Joe Williams (Sunkist Kids) is vying for his record ninth straight Midlands title in 2002. He also had a record-setting 2001 Midlands at174 pounds, winning his eighth straight Midlands title (tying Bruce Baumgartner's mark). He also passed Baumgartner on the all-time wins list, leaving the 2001 Championships with 45 Midlands wins. Williams placed fifth in his first Midlands, tying him with Jim Fisher for most places at nine. He has won 41 consecutive matches, also a Midlands high.
Greg Jones (West Virginia), a sophomore, is back in the mix after winning the NCAA title at 174 pounds last season. He is a legitimate threat to Williams' record-breaking attempt.
The 2002 Midlands will feature more than 300 competitors from all around the country. As of now, more than half of the top 200 wrestlers in the nation will be competing at the 40th Midlands. A majority of the top 20 collegiate programs will also be on hand.
Randy Conrad, the nephew of Roy Conrad (1963 Midlands Champion), will be competing at this year's event. At 42 years old he will try and become the oldest wrestler ever to place at the Midlands.
Iowa won the 2001 Midlands Championships. Since 1990, the Hawkeyes have won seven of the possible eight team titles. Minnesota won the Midlands team title in 2000. No team scores were kept in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1995. The Hawkeyes, who knocked off top-ranked Minnesota in a dual meet earlier this year, upended the field last season as three wrestlers won individual titles.
Fox Sports will televise the 40th Midlands Championships from 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003.
This year's tournament also will feature the first 10 Midlands champions. In its first year, 1963, the event was known as the West Suburban YMCA Open Championship. A special ceremony will be held to recognize these competitors as Midlands champions for the first time.
Three wrestlers from the 2001 tournament have reached the 15-win level in their first three Midlands and could have the opportunity for the "20 in 4" Club in 2002. They are Jason DeBruin (Hofstra) with 15 wins, Joe Heskett (Iowa State) with 15 wins, no losses and three titles and Nick Preston (Ohio State) with 16 wins.