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By Tim Tushla
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Led by five individual champions, Iowa won it’s fifth consecutive Midlands championship in suburban Chicago Saturday night with 156.5 points. Rutgers held on for second as Central Michigan moved past Arizona State in the placing round.
Brandon Sorensen (149), Michael Kemerer (157), Alex Marinelli (165), Cash Wilcke (197), and Sam Stoll (285) all collected titles as the Hawkeyes won by their largest margin of victory since 2014. Sorensen broke a 1-1 tie with a takedown late in the third to win his third straight Midlands title in a finals rematch from a year ago against CMU’s Justin Oliver, 4-2.
Kemerer defended his crown while recording four pins, a technical fall, and a decision in the title bout against ASU’s Josh Shields, 5-2.
Marinelli and Wilcke each got their winning takedowns 15 seconds into overtime to win 3-1. Stoll’s win came after an unsportsmanlike penalty call against top-seeded Tanner Hall of the Sun Devils.
“Coming here is a tradition for Iowa,” stated Hawkeye coach Tom Brands, who saw his alma mater win a 27th team title in the 55 years of the prestigious event. “The timing is good and we have lot of work to do and we did some of it here”
Rutgers had only one titlist, Nick Suriano at 125 pounds, but had four other place-winners to put them into second. Suriano downed Oregon State’s Ronnie Bresser, 2-1, in a tight final. Bresser had defeated young Iowa phenom Spencer Lee in the semifinal to reach the championship match.
2016 NCAA runner-up Seth Gross of South Dakota State was named the tournament OW with a dominating run of four technical falls and two pins, including in the championship against Buffalo’s first-ever finalist, sixth-seed Bryan Lantry.
“Losing here last year and falling short at nationals has haunted me because I didn’t open up my scoring,” stated Gross, the first Midlands champ in SDSU history after being his schools first-ever NCAA finalist last season. “From that point on I just focused on scoring as many points as possible. I just want to get out there, score early and just keep putting it on guys.”
“My mentality was just not where it needed to be. Just doing what I do and just having an attacking mindset. I know that if there are 20 points on the board, the score is going to be in my favor.”
Champ Mike Smith (141), a 6-0 victor over Indiana’s Cole Weaver, and Oliver led Central Michigan’s efforts along with three other place-winners.
Top-ranked Zahid Valencia of Arizona State was relentless in winning his second-straight title at 174 pounds with a dominating 18-7 major decision against SDSU’s David Kocer. The Sun Devils had the two runners up (Hall and Shields) and two additional placers, Anthony Valencia and Jason Tsirtsis. It was the sixth time Tsirtsis placed a the tournament in his career.