LOWER MIDWEST REGIONAL
Multiple returning All Americans at nearly every weight, the Lower Midwest Regional proves itself to be one of the toughest qualifiers in NCAA Division III wrestling.
We got ourselves a fight at 125 lbs in the Lower Midwest Regional for NCAA DIII qualification. Four ranked wrestlers, including the 2021 NWCA Champion & NWCA runner up, all duking it out for a spot in the top 3.
Alex Friddle of Coe, last year's NWCA champion, going to have quite the challenge just to make it out of the Regional, let alone to win a DIII title this season. He's thus far dropped a 7-6 match to Nathan Rankin of Ozarks, and an 11-0 major decision to Shandon Akeo of Central. He's 1-2 Vs Brady Kyner of Wartburg who he defeated for the NWCA title last season 6-5, but has lost to 6-3 & 9-3.
Akeo who could very well take the #1 seed here, gives props to Hawaii as Rankin, likely to be our #2 gives his to Texas. Two states we usually don't see a whole lot of with representation in such a tournament.
Tommy Russell of Millikin will also fight for a spot in the top 3 as well.
Three ranked wrestlers, 5 returning place-winners. It's about to get real at 133 lbs in the Lower Midwest Regional. The saving grace for some of these guys is that I'm almost positive that Zach Thompson of Loras, 5th in the 2021 NWCA will not be competing. He hasn't wrestled a match all season (as of the time this was written) & I highly doubt he shows up to compete now. That makes things a little easier, but not much.
North Central's Robbie Precin, the 2021 NWCA runner-up, has earned the right to be called #1 seed, but it'll be anything but a given. Both Joe Pins of Wartburg (3rd in the 2021 NWCA) and Zac Blasioli of Millikin have given him decent matches. Precin has defeated Pins three times, 8-5, 9-5 & 5-4. He defeated Blasioli 3-2. Against the other competition Precin has defeated Bryce Parke of Coe 9-4, Trevor Boryla of Augustana (IL) 12-5 & for what it's worth he owns a 10-1 victory over Thompson.
Blasioli & Boryla are both former qualifiers, as Blasioli has defeated Boryla three out of the four times they have met. Among a strange 14-4 loss, he's defeated Boryla 4-2, 5-3 & 5-3.
The other guy to watch for here is Gabriel Brandenburg of Ozarks, who owns a first period 2:40 fall over Parke.
This bracket is as interesting as it is tough. We have Brock Henderson of Coe, 2021 NWCA champion. He's defeated Jalen Schropp of Loras 6-3, yet lost to Jake Dado of Ozarks 3-2 & lost by fall to Javen Estrada of North Central.
Estrada who I would say probably gets the #1 seed here, also has a 1:02 fall against Zayren Terukina of Wartburg.
On a personal level, I'd like to see Schropp who was 6th at the 2021 NWCA do well. Not sure of the relation, but Nick Schropp from Williamsburg is a guy that I grew up wrestling & playing baseball with as a kid. It's cool to see someone you know do well. It'll be a tough road for him, as he's dropped 3-2 & 5-0 decisions to Terukina.
Only three spots & five very talented guys going for them.
Another very tough, very competitive weight class. Four of the top 10 wrestlers in DIII & only three of them get to go to the NCAA DIII tournament. This includes two NWCA All Americans from last season & five former qualifiers.
Wartburg's Kristian Rumph, the NWCA runner-up last season looks to be our #1 seed. Thus far against the competition his closest match has been 3-2 with Daniel Ruiz of Loras, who was 7th in the NWCA last season. Rumpf has also defeated Alex Villar of North Central 10-4 & Robert Areyano of Central 6-1.
Villar who could be our #2 seed, owns a 9-3 victory over Areyano & a 4-0 victory over Jordan Carson.
Ruiz, owns an 8-4 decision over Areyano, who is a two time qualifier.
Dixon owns a 6-4 victory over York.
It'll be a tough road to the NCAA DIII tournament in this bracket.
It's every bit as tough and every bit as competitive at 157 lbs in the Lower Midwest Regional. Here fighting for the three qualification spots we have two ranked wrestlers, 5 NWCA All Americans from last season, including the champion & all seven of these guys pictured have been to the national tournament at least once during their careers. If that don't take the cake, you tell me what does.
Wartburg's David Hollingsworth has looked really good this season. Last year's NWCA champion, it still isn't quite what I would call a shoe-in. 9-4 victories over both Killian Perrigon of Cornell (IA) & Zeke Smith of Loras, he has a 20-7 major over Collin Quandt of Nebraska-Wesleyan. What sticks out as concerning is a 10-8 sudden victory loss to Cole Cervantes of North Central & a very tight 9-8 victory over Zarik Anderson of Dubuque.
Ranking suggest Smith who was 4th at the NWCA last season will be our #2 seed. He own an 8-0 major decision over Quandt & a very impressive 15-0 technical fall over Cervantes. He also defeated Anderson 6-0. What sticks out most though is a 3-2 loss to Perrigon.
Will Perrigon be our #3 seed? He was 5th in the NWCA tournament last season, as his other notable matches include a split with Quandt who he defeated 11-5, but was pinned by in 4:28. He defeated Millikin's Peter McCusker in that 5th place match 9-7.
McCusker himself has split with Cervantes having both pinned one another at almost the exact same time. He pinned Cervatnes in 5:33 & Cervantes pinned him at 5:34.
Cervantes was 8th in the NWCA last season. He's defeated Anderson twice by scores of 9-7 & 10-4.
The leader here is Millikin's Bradan Birt, a two time All American who was 6th at the 2019 NCAA DIII's & the 2021 NWCA champion last season. He owns two technical falls over Cornell's Casey Allen, 20-3 & 19-0 as well as a 10-0 major decision over Gabe Fiser of Loras.
Allen has split with Fiser, winning a 1-0 match and having lost a 10-3 match. Should make for an interesting probable semi-final. Allen was 5th at the NWCA last year and Fiser was 4th.
Look for Ozarks' Nadayambaje John & Dubque's Liam Corbett (a native of Hawaii, who qualified for the NWCA last season) to both fight for 3rd.
At 174 lbs in the Lower Midwest Regional we have three ranked wrestlers, three returning place-winners & five returning qualifiers. Quite the challenge, as only three make it out & advance to the NCAA DIII tournament.
I think we're looking at a possible final of Zane Mulder of Wartburg Vs Jacob Krakow Loras. Mulder was the NWCA runner-up last season as Krakow, who also placed 8th at the 2019 NCAA DIII's, took 3rd. In their one and only meeting thus far, Mulder won a tight 3-2 decision. Mulder also owns a 6:18 fall over Joey Jens of North Central & Krakow's path to the finals looks to be pretty smooth as he owns a 17-2 technical fall over Jacob Sherzer of Cornell, a 14-6 major decision over Tristian Westphal of Coe & a 24-11 major decision over Shyler Langley of Simpson.
Westphal was 8th at last year's NWCA. He owns a 6-4 decision over Sherzer & he's split falls with Langley. He wbf in 5:58 & he lbf in 4:10.
Langley has defeated Sherzer twice by scores of 7-4 & 8-5.
We have two returning NWCA champions from last season in this bracket. Kyle Briggs of Wartburg who won 174 lbs & Shane Liegel of Loras. Briggs was also 3rd at the 2019 NCAA DIII championships. Thus far in two meetings, Briggs has won rather decisively 9-5 & 14-4.
The candidate for 3rd place here is Coe's Ryan Schott who was 6th in the NWCA last season. There's a good chance he meets Liegel in the semi-finals, whom he has thus far dropped 6-2 & 9-5 matches to.
Throw in a word for Millikin's Micah Downs, a qualifier last season as well. Scott defeated downs via fall in 1:55.
North Central's Cody Baldridge leads the way at 197 lbs. An NWCA champion last season, he owns a 20-8 major decision over Niles Ager of Millikin & a 5-2 victory over Kobe Woods of Wartburg.
Speaking of Woods, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him pull off an upset over Donovan Corn of Luther and to meet Baldridge in the finals. Despite the fact that he's unranked to Corn's #7 ranking & the fact that he DNP at the NWCA last season, whereas Corn placed 4th, over all he's 3-1 Vs the Norseman. Pinned in only 46 seconds, he owns a 14-0 major decision, a 2-1 decision & a 3-2 tiebreaker over Corn.
Very confident our gold medal here goes to Baldridge, with Corn & Woods fighting it out for who gets silver & who gets bronze, with Ager waiting in the wings to possibly steal a spot.
This one is pretty exciting for me personally. Kaleb Reeves went to the same high school I went to, Sigourney (small southeast Iowa community) & he is currently in route to be the best wrestler, collegiately speaking that my high school has ever produced. While the Savages (my high school mascot) have wrestlers with better high school credentials, in the college ranks, Reeves is destined to come out the best. Thus far we've only had three, two time All Americans (All in DIII) in Chris Hoffman who was 7th-5th for Coe in 88' & 89', Mat McClenehan who was 7th & 3rd for NYU in 90' & 92 & Dave McLaughlin of William Penn (they were DIII at the time) who was 8th in 87' & 2nd in 88'.
Reeves was 3rd in the NWCA last season & he has another year of eligibility after this year too. What makes it even more exciting is that if he wins a national title, he'll be a wrestler who won a national title who never won a state title. He was 7-7-3 his last years of high school.
No guarantees though. He'll have to earn it. Even though he has a 1:03 fall over Robby Bates of North Central, one of his closest matches has been with Rayan Reyes of Millikin who he defeated 4-2.
Bates and Millikin have had some good tight matches themselves. Thus far Bates has been able to get past Reyes in a 4-2 sudden victory & a 2-1 tiebreaker.
I was really hoping to that I'd see both Schreiner & Huntingdon with qualification hopefuls, but I gotta call it like I see it. I don't. Hope to in the future as it is so cool to see NCAA wrestling in both Texas & Alabama, but with all of the tough Iowa & Illinois schools, it is cool to see Ozarks holding their own as a small school from Arkansas.