Nebraska puts five in finals, within reach of Iowa for first place at Midlands Championships

By Richard Immel, USA Wrestling | Dec. 30, 2016, 5:38 p.m. (ET)
 Nebraska's Eric Montoya edges SDSU's Seth Gross in the 133-pound
semifinals at the Midlands. Photo: Mark Lundy,
EVANSTON, Ill. – It is a two-horse race as we head into the final session of the 54th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships with Iowa holding a narrow 12-point lead on a surging Nebraska squad.

Of Iowa’s five semifinalists, Thomas Gilman, Brandon Sorensen and Michael Kemerer were able to push through to the championship finals set for 7 p.m. (CT) on the campus of Northwestern University.

Gilman kicked off the semifinal session with a heated 8-6 decision over Josh Terao of American. The top-ranked Hawkeye led throughout the 125-pound tussle, but was legitimately tested for the first time this season. Gilman will face No. 2 seed Tim Lambert of Nebraska for the title in a match that will most assuredly have large team race implications.

NCAA finalist Brandon Sorensen continued his carnage of the 149-pound bracket with a 10-2 major decision win over North Carolina State’s No. 5 seed Sam Speno. The win gives Sorensen his third bonus point victory of the competition. He will go up against All-American Justin Oliver of Central Michigan for the 149-pound crown this evening.

Hawkeye freshman Kemerer notched an impressive 11-2 victory over 2014 NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern in the 157-pound semifinals. He will take on top seed Tyler Berger tonight in the second of two Iowa-Nebraska championship showdowns.

Hawkeye All-American Alex Meyer and heavyweight Sam Stoll were upended in the semifinal round allowing Nebraska to stay within reach of first place. Meyer was toppled by Iowa State All-American Lelund Weatherspoon 9-7 at 174 pounds while Stoll lost a tight 2-1 decision to No. 2 seed Tanner Hall of Arizona State.

Iowa does hold on to the top spot in the team race, but the real story sits in the Nebraska corner as the Huskers placed five wrestlers in tonight’s finals.

In addition to Lambert and Berger, Huskers Eric Montoya, T.J. Dudley and Aaron Studebaker will wrestle for a Midlands title.

Montoya won a gritty overtime battle against South Dakota State’s Seth Gross in the 133-pound semifinals. The score was 0-0 entering the sudden victory period after both men exchanged rideouts in the second and third periods. Montoya stuck quickly for the takedown and the win in overtime. The Husker All-American will face No. 1 seed Zane Richard of Illinois in the championship match. The two wrestled at the NWCA All-Star Classic in November with Richards winning 9-7.

NCAA finalist Dudley downed Indiana All-American Nate Jackson 10-6 to move on to the 184-pound finals where he will take on a reenergized Jack Dechow. After an up-and-down start to the season, Dechow appears to have return to his All-American form for Old Dominion after taking down NCAA champion Myles Martin yesterday and Rutgers Nick Gravina in the semifinals today.

Husker senior Aaron Studebaker edged Rider’s No. 7 seed Ryan Wolfe 3-1 and is set to face top seed Nate Rotert of South Dakota State for the 197-pound title.

Two-time NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez joins his Illinois teammate Richards in the finals after a dominating 10-1 major decision win over Arizona State freshman Anthony Valencia. Martinez will face Rider All-American Chad Walsh in the 165-pound finals.

Arizona State freshman phenom Zahid Valencia continued his undefeated run with an 8-3 win over Big Ten runner-up Zac Brunson of Illinois. Valencia will tackle Iowa State’s Weatherspoon for first place at 174 pounds. This is a rematch of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational semifinals won by Valencia, 10-2.

Princeton’s Matt Kolodzik and NC State’s Kevin Jack, the top two seeds at 141 pounds, both escaped close semifinal bouts to find themselves in the finals. Kolodzik put together a come from behind win over Nebraska’s Chad Red, snagging a takedown in the final moments of regulation to push the match to overtime where he scored an easy go behind for the win. Jack edged Rutgers All-American Anthony Ashnault 3-2 after Ashnault was hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty at the end of the match.

Lehigh freshman Jordan Wood advanced to the 285-pound finals by medical forfeit over Wisconsin’s Connor Medbery. Wood will go for the Midlands title against Arizona State’s Hall.

The Midlands finals can be viewed live tonight on the Big Ten Network and online at

For complete brackets and match-by-match results from this event visit

December 29-30 at Evanston, Ill.

Team Standings Entering Finals
1. Iowa 133.5
2. Nebraska 121.5
3. Arizona State 92.5
4. Rutgers 90.5
5. Illinois 78
6. Wisconsin 70.5
7. NC State 70
8. SD State 64
9. Oklahoma 58.5
10. Rider 57

Finals Matchups
125 – No. 1 Thomas Gilman (Iowa) vs. No. 2 Tim Lambert (Nebraska)
133 – No. 1 Zane Richards (Illinois) vs. No. 2 Eric Montoya (Nebraska)
141 – No. 1 Matthew Kolodzik (Princeton) vs. No. 2 Kevin Jack (NC State)
149 – No. 1 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) vs. No. 2 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan)
157 – No. 1 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) vs. No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa)
165 – No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) vs. No. 2 Chad Walsh (Rider)
174 – No. 1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) vs. No. 3 Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State)
184 – No. 1 T.J. Dudley (Nebraska) vs. No. 7 Jack Dechow (Old Dominion)
197 – No. 1 Nate Rotert (SD State) vs. No. 3 Aaron Studebaker (Nebraska)
285 – No. 13 Jordan Wood (unatt/Lehigh) vs. No. 2 Tanner Hall (Arizona State)

Semifinal Results
125 pounds
No. 1 Thomas Gilman (Iowa) dec. No. 5 Josh Terao (American), 8-6
No. 2 Tim Lambert (Nebraska) dec. Sebastian Rivera (unatt/Northwestern), 8-2

133 pounds
No. 1 Zane Richards (Illinois) maj. dec. No. 12 Jamal Morris (NC State), 18-5
No. 2 Eric Montoya (Nebraska) dec. No. 3 Seth Gross (SD State), 2-0 SV1

141 pounds
No. 1 Matthew Kolodzik (Princeton) dec. No. 12 Chad Red (unatt/Nebraska), 5-3 SV1
No. 2 Kevin Jack (NC State) dec. No. 3 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers), 3-2

149 pounds
No. 1 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) maj. dec. No. 5 Sam Speno (NC State), 10-2
No. 2 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan) fall No. 6 Joey Delgado (Oregon State), 2:52

157 pounds
No. 1 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) dec. No. 5 Colin Heffernan (Central Michigan), 8-3
No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) maj. dec. No. 3 Jason Tsirtsis (unatt/Arizona State), 11-2

165 pounds
No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) maj. dec. No. 4 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State), 10-1
No. 2 Chad Walsh (Rider) maj. dec. Lorenzo De La Riva (CSU Bakersfield), 15-5

174 pounds
No. 1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) dec. No. 4 Zac Brunson (Illinois), 8-3
No. 3 Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State) dec. No. 2 Alex Meyer (Iowa), 9-7

184 pounds
No. 1 T.J. Dudley (Nebraska) dec. No. 5 Nate Jackson (Indiana), 10-6
No. 7 Jack Dechow (Old Dominion) dec. No. 6 Nick Gravina (Rutgers), 4-2 SV2

197 pounds
No. 1 Nate Rotert (SD State) forfeit No. 5 Kevin Beazley (Old Dominion)
No. 3 Aaron Studebaker (Nebraska) dec. No. 7 Ryan Wolfe (Rider), 3-1

285 pounds
No. 13 Jordan Wood (unatt/Lehigh) forfeit No. 1 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin)
No. 2 Tanner Hall (Arizona State) dec. No. 3 Sam Stoll (Iowa), 2-1