Saturday, December 9, 2023

44th Midwest Classic Preview (12-16/17-2023) 125 lbs


Year in and year out we as NCAA Division II wrestling fans are blessed with the fact that we by all intents and purposes practically get two national tournaments per year. In fact, in many ways, I can fairly and accurately say that the Midwest Classic is every bit as tough and every bit as challenging as is the NCAA DII national tournament. It is just loaded with talent, featuring top ranked wrestlers at every weight class. 

Here's a list of the ranked teams that will be participating...

#1 Lander
#3 Central Oklahoma
#4 UW-Parkside
#5 Mary
#6 Upper Iowa
#8 Lake Erie
#9 Indianapolis
#11 Northern State
#12 Ashland
#13 Tiffin
#14 Pittsburgh-Johnstown
#15 Glenville State
#16 Chadron State
#17 McKendree
#19 UNC-Pembroke
#21 Western Colorado
#22 Grand Valley State
#23 Mercyhurst
#24 Thomas More
#25 Southwest Minnesota State

That's twenty of the top 25 NCAA DII programs that will be featured here in Indianapolis!  This is going to be a great tournament! 

Let's take a look at the field at 125 lbs, which features a total of 17 of the top ranked in NCAA Division II wrestling! 

James Joplin 

Competing for top ranked Lander, James Joplin comes into the Midwest Classic having taking 3rd place at last year's championships. The 2023 4th place D2 All American has proven himself against the top competition, although many of the matches have been close.  He defeated Shane Corrigan by a 6-3 decision in last year's Midwest Classic consolation final.  He also owns two 3-2 decisions over Christian Mejia.  A 6-4 decision over Logan Seliga, he owns a 9-2 decision over Trevon Gray & he's defeated Zach Shupp twice (a 3-2 decision & a 2:20 fall).  He should be the *1 seed, as he'll come into Indianapolis with a huge target painted on his back. 

Shane Corrigan

There's nothing more that Shane Corrigan would like to do this tournament than to win the Midwest Classic & do so by knocking off Joplin in the process. As mentioned, he lost to Joplin in the consolation finals last season here at this tournament & he also finished 7th to Joplin's 4th at D2 nationals.  Against the competition, Corrigan has looked extremely sharp. A 9-2 decision over Christian Mejia, he also owns both a 13-10 as well as a 10-8 decision over Studd Morris. As we go on down the line, history provides testimony that Corrigan isn't likely to get upset anytime before the quarter-finals (if at all).  He's dominated those ranked 10th or lower with a 17-1 tech over Zach Shupp, a 9-0 major over Anthony Aniciete & and a 15-0 tech over Aaron Lucio. 

Christian Mejia

If you're looking for redemption, look no further than Christian Mejia. The two time NCAA DII All American was a Midwest Classic Champion two seasons ago. Last year, he finished one match shy of placing. You know he is itching to reclaim his title & there is good reason to think that he might.  I would say that Mejia is likely to either receive the *2 seed or the *3 seed. Either way, on paper this sets up an excellent match with Corrigan. While the Ranger does own that 9-2 decision I previously mentioned, Mejia has defeated him on two occasions. An 8-5 decision & a 3:25 fall.  He also owns a 9-3 decision over Trevon Gray, an 8-3 decision over Zach Shupp & a 5-0 decision over Christian Lopez. 

Logan Seliga

Looking at the '22-'23 season of Logan Seliga, one can really get a glimpse of just how tough & unforgiving the world of NCAA DII wrestling can be. Seliga won the Midwest Classic last season, yet had a challenging Super Region II, & placed 6th. He had to watch Joplin, Corrigan & Mejia all on to earn NCAA DII All American honors while he failed to qualify.  There's good reason I often preach that the national tournament is just another tournament & this is reason why. Seliga despite not qualifying last year, is still one of the top 125 lbs'ers in NCAA DII wrestling. He proved it here last year & it's a real possibility that he could prove it again. 

Studd Morris
Central Oklahoma

It'd take stringing together three great wins back to back to back from the quarters, through the semis and the finals, but I will include Studd Morris in my list for threats to the 125 lbs Midwest Classic title. The Broncho was 5th at last year's championships & has the wins to back up the probability.  A 9-7 s.v. over likely *1 seed Joplin, he owns two 3-1 s.v.'s over Mejia. 

Trevon Gray
Pittsburgh Johnstown

As we examine our five 125 lbs Midwest Classic title contenders, we have to ask ourselves, who are the remaining three place-winners? Who's likely to take those 6th through 8th place spots? Well Trevon Gray could be one of them. The Mountain Cat finished one match shy of a medal here last season. With that said, thus far the '23-'24 season has been a bit rough for him, but perhaps this is where he could get back on track. 

Jakason Burks
Central Missouri 

Thus far the 2023 NJCAA runner-up has looked good in the world of NCAA Division II wrestling as he'll carry in a 6-0 (as of the time this was written) record into these championships. What better way to represent himself, Central Missouri & the NJCAA than to come in here and totally kick ass? He has yet to really face any top DII competition, but he'll more than get his chance to here. To come in here and have an outstanding performance would be a great advertisement for Iowa Western.  Show that the Reivers produce talent that top programs like Central Missouri can recruit and see do well for their program. 

Zach Shupp

It never fails, you know as well as I do that someone ranked & seeded high is getting knocked off this tournament. It's inevitable. Exactly who it'll be and by exactly whom it'll be, well that's another question. However, if it is my duty to go about picking monkey wrenches, then let me take a good long look at Zach Shupp. The wolf pulled off one of the biggest upsets at the end of last season when he stuck Logan Seliga in 6:52 at the Super Region II, thus "stealing" his spot.  Shupp went on to finish one match shy of DII All American honors.  Does he have it in him to pull off another huge upset here at the tournament? Beat one of the top 5 I have slotted to contend for the Midwest Classic title? Maybe even beat more than one?  He definitely has the tools & if we're not going to go that far, he most certainly has what it takes to capture one of those 6th, 7th or 8th place medals. 

Anthony Aniciete

Sophomore Anthony Aniciete is looking for his first big moment as a Dragon & it could very well be here at the Midwest Classic that we see him breathe that fire. It'll be an extremely tough challenge, but among those looking for a top 8 finish here at the Classic, Aniciete is among them. 

Aaron Lucio
Grand Valley State 

If you are familiar with my series "Gone, Lost & Forgotten" then you are very familiar with my passion for discontinued wrestling programs & how depressed I get discussing all of the great wrestling teams we have lost throughout the decades.  You also know how enthusiastic and excited I get when one of these historic programs is restored. Therefore you know how exhilarated I am at the return of Grand Valley State wrestling & furthermore how ecstatic I am that the program is doing this well so soon into their return. It's a testimony to how great things can come if the right people are behind the project.  

With all that out of my system, I'm looking forward to the Lakers crowning their first Midwest Classic place-winners since returning to the mat! I know they'll put some on the award stand and Aaron Lucio is one who stands a good shot.  Thus far the freshman has an impressive 7-1 decision over Graham Shore. 

Graham Shore

An NCAA DII qualifier for the Roughnecks last season, you gotta think that Graham Shore is among the candidates for a top 8 finish here at the Midwest Classic.  He recently took Trevon Gray to town with a very impressive 22-8 major decision. Perhaps he has more of these kind of dominating victories within him, which is exactly what he'll need if he wants to make the award stand here in Indianapolis. He also owns a 3:49 fall over Luke Acuna. 

Quade Smith
Chadron State

I can definitely see Quade Smith finishing within the R12 here are the Midwest Classic, and if he can pull off a good upset or two, he might even find himself on the award stand. Thus far He owns both a 1:20 fall as well as a 9-6 decision over Rhys Sellers & he also owns both a 4:34 fall as well as a 3-2 decision over Christian Lopez. 

Rhys Sellers
New Mexico Highlands

A wrestler from New Mexico competing for a school in New Mexico. Gotta admit, haven't seen that too many times during my three decades of watching collegiate wrestling. Thus far Sellers owns a 13-1 major decision over Christian Lopez. 

Christian Lopez
Colorado School Of Mines

Thus far Christian Lopez hasn't competed much this season. One of his only matches was an ugly loss to Rhys Sellers. However, he's ranked #16 for a reason & that's because of what he is capable of on a good day. He does own a 4-3 decision over Quade Smith on his resume. 

Shay Horton
Thomas More

As Thomas More makes the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II, you know as well as I do that the Saints are going to want to showcase the talents they have and what better place to start than the Midwest Classic. There's possibility that Shay Horton could end up one of the biggest surprises here in Indianapolis. He was after all an NAIA qualifier last season placing 4th at the Mid-South Conference.  Can I see him winning the tournament over all the talent that will be in this bracket? I think that may be too tall of an order, but seeing him on the award stand? That wouldn't surprise me much. 

Luke Acuna

Luke Acuna has looked tough at times this season. He looked real good winning the Glenville Invitational a month ago. Thus far he has both an 11-7 decision over Trevon Gray & a 7-4 decision over Will Burgess. 

Will Burgess
Seton Hill 

Of the last of the place-winner candidates in my estimation, last but certainly not least, Will Burgess.  10-2 (as of the time this was written) the Griffin looks to upset his way to a top 8 finish. He was after all R12 here last year competing at 133 lbs. 

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