. Olympic team. Other top contenders should be Iowa's Wes Hand (ranked No. 6) and VMI's Leslie Apedoe (ranked No. 7). The 1993 190-pounds Midlands champion, Rex Holman, also is expected to be in the heavyweight field.