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New Years Wrestling Tournaments: What’s going on?

A Midlands cancellation sees two new tournaments, Southern Scuffle to go on as planned

2019 NCAA Div I Wrestling Championships Session Six Photo by Hunter Martin/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

So, our Big Ten wrestling schools ordinarily attend one of two major tournaments over their winter break: either the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tennessee, or Midlands in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. This year, the official Midlands organizers (which includes host Northwestern) canceled the tournament for the second consecutive year “out of an abundance of caution” in consideration of you-know-what. In its place, two tournaments were very quickly organized: the “Matmen Open,” organized by Illinois Matmen and taking place at the same date (Dec 29-30) and venue as the original Midlands tournament; and the Hawkeye Open, to take place January 1st and 2nd in the new Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

Hey, Atinat from the future here! Northwestern has added Virginia and SIU-Edwardsville to a tridual to be wrestled on December 29th, which you may note as what was supposed to be the first day of Midlands. I have nothing that I should say about this, so I won't!

New Midlands Matmen Open, December 29-30th

The Matmen Open quickly emerged as the dominant Midlands alternative, as teams which had to travel didn’t need to change their plans to attend, and local teams followed once the tournament built momentum. Currently slated to attend are Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Rutgers, and Wisconsin, with Michigan sending a few wrestlers as well. Also in attendance from around the country are top 25 teams Cal Poly, Northern Iowa, Pitt, and Princeton, as well as a partial team from North Carolina. Iowa and Northwestern are the only Big Ten teams who intended to attend Midlands but will not be attending the Matmen Open. The event will begin at 10AM Wednesday and stream on Rokfin, which is a welcome surprise as my subscription has not ended yet (though there is still a $10 PPV). Preseeds are available here, but are headlined by Shawver (125), Byrd (133), Rivera (141), Josh Heil (149), Coleman (157), Jake Wentzel (165), Turley (174), Mark Hall (184), Nino Bonaccorsi (197), and Hillger (285).

Kind of...: Not what I was hoping for, but there’s still potential here. Iowa and PSU are the elite in the B1G (and America) this year. But Purdue, Rutgers, Illinois, and UW are all looking to make some noise, and they’ll be bringing plenty of All-American candidates to this event. That said, it’s supposed to start the day after tomorrow (I’m writing this on Monday), and it sure seems like plenty of moving pieces are still being put in place. No brackets, no real sense of who’s coming from the schools sending partial teams, etc. Guess I’ve got 36 hours or so to think over if I want that Rofkin subscription.

HWAHSQB: I’m personnally bummed this won’t be on BTN+. Things I want to see are some of the exciting freshman like Braxton Amos and some of the veterans that haven’t wrestled yet this year like Mikey Carr and Dylan Duncan. Also, Rutgers has duals with the Wisconsin Badgers and Illinois Fighting Illini within 15 days after the Matmen Open so we could previews of some big dual matchups like Rivera/Duncan, Byrd/Alvarez, and Poznanski versus Braunagel/Weiler.

Kind of...: HWAHSQB, I’m glad you brought up Amos for two reasons. 1) I’m a UW fan and am certainly excited to have somebody at his caliber at UW, but also 2) DON’T SLEEP ON DEAN HAMITI AT 165. The true frosh is 7-0 and #17. He doesn’t have any jaw-dropping victories yet, but he pinned #18 Izzak Olejnik of N. Illinois and six of his seven wins have earned bonus points (3 MD, 1 TF, 2 Fall). 165 is a relatively weak weight for the B1G, and Hamiti is currently the 4th highest ranked B1G wrestler at 165. Not saying he’ll take down Marinelli, but Hamiti is going to make some nois, and soon.

The Hawkeye Open, January 1st and 2nd Cancelled

The Hawkeye Open was quickly organized by the Iowa City Area Sports Commission and Wrestle Like a Girl, and the men’s side is intended to supplement the existing Wrestle Like a Girl amateur tournament. Despite the quick RSVP from the defending national champions, no other schools had committed to attending the event in full. Still, as an open tournament, wrestlers can individually register to compete. This event will also be streamed on Rokfin via IAwrestle’s channel.

Kind of...: I really appreciate the way the Brands’, Iowa, etc. swung into action after Midlands was cancelled. However...looking at the schools heading to Matmen and the Southern Scuffle...who’s left? PSU sure isn’t heading to Iowa City. I’m sure something will come off, and there will be sufficient good wrestling to make it worthwhile. But I was sure looking forward to seeing Iowa at Midlands.

Atinat: Hey, me again. Some news out of Coralville, as the tournament organizers released that the event was trimmed to one day only, presumably due to the relatively small response received. They also mentioned that individual wrestlers will be attending from UNI, SDSU, Arizona State, Purdue, NIU, Minnesota State-Mankato, and UVA, possibly among other schools. Indiana Tech, Texas Wesleyan, Iowa Wesleyan, Augsburg (MN), and William Penn (IA) will all be attending on the women’s side. Also, Iowa’s announced list of attendees includes nobody who has wrestled attached this year.

Southern Scuffle, January 1st and 2nd

Michigan State and Minnesota are registered for the Southern Scuffle, along with #3 Oklahoma State, #5 NC State, #9 Cornell, and #10 Virginia Tech. Three top-ranked wrestlers will be attending, with 141 pound’s Yianni Diakomihalis, 197’s AJ Ferrari, and heavyweight’s Gable Steveson all slated to go. They’re the only tournament with any number ones, as Penn State’s four, Iowa’s two, and Iowa State’s David Carr are all staying home. The Scuffle will be streamed on Flowrestling.

Kind of...: Not going to my hopes up (look what happened with Midlands, after all), but, yeah, this should be great. NC State looked really good last week, Va Tech has plenty of talent, and Okie State is always good. Should be plenty of meaningful wrestling, if it all comes off. I would expect several matchups here to be repeated at the NCAAs in March.

HWAHSQB: Everyone should watch Gable Steveson every chance they get and we get the guy with the best, albeit not great, chance of giving him a competitive match in Mason Parris. I’ll be there. eatingpopcorn.gif

Atinat: Okay, me again. With the Hawkeye Open getting cancelled, Iowa is sending their wrestlers to the Southern Scuffle. It’s still just younger guys, mostly on redshirts, but it’s good to see they’ll get a chance to compete. Look for Drake Ayala and Patrick Kennedy to make waves.

Other stuff happening soon!

#4 Michigan at #6 Arizona State, Monday, January 3rd at 7PM on Flowrestling

Man, am I excited for this one. Arizona State is no slouch. The Sun Devils lost to Penn State in the finals at the Collegiate National Duals last week, and handed them their last non-conference dual loss back in 2019. But I’m more excited to see a fully operational Michigan Wolverines squad. The Michigan Wolverines already has three top-three wrestlers in Stevan Micic, Myles Amine, and Mason Parris, and in January, they will add 2019 national champion (and 2018 runner-up) Nick Suriano. Suriano will be joining his third collegiate team, transferring most recently from Rutgers. He was the favorite at 57kg going into the 2020 Olympic Trials but was unable to compete after a positive Covid test. He is set to compete at 125 pounds, which is roughly where he competes internationally. Truthfully, I don’t know if Suriano will be eligible to compete for this dual, but he will in time for the Penn State dual later this month.

If Suriano does go on Monday, he will likely face last year’s runner-up, #4 Brandon Courtney. Courtney is undefeated on the year, but is slotted behind Pat Glory and Vito Arujau, both of whom did not compete last season. 133 pounds will have a top-ten matchup in #4 Michael McGee facing the Wolverines’ #8 Dylan Ragusin. Both wrestlers have two losses on the year, but the all-American McGee shot up the rankings after knocking off Virginia Tech’s Korbin Myers at the Collegiate Duals. 165 pounds has another top-ten matchup in #6 Anthony Valencia facing #10 Cameron Amine. Valencia, the younger brother of Zahid, is undefeated on the year, though without much top competition thus far. #8 Patrick Brucki, a Princeton transfer, faces #9 Kordell Norfleet at 197 pounds and then #2 Mason Parris will see #3 Cohlton Schultz in a match that likely will not be as close as the rankings would indicate.

Wrestlestat has this as a 22-12 Wolverines victory, and on paper, that sounds about right, but it’s worth noting again that Arizona State took down Penn State at home in 2019. Home field advantage is a real thing in wrestling, so maybe Arizona State can steal a close match or two.

#7 Ohio State at American University, Monday, January 3rd at 6:30PM on ESPN+

Nobody for American is ranked. They previously wrestled Rutgers and lost 41-3, only winning at 133 pounds. They did beat Duke, but lost to Sacred Heart, Virginia, George Mason, and Hofstra, so maybe that says more about Duke than anything. Also Duke lost to Maryland. Tune in!

Indiana Hoosiers at THE Ohio University, Tuesday, January 4th at 6PM on ESPN+

Wrestlestat ranks every team in prospective dual performance, and Ohio comes in at 40th in the country. That’d be 12th in the Big Ten, ahead of Illinois (!), Maryland, and... Indiana. So, it’s fitting that they also have this scored as an 18-12 Bobcats victory. Thing is, with the exception of DJ Washington, neither team has anyone that good, and both have quite a few guys that are fighting for NCAA qualification spots. There are enough tossup weights that this could be a 5-5 match tie or 8-2 either way. So, tune in if you got it and like good-not-great wrestling, and cheer on Indiana if you give a damn how the conference looks. Or cheer on Ohio because there aren’t enough Bobcat mascots.