Top-ranked Hawkeyes grab first-day lead at Midlands

Updated: December 29, 2014

EVANSTON, Ill. – A year ago, Thomas Gilman and Cory Clark were locked in a tight battle for the 125-pound starting spot.

Now the sophomore teammates are rapidly forming one of the best 1-2 punches in the country.

Gilman and Clark provided a boost in the first two weight classes of the quarterfinals to help power No. 1 Iowa to the first-day lead at the Midlands Championships on Monday at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“We can really provide a good spark in a tournament like this and get the momentum going for the team,” Gilman said. “We are both going out there to score points and dominate, and everyone can feed off that. I know that gets me going when my teammates are scoring points.”

Iowa is seeking its 24th Midlands team title in this prestigious event, which is in its 52nd year.

The Hawkeyes lead the tournament with 109.5 points, followed by second-place Illinois with 86.5 points. Iowa has eight point-scoring wrestlers, and 10 overall, in the semifinals.

Northwestern is third with 62 points, followed by Edinboro (56.5) and Virginia Tech (54).

The Midlands semifinals are set for noon Tuesday with the finals scheduled for 7 p.m. The finals will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

Gilman scored a pair of early takedowns before breaking Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak in an 11-4 win in the 125-pound quarters. Gilman, the returning Midlands champion at 125, will battle Northwestern’s Stevan Micic in the semis.

“I’m just trying to keep the pressure on guys the whole time,” Gilman said. “You can’t let up, and you have to keep wrestling hard and push the pace. I need to have that mentality to keep it going.”

Clark scored a first-period fall over Purdue’s Danny Sabatello in the 133-pound quarterfinals.

Clark advances to face past Virginia Tech All-American Jarrod Garnett in the 133 semifinals. Clark has lost to Garnett in the semifinals the past two seasons. Garnett beat Clark 10-6 in 2012 and 10-8 in overtime last year.

The third-seeded Clark placed fifth in the NCAAs at 125 last season. Garnett is an assistant coach for Lehigh and wrestles for the Lehigh Valley Athletic Club.

Clark began last season as the starter at 125 before Gilman took over the spot after winning the Midlands. Clark then regained the starting spot late in the season.

Gilman went on to win a bronze medal for the U.S. at the Junior World Championships in freestyle this past summer.

Two-time NCAA champion Jesse Delgado of Illinois is not competing at the Midlands because of an injury. Delgado, a three-time All-American, is expected to return to the lineup next month at 125 pounds.

Gilman beat Delgado in this event last year.

“It’s disappointing that he’s not here,” Gilman said. “I was looking forward to seeing him here and wrestling him here. He’s the No. 1 guy in the country and I wanted a chance to face him here, but obviously I will see him again.”

Returning Midlands champion Mike Evans of Iowa reached the semifinals at 174.

Hawkeye sophomore Sammy Brooks turned in one of the most impressive showings of the day in a 12-3 quarterfinal win over Brown All-American and Junior World silver medalist Ophir Bernstein of Brown at 184.

“Everybody says Iowa doesn’t have fun,” Brooks told the Cedar Rapids Gazette’s K.J. Pilcher, “but I don’t think there is anything more fun than beating the crap out of somebody and scoring a whole bunch of points, doing it the way Iowa guys are supposed to do it.”

Top seed and returning champion Mitchell Port of Edinboro reached the semis at 141 as did No. 2 seed and 2014 NCAA runner-up Devin Carter of Virginia Tech.

2014 NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern, a sophomore, reached the semifinals at 149. Tsirtsis earned a 2-1 tiebreaker win over B.J. Clagon of Rider in the quarters. Top-ranked Mike McMullan also reached the semis for Northwestern at 285.

Tsirtsis will face Iowa’s Brody Grothus in the semis. Grothus beat Tsirtsis in this event last year. Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen will face Edinboro’s David Habat in the other semifinal at 149.

Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan, the No. 1 pre-seed at 165, also is missing this event with an injury.

Semifinal matchups

125 pounds
Thomas Gilman (Iowa) vs. Stevan Micic (Unattached)
Joey Dance (Virginia Tech) vs. Joshua Rodriguez (North Dakota State)

133 pounds
A.J. Schopp (Edinboro) vs. Zane Richards (Illinois)
Jarrod Garnett (Virginia Tech) vs. Cory Clark (Iowa)

141 pounds
Mitchell Port (Edinboro) vs. Chris Mecate (Old Dominion)
Devin Carter (Virginia Tech) vs. Steven Rodrigues (Illinois)

149 pounds
Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) vs. Brody Grothus (Iowa)
David Habat (Edinboro) vs. Brandon Sorensen (Iowa)

157 pounds
Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) vs. Mike Kelly (Iowa)
Cody Pack (South Dakota State) vs. Justin Staudenmayer (Brown)

165 pounds
Taylor Walsh (Indiana) vs. Jackson Morse (Illinois)
Nick Moore (Iowa) vs. Pierce Harger (Northwestern)

174 pounds
Mike Evans (Iowa) vs, Brock Gutches (Southern Oregon)
Zac Brunson (Illinois) vs. Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern)

184 pounds
Lorenzo Thomas (Penn) vs. Hayden Zillmer (North Dakota State)
Jack Dechow (Old Dominion) vs. Sammy Brooks (Iowa)

197 pounds
Nathan Burak (Iowa-Unattached) vs. James Fox (Harvard)
Timmy McCall (Wisconsin) vs. Jeff Koepke (Illinois)

285 pounds
Mike McMullan (Northwestern) vs. Ty Walz (Virginia Tech)
Bobby Telford (Iowa) vs. Connor Medbery (Wisconsin)