Monday, December 18, 2023

44th Midwest Classic Recap & Review


I knew this was gonna be a great tournament and once again, it was! So much great wrestling. It's an event that I have yet to see in person but hope to one day.  I'm not even sure where to start.  From an overall perspective, I was so happy to see Montevallo crown a champion.  Gawd that was exciting and rewarding. A first year, brand new program in Alabama! And they crown a champion at the toughest in-season DII tournament of the year!  Then Grand Valley State, reinstated after three decades coming in and earning some place-winners.  Thomas More showing they belong by putting some on the award stand as well. Wrestling in so many ways is headed in positive directions and this is proof of it.   Let's now take a weight by weight look at what went down in Indianapolis. 

James Joplin Wins Midwest Classic Title As Lander Wins Team Title 

In effort to win the Midwest Classic team title, it takes guys like James Joplin winning individual titles & that's exactly what he did here at 125 lbs. Finishing 3rd at last year's championships, he now owns a bronze & gold from DII's toughest in-season tournament of the year.   It was also very rewarding to see Christian Mejia of McKendree back on top of the heap.  He was a Midwest Classic champ two seasons ago, but last year finished a very disappointing one match shy of medaling. Very cool to see him reclaim his status and make it back to the finals. Shane Corrigan of UW-Parkside taking 3rd, as he avenged a quarterfinal loss to Quade Smith of Chadron State. Losing 4-2, he came back to win 13-2.  Really goes to show how much things can turn around in a relatively short amount of time.  Don't want to ramble on and on, but how cool was it to see Aaron Lucio of Grand Valley State become the first to earn a medal for the Lakers since the team has been restored?  I'll end by saying that it must have felt pretty good for Trevon Gray of Pittsburgh Johnstown earning a medal (8th) as he was one match shy last season. 

Southern School, Southern Wrestler, Southern Champion! 

I've been a wrestling fan for 30+ years and I can remember the days when the wrestling community was very pessimistic about wrestling in the south & the potential for growth in the south.  I guess remembering those days back in 2001, 2002, ect where members of & other collegiate wrestling message boards would be so negative about the idea of wrestling in the south getting better...I guess that's why seeing guys like Gabe Hixenbaugh, from Alabama, wrestling for an Alabama school, doing so well makes me so happy.  He comes into the Midwest Classic and he defeats both last year's NCAA DII champion as well as last year's NCAA DII runner-up to win the title!  I have to say I was a little surprised that Gavin Quiocho medical forfeited after losing in the quarters.  I wouldn't be too concerned if you're a Glenville State fan though. He didn't have the best Midwest Classic last year either & he still went on to win the D2 national title.  As for right now though, there's a new #1 in town & he's representing a brand new program in style.  Heart goes out to Reece Barnhardt of Mary. Don't get me wrong, taking 7th at a tournament like this is still saying something. Actually it's saying a lot. However he's been 2nd the past two seasons, so I'm sure that was a bit of a setback for him.  Just goes to show how tough this tournament is. 

Two Time Midwest Classic Champion Zack Donathan

In yet another absolutely loaded weight class, Zack Donathan once again walked out of Indianapolis carrying Midwest Classic gold.  Defeated Cayden Henschel of UW-Parkside (who came back to take 3rd) & then defeated Dylan Lucas in the finals, who was a champion himself last season at 133 lbs.  Great tournament for Donathan.  

Wyatt Turnquist Wins Title For Northern State

Like James Joplin at 125 lbs, Wyatt Turnquist won a title here at 149 lbs, after finishing 3rd at last year's championships.  Did so by defeating last year's champion Jacob Ealy of Pittsburgh Johnstown in the finals.  Ealy is now 5th-1st-2nd at the Classic.   Other big happenings here at 149, Ryan Moore of Thomas More taking a 5th place finish.  The Saints to my knowledge will not be eligible for the post-season this year, so it was important to make the most out of this tournament, & Moore did.  Chris Donathan really stepping it up for the Lakers, & being among those earning a top 8 finish for reinstated Grand Valley State.  Also happy to see Jake Piccirilli make the award stand as well.  Very confused as to why Christian Small was missing from this bracket. 

Jack Haskin Wins 157 Title For Lake Erie

My apologies to Jack Haskin & Lake Erie as I originally posted incorrect information regarding this weight class.  I had the score backwards with his match with Gabe Johnson.  Again apologize for this incorrect information.  Haskin wrestled a great tournament.  

Lander's David Hunsberger Takes over #1 Spot at 165 lbs 

We got a new #1 at 165 NCAA Division II & that is Lander's David Hunsberger. The Bearcat defeated last year's NCAA DI champion Chase Luensman of Upper Iowa in the finals to bring home the Midwest Classic championship. In stories that warm the heart, Cory Peterson of Mckendree made one heck of a come back.  As mentioned in my preview, his '22-'23 season ended here last year as he was injured in the quarterfinals. This tournament, he had a great run to a 3rd place finish & is now a two time Midwest Classic place-winner having also finished 2nd two seasons ago.  To give credence to just how loaded of a bracket Hunsberger won, both John Ridle & Cole Ritter, who were 5th & 4th in last year's championships respectively, came up short of placing again. This was an extremely loaded bracket. 

UNC-Pembroke's Scott Joll Proves Himself at 174

I wrote in my preview how I thought it was a very real possibility that Joll might win the Midwest Classic title here at 174 lbs.  Won the title when he defeated Grand Valley State's Josh Kenny in the finals. Which by the way, is also a monumental moment in wrestling history, as Kenny marks the Laker's first Midwest Classic finalist since being reinstated.  I was a little surprised that Max Bruss of Mary slipped to 6th after winning a title last season, but again, that's simply a reflection of how loaded & competitive this tournament is.  Bruss is now a three time place-winner having finishes of 4th-1st-6th.   Cole Hernandez of Western Colorado looked very sharp here too.  7th last year, he took a very impressive 3rd. 

From Broncho Backup To Midwest Classic Champion!

When the brackets first came out, I was rather shocked to see the name Garrett Wells instead of Anthony Des Vigne.  By the time the tournament was said and done, I was very shocked to see Wells a top the award stand, crowned Midwest Classic champion.  Does this mean that Wells is now the starter for the Bronchos? In their one & only official meeting, Des Vigne defeated Wells 2-1 at the Drury Open, but winning the Midwest Classic title holds a lot of weight.  I mean this weight had a lot of top talent in it, so I'm very curious to see who ends up the starter come time for Regions.  UW-Parkside's Reece Worachek earned his third medal here at the Midwest Classic.  6th-7th-4th are his finishes. 

Derek Blubaugh Keeps 197 lbs Title At Home For The Greyhounds

I'll be honest. I was a little disappointed to see neither Dalton Abney nor Caden Steffen in this bracket.  I got some information as to why Abney wasn't here, but as to Steffen, I have no idea. Nevertheless Doug Blubaugh won a competitive bracket, kept the 197 lbs title at home in Indianapolis.  It was also rewarding to see Tereus Henry back on top, giving the Greyhound all he could handle in a sudden victory final.  I said in my preview that despite the fact that '23-'24 started off a bit rough for Henry, that he could very well find himself right back in the mix this tournament. Indeed he did & it was rewarding to see.  I could go on and on about other things in this bracket, but I'll end by saying I was impressed with Dakoda Rodgers.  Wrestled very well through the consolations, taking 3rd place. 

Isaiah Vance Wins Midwest Classic Title For The Mountain Cats 

4th at last year's championships, Isaiah Vance wrestled a very good tournament to bring home Midwest Classic gold.  I'll say that I was very surprised that both Lloyd Reynolds of UW-Parkside & La'Ron Parks of The Real Notre Dame both got beat out as early as they did.  I had a lot of fans ask me last week how many non-place winners from The Midwest Classic went on to qualify or even place at the NCAA DII national tournament.  The answer was probably more than you think.  For '23-'24? It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Reynolds or Parks earn a top 8 D2 finish by year's end.  It's all relative to how tough the Midwest Classic is.  It truly is. 

No comments:

Post a Comment