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50th Midlands combines tournament traditions and current stars
By Mike Finn
The Midlands is considered by many the most prestigious in-season college wrestling tournament and its host — Northwestern University — will provide the 50th edition of this tournament which is named after its 1963 creator.
This year’s Midlands will not feature any of the top-four ranked teams — including No. 3 Iowa, which has won the event 22 times (including last year’s event), but is not competing this holiday season to prepare for a Jan. 4 Big Ten dual with No. 6 Ohio State, which is also not wrestling between Christmas and New Year’s Day. (The Hawkeyes are sending a few wrestlers, who are reserves in Iowa’s line-up, including 125-pound sophomore Cory Clark could be seeded No. 1 at that weight.)
But this year’s Midlands will focus on the history of the event — as organizers hope to bring back the original champions of 1963, including the original team champion in Michigan.
The following is a list of significant historical numbers relating to the Midlands:
• 334 – Number of different Midlands champions in the last 49 years.
• 11 – Number of teams who have captured the Midlands team title.
• 9,000+ – Number of wrestlers who have competed at the Midlands the last 49 years.
• Six – Number of Midlands competitors who have achieved Grand Slam status, meaning they have won a Midlands title, NCAA title, Olympic gold medal and World title. That group of six includes Dan Gable, Bruce Baumgartner, Dave Schultz, Kenny Monday, Tom Brands and Jordan Burroughs.
• 50 – Number of years former Northwestern head coach and tournament founder Ken Kraft has been involved with the Midlands.
Regarding this year’s Midlands, the highest ranked team is No. 5 Illinois. Other Top-20 ranked teams are No. 9 Virginia Tech, No. 10 Central Michigan, No. 11 Oklahoma and Northwestern (tied), No. 13 (tied) Nebraska and Edinboro, No. 15 Oregon State, No. 16 (tied) Lehigh and Maryland, No. 18 Pittsburgh and No. 20 Binghamton.
Midlands officials have also released a list of top contenders. In addition to Iowa’s Clark at 125, the others include:
• No. 3 Scott Sentes of Central Michigan at 133;
• No. 1 Kendric Maple of Oklahoma at 141;
• Former Iowa All-American Montell Marion and No. 2 Donnie Vinson of Binghamton at 149;
• No. 3 Jason Welch of Northwestern at 157;
• No. 4 Peter Yates of Virginia Tech at 165;
• No. 4 Jordan Blanton of Illinois at 174;
• No. 3 Robert Hamlin of Lehigh at 184;
• No. 1 Dustin Kilgore of Kent State at 197, a 2011 NCAA champ;
• No. 4 Jarod Trice of Central Michigan at heavyweight.
Of these wrestlers, Maple and Trice won championships in the 2011 Midlands. Kilgore was on an Olympic redshirt.