USA Wrestling EAP wrestlers Aaron ...

EAP wrestlers Aaron Brooks, DJ Shannon to compete in the prestigious Midlands, Dec. 29-30

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Dec. 27, 2018, 2:39 p.m. (ET)

EAP wrestlers Aaron Brooks (left) and DJ Shannon (right).

Two young athletes from USA Wrestling’s Elite Accelerator Program (EAP) will compete at the highly-respected 56th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, which will hosted at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill., December 29-30.

The EAP wrestlers entered at the Midlands will be Aaron Brooks and DJ Shannon, both who will compete at 174 pounds. The Midlands Championships, one of the most historic holiday open tournaments in the nation, is contested in folkstyle wrestling.

The EAP is a progressive developmental movement based at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., aimed at molding young wrestlers into World and Olympic Champions. EAP athletes train with our country’s top-ranked Senior-level athletes and receive direct instruction from the National and Olympic Team coaches on a daily basis.

Both Brooks and Shannon are post-graduates, who have completed high school and now training with EAP prior to starting their Div. I college careers. Brooks has signed to compete for Penn State University and Shannon has signed with the University of Illinois. They are both training in men’s freestyle wrestling within EAP.

USA Wrestling’s National Freestyle Developmental Coach Kevin Jackson, who coaches the EAP men’s freestyle athletes, will coach both Brooks and Shannon at the Midlands. Jackson was a 1992 Olympic champion and two-time World champion in freestyle wrestling.

“In their situations, the opportunities we have available for EAP athletes who are grayshirt athletes training full-time are international competitions and open tournaments. For these young men, with the universities where they have signed to go to, the Midlands has accepted them based upon their college’s recommendations. This would be like their redshirt freshman years if they had gone directly to universities, so they would compete in an event like this. With the Midlands, it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Jackson.

Brooks, a native of Hagerstown, Md. was a 2017 Cadet World champion and 2018 Junior World silver medalist in men’s freestyle.

“This is part of his natural progression as far as competitions he needs to compete in. He has competed at the Junior World level. Those are college-age athletes, and he has competed well. My expectation for Aaron is to compete how he has competed in the past at major national competitions. If he does that, he will give himself a great chance to do pretty well at Midlands. Aaron may not be a favorite to win or place high, but based upon what he has accomplished the last couple of years, my expectations are for him to compete at a high level, with a chance to win every match,” said Jackson.

Shannon, who hails from East St. Louis, Ill., made his mark as a Missouri state high school champion and has shown great skill in his time with the EAP program.

“I didn’t know much about him, except through his coach Cornell Robinson in Missouri, and being a three-time state champion. He had decided to go to West Virginia, and after they changed their coach Sammie Henson, DJ decided he wanted to grayshirt. What I have found out about him is that he can wrestle very well in every position. There has not been a position I have seen him wrestle where he does not know what to do or know what is going on. It is going to be a challenge for DJ, but he is capable. This is the weight class where the University of Illinois projects him to compete in the future. I believe he will compete very well at this weight,” said Jackson.

These athletes are at the same weight for the Midlands, but Jackson indicated that they would be at different weight classes for the freestyle season.

“This is just a test for them. Let’s find out where they are at right now. We missed a competition in Iran we planned to attend because of the change in their coaches there. We do have a long spring coming up, with the goal of making World Teams and bringing home medals for our country. We are kicking off the second half of our season right now and this will be a good test to tell these guys where they are moving into the heart of our season,” said Jackson.

The 56th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships will be broadcast live by FloWrestling.

For more information on the EAP, contact Shannon Daugherty at or 719-598-8181.

At Hoffman Estates, Ill., Dec. 29-30

EAP wrestlers entered

174 pounds – Aaron Brooks, Hagerstown, Md.
174 pounds – DJ Shannon, East St. Louis, Ill.

Event Schedule (times are Central time zone)

Saturday, December 29
9:30 a.m. – Session I
7:00 p.m. – Session II (including quarterfinals)

Sunday, December 30
12:00 noon – Session III (semifinals, consolation and 7th place bouts)
7:00 p.m. – Session IV (1st, 3rd and 5th place matches)