Friday, January 3, 2020

Post Midlands Thoughts

It's funny to me to hear some say after Iowa broke the scoring record that, "The Midlands is a Shadow of what it used to be" because while it's not the incredibly tough tournament that it was 25 years ago, it's the toughest it has been in probably the last 10 years.  Everyone has different measuring sticks for how they evaluate a tournament's "toughness."  For me, I take a look at the caliber of wrestlers who do not place.  "Who missed the award stand?" is the first question I often ask.  There were some good kids who didn't make the top 8 this year. Kids that will for sure qualify for the NCAA's and some of them will even be All Americans.

125 lbs 

This is the best I've felt about Harvard in a very long time and Nolan Hellickson is why. An eighth place finish with impressive wins over Joe Manchio, Kyle Biscoglia & Jay Schwarm. 

Eric Barnett of Wisconsin had a good tournament finishing one match shy of a medal. 

I felt better about Christian Moody of Oklahoma.  I've been wondering for the past two months if the three time NCAA qualifier would miss out on the tournament in his fourth attempt.  He just hasn't looked good. Yet he looked better here.  He went 2-2, being eliminated with an 11-9 loss to Barnett. Yet he fought in the match, he looked good despite the loss.

Last thoughts are that I don't understand the strategy of having Spencer Lee forfeit to sixth place.  I'm not understanding the benefit of that.

133 lbs 

I am really impressed with Colin Valdiviez of Northwestern.  When it comes to this tournament, he comes to wrestle.  He's now a three time Midlands place-winner, each time expected not to place.  Or at least seeded that way.  To me that's impressive.

I was happy to see Louie Hayes make the award stand. I said to the Virginia wrestling twitter that I believe that after Jack Mueller graduates this season that Hayes might go down to 125 for the 2020-2021 season.  I think 125, he can be in the hunt for a national title.

Travis Piotrowski of Illinois wrestled a good tournament. I was anxious to see how well he'd do after moving up for 125 lbs.  Took third here, looked great.

I knew Seth Gross of Wisconsin would make the necessary adjustments he needed to make against DeSanto.  He has great mat awareness and an ability to stay one step ahead of his opponent. Did it against Rivera in the semi-finals too.   He's anything but a shoe-in for the national title.  It'll remain a fight and maybe more than just the three are in it.

141 lbs 

Not a ton of thoughts here, but I was happy to see Sal Profaci of American get on the award stand.  He's had a rough career full of injuries and disappointments.  It's always nice to see someone overcome and have some success.

Zach Sherman is a tough kid.  The young Tarheel reminds me of former Tarheel great Evan Sola.  He's a leech on top.  You can't get away from him.  Anyone ever chooses down against him, they're either extremely confident in their abilities or they didn't do their homework.

149 lbs 

Tournaments can be unforgiving.   This is proof of it. Northwestern's Yahya Thomas is way better than an 0-2 record.  Look at how he did at CKLV. He took third, and it was in all sense as tough if not tougher of a bracket.   Same can be said about Griffin Parriott who took fourth at CKLV.  He went 2-2. Both of these guys are capable of being All Americans this season.  It's simply a matter of  sometimes guys have bad tournaments.

My heart goes out to Jeren Glosser and Vince Turk of Iowa.  The two Hawkeye seniors are most likely done after this tournament.  Glosser, will go down in history as one of the best backups of all time.  They both wrestled tremendously with quality wins over quality opponents.  Congrats to both on placing sixth and fourth respectively.

I was hoping to see a non-DI  wrestler place this tournament and boy oh boy did Tres Leon of The Cumberlands do his best for me.  A fall over Princeton's Mike DeAngelo and a major decision over Jake Bergeland, before being eliminated in a heartbreaking one point match to American's Kizhan Clarke in the round of twelve.

Pat Lugo made anyone who doubts his ability to be a national champion change their mind.  He dominated and earned his new #1 ranking.

157 lbs 

Been wondering all year if it'd be Markus Hartman or Lucas Weiland for the Black Knights this season.  I think after a runner-up finish, the spot probably belongs to Hartman now.  He looked phenomenal.

Happy to see Kaleb Young of Iowa win the Midlands after the rocky start he's had to this season.  I think he needed this. I think he needed this bad. It should restore his faith in himself and his confidence.

165 lbs 

Alex Marinelli a three time Midlands champ, defeating David McFadden of Virginia Tech for the first time in his career.  Very impressive.

The Braunagel brother of Illinois are tough! I didn't realize how tough until this tournament.  Danny looked great!

Remember what I said about Harvard wrestling earlier?  Philip Conigliaro is another reason why

174 lbs 

Dylan Lydy continues to prove why I call him the best senior yet to AA.   Winner of CKLV and now a winner of Midlands.  A win over Bryce Steiert of Northern Iowa now for the second time.

I was very happy to see Joey Gunther of Illinois & Ben Harvey of Army, two other senior yet to AA finish third and fourth respectively.

184 lbs 

The story here is Iowa's Cash Wilcke.  His ability to lose in the second round and come back to take third is impressive for an assortment of reasons.  First and foremost he's a senior.  If he had lost in the bloodround to Nelson Brands, his career would be over.  This was his last shot.  I cannot imagine the pressure that he was under and honestly it speaks volumes not only about him but about coaching. The thing I respect about Tom and Terry the most is they are fair in how they are handling this.  Nelson may be Terry's son and Tom's nephew but they aren't granting him any special favors.  He has to earn it like everyone else.

Wilcke's ability to come back and take third is not only a reflection of his intestinal fortitude but of good coaching.  Iowa's #1 problem over the years has been an inability to come back through the consolations.  They overvalue first place to the point to where if guys know they aren't going to win championships, they completely fold after losing in the championship side of the bracket.  Wilcke losing in the second round and coming back to take third is a sign that maybe this is a problem they're working on. 

It also help's that Wilcke was able to defeat Illinois' Zach Braunagel who Brands lost to. 

197 lbs 
Cal Poly's Tom Lane had a horrible tournament going 2-2.  He already proved at CKLV, with in my opinion tougher competition how good he can be.  He took third there.  It's simply like it was with Thomas at 149 lbs a case of a bad tournament. They happen sometimes and they need to be seen for what they are.  Lane has the talent and the tools to be an All American this year.  I think he will be.

Jay Aiello of Virginia wrestled a great tournament.  He's always underrated I feel and under the radar.

I think C.J. Brunner of Purdue is a phenomenal example of how sometimes growth and development still does happen at the collegiate level.  Let's face it, anymore DI wrestling is a recruiting game.  It's a game of getting kids who are already demigods in high school and convincing them to come and wrestle at your school.  There are so many kids who seem to have already peaked, and they're as good as true freshman as they are when they're redshirt seniors.

It's refreshing to see someone who isn't.  C.J. Brunner the senior would annihilate C.J. Brunner the freshman.  He's head over heels better than he was a few years ago.  To see how much he's improved and how much the coaching staff at Purdue has helped him is rewarding. 

Many of the coaches at Purdue seem to have a chip on their shoulder.  A feeling of unfinished business.  Ersland finished one match shy of All American his senior year at Iowa.  Leroy Vega a three time All American who missed out on a fourth his senior year.  Jake Sueflohn of Nebraska one of the, if not the best wrestler of his era to not make All American.  I think this translates into their coaching and it is showing.  Purdue under their leadership is headed for great things.  It makes me excited about Boilermaker wrestling.

Yaraslau Slavikouski is yet another name that makes me feel good about the future of Harvard wrestling.

I was shocked to see Jere Heino of Campbell, another wrestler I think can be an All American this season get beat out.  It either means that Carter Isley of Northern Iowa who placed fifth has gotten a lot better, or that Heino wrestled a terrible match.  Not sure.

Anyway those are my Midlands thoughts.  I was happy to see Purdue and Army do as well as they did.  I think both teams, ironically enough with the same (similar) colors doing as well as they are is great for wrestling.

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