Monday, December 25, 2023

Midlands Preview (Fri Dec 29th-Sat Dec 30th) = 125 lbs


Before I get started on the champion contenders & the place-winner contenders at 125 lbs I need to address the elephant in the room.  It's no secret to anyone that the Midlands isn't what it used to be. It hasn't been for quite some time, but even now it's not as comparable to what it even was a handful of years ago.  COVID-19 causing two tournaments to be canceled really put a hamper on the tournament & I have to admit, it has yet to recover.  With that said, it is still a tough & competitive tournament. It still features an assortment of top talent & ranked wrestlers at every weight.  It also in many ways could be a good thing for the sport of wrestling. With Iowa no longer participating after dominating for such a long period of time, it makes for more of a team race.  Northwestern won the team title last season & I don't know if they as host had ever won the team title or not. I think this is a good thing for wrestling.  The Midlands is and always will be seen as a large, prestigious in-season tournament & now we get to see the smaller teams and their wrestlers have more success. Elephant addressed, let's take a look at the talent at 125 lbs. 

Richard Figueroa
Arizona State

A CKLV champion last year,  Richard Figueroa is now the number one contender to win a Midlands title this year.  Thus far he has a single loss on the season & while he plans to add a handful of W's while in Chicago, he doesn't plan to add an L's.  Against the competition here, he has a 6-2 decision over Ryan Miller & a 13-1 major over Diego Sotelho. 

Eric Barnett

A Midlands champion last season, so far the start of this year has been a bit rocky for the Badger.  As they say though, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going" and it wouldn't surprise me at all, if we see the two time All American start to act the part. He doesn't plan on leaving Hoffman Estates with any less than what he brought home last year. Has a 4-1 win over Tristan Lujan and a 21 second fall over Ryan Miller. 

Jett Strickenberger
West Virginia 

The 2023 NJCAA champion is thus far proving his worth in the world of NCAA DI wrestling & now he'll contend with Figueroa & Barnett in an effort to call himself Midlands champion. He hasn't faced any of the competition that he'll see here, but he's proven in other ways a good two months into the season that he will be a contender. 

Diego Sotelho

The sophomore Crimson sorta came out of nowhere last year to a very impressive 3rd place finish at the Midlands. In route to being one of the best light-weights Harvard has ever had, he looks to have another top finish this tournament.  Thus far he owns three victories of Ryan Miller, including a 5-4 decision, a 7-3 decision & a 5:39 fall. 

Blake West
Northern Illinois

Another tough sophomore competing in this year's Midlands will be Blake West who just barely missed out on a medal at last year's championships.  This year he looks to be one of the top 8.  Both an 11-7 as well as a 6-5 decision over Eli Griffin, he also has a 2-1 victory over Markel Baker. 

Markel Baker
George Mason 

Markel Baker is currently taking a redshirt this season, but I would imagine that we will see the Patriot compete at the Midlands.  I mean what better way to boost your confidence going into the next season than to have a good finish at one of the most recognized tournaments in NCAA Division I? A match away from placing last season, he owns a 6-2 victory over West. 

U.R.                             U.R.      
Max Gallagher               Ryan Miller           

Freshman Max Gallagher came into the '23-'24 season stealing the varsity spot away from Ryan Miller, including a 4-1 official decision over the two time NCAA qualifier.  He's gonna have to continue earning his spot here, as both Quakers will contend for a top 8 spot on the Midlands award stand.  Miller has both a 4-1 win over Sotelho & a 9-3 win over West. 

Tristan Lujan
Michigan State

Among those gunning for a top 8 spot here at the Midlands will be Tristan Lujan. A BIG 10 grappler, he's pulled off some nice wins in the past & will look to again here in Chicago. 

Eli Griffin
California Baptist

As the Lancers continue their transition into NCAA Division I, California Baptist looks to start adding credentials to the list of their accomplishments. Adding Midlands place-winners to that list would be a great start & among their contenders to do so, Eli Griffin. 

Dominic Mendez
Cal Poly 

The Mustangs come into Hoffman Estates looking to crown some place-winners and here at 125 is Dominic Mendez. 

#2 in NCAA Division III
Christian Guzman
North Central 

Last year a handful of non-NCAA Division I wrestlers made a name for themselves at the Midlands championships. I'm sure a handful will again this year as well.  As to 125 lbs, I say the best bet for a non DI place-winner is Christian Guzman of North Central. The D3 title contender was 3rd at last year's NCAA DIII championships & he currently carries a 14-0 record. 

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