Defending champion Iowa leads Rutgers by 2.5 points after first session at Midlands Championships

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Dec. 29, 2016, 6:18 p.m. (ET)
Returning Midlands champion Brandon Sorensen of Iowa controls Alex Kocer of South Dakota State at 149 pounds at the Midlands Championships. Photo by Mark Lundy, LutteLens

EVANSTON, Ill. - Returning team champion Iowa has a 2.5-point lead over Rutgers after the first session at the 54th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, held at Northwestern University. The second session, including the quarterfinals, begins at 7:00 p.m. Central time.

The Hawkeyes are led by a pair of returning Midlands champions, Thomas Gilman at 125 and Brandon Sorensen at 149, both who are No. 1 seeds and advanced to the quarterfinals.

Gilman unleashed his offense with bonus points in every match. He scored a pin in the first round over Donald Keeley of Brown, then added technical falls in the next two rounds, beating Justin Patrick of Buffalo, 24-7 and Jens Lantz of Wisconsin, 25-10.

Sorensen beat Alex Kocer of South Dakota State, 9-2, in his opener. In the round of 16, Sorensen was trailing Oklahoma’s Davion Jeffries, 4-3 after two periods. In the third, Sorensen got an escape to tie it up, then threw Jeffries to his back, securing the pin in 6:18.

In total, Iowa pushed nine wrestlers into the quarterfinals. The other Iowa wrestlers in the quarterfinals are No. 2 seed Michael Kemerer at 157, No. 2 seed Alex Meyer at 174. No. 3 seed Sam Stoll at 285, No. 4 seed Sammy Brooks at 184, No. 7 seed Topher Carton at 141, No. 9 seed Alex Marinelli at 165, plus unseeded Caleb Young at 165

Young, who is competing unattached and not scoring team points for Iowa, knocked off No. 3 seed Clark Glass of Oklahoma) in the third round, 3-2, giving the Hawkeyes two wrestlers in the quarterfinals at the weight class.

Rutgers led after the first two rounds, based on some extensive bonus points scored across their lineup. In the first two matches, three Scarlet Knights had a pin and a technical fall, Anthony Ashnault (141), John Van Brill (157) and Nicholas Gravina (184). Also early on, Brandon Paetzell had a pin at 125, and scoring major decisions were Anthony Giraldo (149) and Willy Scott (165).

Rutgers pushed five into the quarterfinals. Rutgers did suffer a big loss at 133 in the first round, when No. 6 seed Tyson Dippery was pinned by Billy Rappo of Maryland in 4:17. Dippery remains alive in wrestlebacks, bouncing back to pin returning Midlands champion Emilio Saavedra of Old Dominion in 6:18, getting some bonus points for the Scarlet Knights on the consolation side.

ODU’s Saavedra was the No. 5 seed at 133, and upset in the first round this year by Alec Kelly of Columbia, 6-4. Last year, Saavedra won the Midlands at this weight coming in as the No. 13 seed. This year, Saavedra was 0-2 and out in the first session.

Rounding out the top five are Nebraska with 39.5 points, Illinois with 36.5 points and Arizona State, with 34 points.

There are 14 of the Top 25 ranked teams in the most recent NWCA Coaches Poll at Midlands this year, including No. 3 Iowa, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 6 Nebraska, No. 9 Lehigh and No. 10 NC State.

Add in No. 11 Rutgers, No. 12 Illinois, No. 14 Central Michigan, No. 15 Michigan, No. 17 Wisconsin, No. 18 Oklahoma, No. 19 Arizona State, No. 20 South Dakota State and No. 23 Pitt and the event continues its half-century tradition of great wrestling.

2014 NCAA champion Alex Tsirtsis returned to Northwestern as an unattached wrestler for Arizona State, looking to win his second Midlands title. Tsirtsis was 2014 Midlands champion and 2015 Midlands runner-up for the Wildcats, but has transferred to the Sun Devils where he is redshirting. Seeded No. 3 at 157, Tsirtsis won his opener over Eleazar Deluca, unattached from Rutgers, 7-4, then stopped No. 14 seed Jake Danishek of Indiana, 9-3.

A near-shocker in the first round came at 184, when 2016 NCAA champion Myles Martin of Ohio State needed a sudden victory overtime takedown to edge Anthony Mancini of Franklin and Marshall, 12-10. Martin, seeded No. 2, came back stronger in the second round, a 14-4 major decision over Carson Powell of Iowa State. His third round was even better, a pin in 2:31 over Tanner Lynde of Purdue.

Two-time NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois was dominant early at 165 pounds. He ran off a 24-9 technical fall in the first round over Princeton’s Joe Tavoso, pinned Andrew Scott of Northern Illinois in 2:38 in round two, then added an 18-7 major decision over No. 16 Luke Zilverberg of South Dakota State in the third round.

NCAA Div. III champion Riley Lefever of Wabash, the No. 2 seed at 197, opened with a pin in 4:11 over Tyrus Kemp of Central Michigan. In the round of 16, he edged No. 15 seed Iowa’s Cash Wilcke, 5-4 on a stalling call in the last 30 seconds.

Another NCAA Div. III champion Lucas Malmberg of Messiah, the No. 8 seed at 125, knocked off another Div. III star, Zac Denny of UW-Whitewater, 11-5 in the round of 16. He will face No 1 seed Gilman in the quarterfinals.

The brackets are posted on Trackwrestling, and if you go to the dashboard and click on the video camera icon, you can watch the live feed from BTN2Go of that match. You can also go directly to

A great way to keep up to speed quickly is to follow the Twitter feed #Midlands54, as many wrestling media, sports information directors and fans keep a steady stream of information coming as it happens.

At Evanston, Ill., December 29

Quarterfinal pairings

125 pounds
No. 1 Thomas Gilman (Iowa) vs. No. 8 Lucas Malmberg (Messiah)
No. 5 Josh Terao (American) vs. unseeded Christian Moody (Oklahoma)
No. 3 Shakur Laney (Ohio) vs. unseeded Sebastian Rivera (unatt/Northwestern)
No. 7 Brent Fleetwood (Central Michigan) vs. No. 2 Tim Lambert (Nebraska)

133 pounds
No. 1 Zane Richards (Illinois) vs. No. 9 Bryan Lantry (Buffalo)
No. 12 Jamal Morris (NC State) vs. unseeded Luke Karam (unatt/Lehigh)
No. 3 Seth Gross (SD State) vs. unseeded Billy Rappo (Maryland)
No. 7 Cameron Kelly (Ohio) vs. No. 2 Eric Montoya (Nebraska)

141 pounds
No. 1 Matthew Kolodzik (Princeton) vs. No. 8 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)
No. 12 Chad Red (unatt/Nebraska) vs. No. 13 Jack Hathaway (Oregon State)
No. 3 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) vs. No. 6 Russell Rohlfing (CSU-Bakersfield)
No. 7 Topher Carton (Iowa) vs. No. 2 Kevin Jack (NC State)

149 pounds
No. 1 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) vs. unseeded Ryan Deakin (unatt/Northwestern)
No. 5 Sam Speno (NC State) vs. No. 4 Steve Bleise (Northern Illinois)
No. 14 Anthony Giraldo (Rutgers) vs. No. 6 Joey Delgado (Oregon State)
No. 7 Ken Theobold (Rutgers) vs. No. 2 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan)

157 pounds
No. 1 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) vs. No. 8 Joshua Shield (Arizona State)
No. 5 Colin Heffernan (Central Michigan) vs. No. 13 John Van Brill (Rutgers)
No. 3 Jason Tsirtsis (unatt/Arizona State) vs. unseeded T.J. Ruschell (Wisconsin)
No. 10 Alex Griffin (Purdue) vs. No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa)

165 pounds
No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) vs. No. 9 Alex Marinelli (Iowa)
Unseeded Brian Hamann (NC State) vs. No. 4 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)
Unseeded Caleb Young (Iowa) vs. unseeded Lorenzo De La Riva (CSU Bakersfield)
Unseeded Tyrel White (Columbia) vs. No. 2 Chad Walsh (Rider)

174 pounds
No. 1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) vs. No. 9 Micah Barnes (Nebraska)
No. 5 David Kocer (SD State) vs. No. 4 Zac Brunson (Illinois)
No. 3 Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State) vs. No. 11 Austin Dewey (Boise State)
No. 10 Josef Johnson (Harvard) vs. No. 2 Alex Meyer (Iowa)

184 pounds
No. 1 Timothy Dudley (Nebraska) vs. No. 9 Emory Parker (Illinois)
No. 5 Nate Jackson (Indiana) vs. No. 4 Sammy Brooks (Iowa)
No. 3 Pete Renda (unatt/NC State) vs. No. 6 Nick Gravina (Rutgers)
No. 7 Jack Dechow (Old Dominion) vs. No. 2 Myles Martin (Ohio State)

197 pounds
No. 1 Nate Rotert (SD State) vs.unseeded Mason Reinhardt (Wisconsin)
No. 5 Kevin Beazley (Old Dominion) vs. No. 4 Brett Harner (Princeton)
No. 3 Aaron Studebaker (Nebraska) vs. No. 6 Shawn Scott (Northern Illinois)
No. 7 Ryan Wolfe (Rider) vs. No. 2 Riley Lefever (Wabash)

285 pounds
No. 1 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) vs. No. 9 Michael Boykin (NC State)
No. 5 Collin Jensen (Nebraska) vs. No. 13 Jordan Wood (unatt/Lehigh)
No. 3 Sam Stoll (Iowa) vs. No. 6 Ross Larson (Oklahoma)
Unseeded Conan Jennings (Northwestern) vs. No. 2 seed Tanner Hall (Arizona State)

Top 15 Teams after first session
1. Iowa, 45.0
2. Rutgers, 42.5
3. Nebraska, 39.5
4. Illinois, 36.5
5. Arizona State, 34.0
6. Wisconsin, 33.0
7. South Dakota State, 31.0
8. NC State, 30.0
9. Oklahoma, 29.5
10. Central Michigan, 28.0
11. Rider, 26.5
12. Maryland, 25.5
13. Princeton, 24.0
14. Northwestern , 23.5
15. Indiana, 22.5

First round losses by seeds
No. 5 at 133 – Emilio Saavedra (Old Dominion) loss to Alec Kelly (Columbia), 6-4
No. 8 at 149 - Collin Purrinton (Nebraska) loss to Michael Sprague (American), 5-2
No. 8 at 197 – Brad Johnson (Oklahoma) loss to Mason Reinhardt (Wisconsin), 18-7 maj. dec.
No.15 at 133 – Ian Parker (unatt/Iowa State) loss to Cam Sykora (ND State), 16-0 tech. fall
No. 16 at 157 – Evan Wick (unatt/Wisconsin) loss to Colston DiBlasi (Iowa State), 7-1

Second round losses by seeds
No. 4 at 141 – Colton McCrystal (Nebraska) loss to Henry Pohlmeyer (SD State), pin 3:15
No. 5 at 165 – Seldon Wright (Old Dominion) loss to Brian Hamann (NC State), 7-2
No. 6 at 125 – LJ Bentley (Pittsburgh) loss to Travis Piotrowski (Illinois), 7-2
No. 6 at 133 – Tyson Dippery (Rutgers) loss to Billy Rappo (Maryland), pin 4:17
No. 6 at 174 – Christian Brucki (Central Michigan) loss to Devin Skatzka (Indiana), pin 3:38
No. 7 at 165 – Joseph Gunther (Iowa) loss to Tyrel White (Columbia), 3-2
No. 7 at 174 – Ryan Christensen (Wisconsin) loss to Jordan Pagano (Rutgers), 4-0
No. 7 at 285 – Ray O’Donnell (Princeton) loss to Conan Jennings (Northwestern), pin 6:09
No. 9 at 125 – Anthony Rubinetti (Northwestern) loss to Zac Denny (UW-Whitewater), 6-5
No. 9 at 149 – Jordan Laster (Princeton) loss to Ryan Deakin (unatt/Northwestern), 2-1, tb-1
No. 9 at 157 – Justin Staudenmayer (unatt/Brown) loss to James Wolfe (Eastern Michigan)
No. 10 at 133 – Sean Fausz (NC State) loss to Jason Isparides (Northwestern), 10-7
No. 10 at 149 – Kyle Gliva (ND State) loss to John Fahy (SIU-Edwardsville), 8-5, tb-1
No. 11 at 125 – Johnny Jimenez (unatt/Wisconsin) loss to Sebastian Rivera (unatt/Northwestern), 14-6 maj. dec.
No. 11 at 149 – Chris Perez (Indiana) loss to Eric Barone (Illinois), 3-0
No. 11 at 157 – Caden McWhirter (Northern Illinois) loss to T.J. Ruschell (Wisconsin), 12-6
No. 11 at 165 - Rob King (Franklin and Marshall) loss to Jorenzo De La Riva (CSU-Bakersfield), pin 6:04
No. 11 at 285 – Quean Smith (Iowa State) loss to Mike Kosoy (NC State), 3-1
No. 12 at 149 – Andrew Crone (Wisconsin) loss to Joshua Maruca (Arizona State), 4-1
No. 12 at 165 – Kyle Bierdumpfel (Harvard) loss to Demitrius Romero (Boise State), 4-3
No. 13 at 165 – Austin Reese (Ohio) loss to Dustin Williams (Nebraska), 4-2
No. 13 at 133 – Alex Madrigal (Old Dominion) loss to Luke Karam (unatt/Lehigh), 4-3
No. 13 at 184 – Hunter Ritter (Wisconsin) loss to Zac Carlson (SD State), injury 0:22
No. 14 at 165 – Jacen Peterson (Arizona State) loss to Kaleb Young (unatt/Iowa), 3-2

Third round losses by seeds
No. 3 at 149 – Alfred Bannister (Maryland) loss to No. 14 Anthony Garaldo (Rutgers), 2-1, tb-1
No. 3 at 165 – Clark Glass (Oklahoma) loss to Kaleb Young (unatt/Iowa), 3-2
No. 4 at 125 - Ben Thornton (Purdue) loss to Christian Moody (Oklahoma), 6-5
No. 4 at 133 – Earl Hall (Iowa State) loss to Luke Karam (unatt/Lehigh), 2-1
No. 5 at 141 – Cole Martin (Wisconsin) loss to No. 12 Chad Red (unatt/Nebraska), 13-3 maj. dec.
No. 6 at 157 – Dawaylon Barnes (Oklahoma) loss to T.J. Ruschell (Wisconsin), 5-3, sv-1
No. 6 at 165 – Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern) loss to Lorenzo De La Riva (CSU Bakersfield), pin 4:21
No. 6 at 174 - Christian Brucki (Central Michigan) loss to No. 11 Austin Dewey (Boise State)
No. 7 at 157 – B.J. Clagon (Rider) loss to No. 10 Alex Griffin (Purdue), 7-2
No. 8 at 133 - Corey Keener (Central Michigan) loss to No. 9 Bryan Lantry (Buffalo), pin 6:39
No. 8 at 184 – Jordan Ellingwood (Central Michigan) loss to No. 9 Emory Parker (Illinois), pin 5:37
No. 10 at 165 – Grant Henderson (Grand View) loss to Tyrel White (Columbia), 5-4
No. 10 at 285 – Cody Crawford (Oregon State) loss to Conan Jennings (Northwestern)
No. 11 at 133 - Scott Delvecchio (Rutgers) loss to Billy Rappo (Maryland), 8-3