Nov. 29, 2005
2005 Midlands Weight by Weight Preview
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EVANSTON, Ill. -- With one NCAA champion, four NCAA runners-up and a handful of All-Americans from last season returning to the nation's largest pre-nationals tournament, the 2005 Midlands Wrestling Championships looks to be one of the most exciting in recent history.
The 43rd Annual Midlands, hosted by Northwestern University Dec. 29-30, displays some of the finest college wrestling has to offer in a two-day, four-session tournament.
The following is an early look at each class.
125 lbs. -- Defending Midlands champion Nick Simmons of Michigan State appears to be the early favorite entering this year's tournament. Simmons doesn't have an easy road to a repeat, however, as defending NCAA champion Joe Dubuque of Indiana is also in the mix this year. No. 2 Kyle Ott of Illinois, Northwestern's sixth-ranked John Velez and Harvard's 10th-ranked (at 133 lbs.) Robbie Preston rounds out the nationally ranked wrestlers in this year's tournament, and have a legitimate chance of taking the 125-pound title as well. Returning 2004 Midlands placewinners -- Iowa's Luke Magnani (4), Central Michigan's Luke Smith (5) and Adam State's Rob McCabe (8) -- certainly could make a run in this year's tournament.
133 lbs. -- This weight class seems to be a wide-open affair, with a number of talented wrestlers in position to take home the gold. If 2004 Midlands runner up Matt Azevedo of Sunkist Kids returns, he could very well walk away with his first Midlands crown, as he has finished in the runner up spot the last two years. He will be challenged by a host of nationally ranked wrestlers, including Penn's ninth-ranked Matt Valenti, No. 14 Jason Borrelli of Central Michigan and No. 19 Matt Benza of Air Force. Add Iowa's Mario Galanakas, West Virginia's Seth Lisa and Air Force's Chris Helgeson into the pool, and this weight class could be one of the most exciting to follow.
141 lbs. -- Second-ranked and 2004 Midlands champion Nate Gallick of Iowa State is the early favorite, but will be pressed by six returning placewinners from 2004. Six other nationally ranked wrestlers will also compete for the title, including No. 5 Andy Simmons of Michigan State, No. 7 Cassio Pero of Illinois, No. 10 Ryan Lang of Northwestern, Harvard's No. 13 Max Metzler, 14th-ranked Alex Tsirtsis of Iowa and No. 18 Josh Wooten of Northern Illinois. Cal State-Bakersfield's Jeremy Doyle, and Northern Iowa's C.J. Ettleson look to make their respective marks on this year's tournament as well.
149 lbs. -- Another defending Midlands champion returns with hopes of a repeat as Iowa's fourth-ranked Ty Eustice enters the 2005 competition. Two 2004 Midlands placewinners -- Central Michigan's Mark DiSalvo and Michigan State's Darren McKnight -- look to seriously challenge for the 149-pound crown. There are also numerous ranked wrestlers primed to make a run at the title, including Northern Illinois' ninth-ranked Mike Grimes, Purdue's 10th-ranked Doug Withstandley, Cleveland State's 11th-ranked Ryan Hurley and No. 12 Anthony Baza of Cal State-Bakersfield. Donald Lockett, who finished third at 141 lbs. in 2004 while competing for San Francisco State, plans to compete unattached at 149 lbs. in 2005.
157 lbs. -- This weight features a plethora of talented wrestlers and could very well be a preview of the NCAA Championships, as four of the top-5 ranked wrestlers plan to attend. Iowa's top-ranked Joe Johnston, Illinois' second-ranked Alex Tirapelle, Iowa State's fourth-ranked Trent Paulson -- who won the 149-pound title in 2003 -- and No. 5 Brandon Becker of Indiana all look in great shape to run the table in 2005. With the addition of seventh-ranked Matt Lebe of West Virginia, No. 14 Eric Neil of Central Michigan, No. 16 Chris Bitetto of Northern Iowa, No. 20 Fendryk Sherwood of Sacred Heart and Sunkist Kids' Jermiah Jarvis, this weight class looks to be one of the deepest in 2005.
165 lbs. -- This weight class is wide open after 2004 champion Mark Perry of Iowa moved up to 174 lbs. Last year's runner up Travis Paulson of Iowa State becomes the favorite entering the tournament, but the challengers are many. Tenth-ranked Nick Baima is the highest-ranked wrestler other than Paulson this year. Behind him are Michigan State's 12th-ranked R.J. Boudro, Indiana's 14th-ranked Max Dean and No. 18 Mike Poeta of Illinois. Northwestern's Will Durkee enters his first Midlands competition in 2005 and could surprise everyone by going deep into the bracket. Adams State's Evan Copeland, Northern Illinois' Johnny Galloway and West Virginia's Zac Fryling also have a serious chance of making a run at this weight.
174 lbs. -- Northwestern's second-ranked Jake Herbert took home the 174-pound title in 2004 and enters the 2005 tournament as the favorite. He will be challenged by another 2004 Midlands champion, third-ranked Mark Perry of Iowa who moved up to 174 lbs. this year after competing at 165 lbs. in 2004. This weight class becomes even more interesting when you consider six other top-ranked wrestlers -- No. 6 Imad Kharbush of Stanford, No. 8 Matt Palmer of Columbia, No. 13 Dustin Wiles of Penn, No. 14 Christian Arellano of Cal State-Bakersfield, No. 15 Brandon Sinnott of Central Michigan and No. 17 Ken Robertson of Eastern Illinois -- are also in the 174-pound bracket. Add Illinois' Donny Reynolds -- who finished fourth at 165 lbs. in 2004 -- and Michigan State's P.J. Boudro, and the 174-pound class could be one of the most competitive this year.
184 lbs. -- This weight class could be the deepest, with the nation's second- through fifth-ranked wrestlers are expected to compete. Iowa's defending Midlands champion Paul Bradley comes into the 2005 as the man to beat at 184 lbs. The second-ranked Bradley has his work cut out for him, however, as he will compete against Illinois' third-ranked Pete Friedl, fourth-ranked Ben Wissel of Purdue and No. 5 Kurt Backes of Iowa State, who was runner up in 2004. Ninth-ranked Rudy Medini of Rutgers, Northwestern's 13th-ranked Mike Tamillow, No. 18 Ron Howard of Cleveland State and No. 20 Andy Rios of Indiana could all make runs at the title as well. With 2004 placewinner Joe Williams of Michigan State in the tournament as well, the 184-pound weight arguably boasts the most overall talent this year.
197 lbs. -- With a group of very talented wrestlers, the 197-pound class is wide open and will be exciting to follow. While there is no clear-cut favorite entering the tournament, the highest ranked wrestler expected to compete is No. 4 Wynn Michalak of Central Michigan. No. 9 Matt Delguyd finished seventh in 2004 and has a good chance at placing higher in 2005. Indiana's 11th-ranked Brady Richardson, No. 12 Joe Dennis of Cleveland State, No. 14 Tyrone Byrd of Illinois and 20th-ranked Brendan McLean of Air Force also will shake things up, making this weight class perhaps the toughest to predict of the 2005 tournament. Purdue's Nathan Moore and Shippensburg's Corey Jacoby are set to compete in their first Midlands this season.
285 lbs. -- Like the 197-pound weight class, the heavyweight division is another that will be too close to call. Northwestern's fifth-ranked Dustin Fox is the highest ranked wrestler entering the 2005 tournament, and will be a serious contender to take home the gold. Fox will need to deal with No. 7 Matt Fields of Iowa, who placed seventh in 2004. Pat Cummins of the New York Athletic Club could be a late entry in this class, and would receive the top seed if that were the case. No. 8 Payam Zarrinpour of Sacred Heart and 10th ranked Bode Ogunwole of Harvard -- who took third in 2004 -- and Central Michigan's 13th-ranked Bubba Gritter will be right there in the end to compete for the title. With Nebraska's Len Sigman, Purdue's Jake O'Brien and UW-La Crosse's Ryan Allen also expected to compete, the 285-pound crown could be taken home by just about anyone.