I tell you what interest me most about 197 lbs. I think there is a very good possibility that we could see a final, where both finalist are currently redshirting. I have good reason to believe that Zac Braunagel will be fighting for a Midlands title For one, he won last year's Midlands (he also owns a 4th place finish to his name) & he owns both a 4-3 as well as a 2-1 tiebreaker over Braxton Amos. Not to mention a 4-3 victory over Luke Stout.
Here's the other redshirt that I think is likely to be in the opposite corner of the finals. Braxton Amos, last year's Midlands runner-up. The Badger has more than proved himself against the field. A 3-1 s.v. over Stout,he owns both a 5-2 & an 8-2 win over Sam Mitchell. A 2:56 fall as well as a 24-7 tech over Ryan Yarnell & both a 9-1 major as well as an 18-3 tech over Cole Urbas.
If anyone is going to spoil my plans for an all Redshirt final, it is Luke Stout of Princeton. The Tiger placed 5th here last year & could easily turn those super close losses to both Braunagel & Amos into wins. He also owns an 8-2 win over Ben Smith & he's defeated Cole Urbas 13-9, 20-4 tech & 3:31 fall.
When I look at Braunagel, Amos & Stout, I'm fairly confident I have our gold, silver & bronze here at the Midlands. Not as confident in the order that they'll finish in, but I am confident they will be our top three place-winners. As to 4th through 8th? Now that's a little more up in the air. I think Northwestern's very own Evan Bates is a candidate for 4th place. 8th at last year's Midlands competing at 184, he owns a 12-2 major decision over Ben Smith.
I think another great candidate for a top 8 finish is Cleveland State's Ben Smith. Owns both a 5-2 as well as a 14-3 victory over Mitchell. Also owns an 8-7 decision over Austin Cooley & a 5-1 win over Ryan Yarnell. As I said previously, the Vikings are in a position to really shine here at the Midlands & Smith should be one of them that does.
The Quakers have surprised me this season with their recruiting. At various weights they have good young freshmen that have taken the spots away from talented upperclassmen. Martin Cosgrove is one of them. Owns a 7-4 official victory over teammate Cole Urbas.
Speaking of teammate Cole Urbas, he was 7th at last year's Midlands & I would suspect he have a couple of different goals for this tournament. One, to once again earn a top 8 finish. Two, to earn back his varsity position. I consider Urbas to be one of the most dangerous wrestlers in this bracket. If an opponent hasn't done his home work & coaches aren't well scouted on Urbas, that could spell disaster for whoever wrestles him. Urbas leaves much to be desired when wrestling in the neutral position, but he's an absolute monster on top. If you get a couple of takedowns against him, you are not being wise by choosing down when it becomes your choice for position. I've seen other wrestlers make that mistake against Urbas and pay for it dearly. He pinned Ryan Yarnell in exactly 1 minute.
Among the candidates for a top 8 finish here in Chicago, you can count Austin Cooley. The Mountaineer will fight to be on the award stand.
I believe that Sam Mitchell will be the Buffalos best hope for a top 8 finish this tournament. Thus far he owns three victories over last year's 8th place finisher Ryan Yarnell. All decisions by scores of 7-4, 3-1 & 4-2.
8th at last year's Midlands championships, Ryan Yarnell will go for another top 8 finish this year. The Cougar owns a 10-5 win over Mitchell.
I don't have any non-DI wrestlers I think are in contention for top 8 honors here at 197, but I do have the next best thing. Shane Liegel a transfer from Loras who was 1st-4th-2nd in NCAA Division III competing for the Duhawks. Now he's DI competing for the Badgers & looking for his first big accomplishment in the ranks of Division I. A top 8 finish here at the Midlands would be it.