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Year-End Wrestling: Midlands Takes Center Stage [***UPDATED THURS. MORNING***]

Iowa will be inaugurating the Soldier Salute as well

Dean Hamiti is the top seed at 165, but Quincy Monday (???) is lurking

For the first time since 2019, the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships will take place. While the field is not quite as stacked as it has been in years past (no Penn State, no Iowa, no Ohio State, no Michigan, no Nebraska, no Minnesota), and the Southern Scuffle is gaining at its expense, it’s still a high quality event. And this year, you can catch the whole thing streaming on BTN+. While the production values aren’t always the best—and the Midlands will be running 10 mats on Thursday—it’s still a nice bonus for BTN+ subscribers.

BTN+ will also be carrying the Soldier Salute. My recollection is that Iowa tried to throw something together quick last year after the Midlands got cancelled, but it didn’t come off. It will this year, though. While in almost every way it should take a back seat to the Midlands in terms of talent do keep in mind two notes:

  • Spencer Lee will be competing at the Soldier Salute as part of his ramping up for conference season. And watching Spencer Lee is never a bad decision.
  • The Solider Salute will include quite a bit of women’s wrestling. Midlands has some too, but Iowa, who just established a women’s program, has really put in the effort to showcase women’s wrestling this year. Props to them.

If you want to plan your B1G Thursday/Friday, here’s the start times for the various sessions:

Thursday 12/29 (all times CST)

9:30 a.m., Midlands session 1

10:00 a.m., Soldier Salute session 1

5:00 p.m., Soldier Salute session 2

7:00 a.m., Midlands session 2

Friday 12/30 (all times CST)

11:00 a.m, Midlands session 3 (semis, consolation, 7th place matches)

12:00 p.m., Soldier Salute, session 3

6:00 p.m., Solider Salute session 4

6:00 p.m., Midlands session 4 (1st, 3rd, 5th place matches)

As I noted, the Midlands is the deeper event on the men’s side, so the rest of the article will focus on it. The brackets are just recently out, so there may still be some changes.


125: 1) Eric Barnett (Wisconsin), 2) Brandon Courtney (ASU), 3) Killian Cardinale (WV), 4) Dean Peterson (Rutgers).

With all due respect to Peterson, there’s a drop off from 3 to 4. Courtney was national runner-up in ‘21, but hasn’t wrestled yet this year. Frosh sensation Richie Figueroa was 10-0 for ASU and had been listed as the 1 seed when the brackets first came out, but may have withdrawn. Either way, any of the top three would seem to have a roughly equal shot at winning. Since Courtney and Cardinale share a half of the bracket, make Barnett the slight favorite. Keep an eye on 6) Dylan Shawver (RUT), and 9) Jack Medley (MICH), too.

133: 1) Lucas Byrd (Illinois), 2) Michael McGee (ASU), 3) Pat Glory (PRINCETON), 2) Joe Heilman (RUT), 3) Chris Cannon (NW), 4) Michael Colaiocco (PENN)

I like Byrd a lot, and he and McGee meeting in the final would be fantastic, but it can’t happen b/c McGee withdrew. But wait! Pat Glory bumping up to 133 is REALLY interesting. Like, is there a glitch at trackwrestling? Assuming he does go, it could be quite fun and I’d actually tab him as the favorite. 5) Chris Cannon (NW), now the 3-seed, has something to prove as he took three losses at the CKLV including an INJ default. Hopefully he’s healthy and ready to go. A quarter with Heilman would be a great measuring stick for both. Assuming Glory goes, give the title to whoever wins his semifinal with McGee. He is 0-4 lifetime vs. Byrd, but the last meeting, at the NCAAs last March was the closest matchup yet (2-1). Still, this is Byrd’s to lose. And he won’t.

141: 1) Cole Matthews (PITT), 2) Sammy Alvarez (RUT) 3) Frankie Tal Shahar (Northwestern), 4) Jesse Vasquez (ASU)

Matthews is #1 nationally, and nobody here seems to be all that close to him. Alvarez has talent, but is yet to place nationally, and is coming off an upset loss in the Princeton dual. Tal Shahar was 12-10 last year and has yet to go this year, so the seed is a bit of a gift and bears watching. This is Matthews’ bracket and it would be a huge upset if he doesn’t take the title.

149: 1) Ridge Lovett (Unattached-NEB), 1) Kyle Parco (ASU), 2) Yahya Thomas (NW), 3) Doug Zapf (PENN), 4) Graham Rooks (Indiana)

It would appear Austin Gomez has withdrawn, which is unfortunate. That said, Lovett, who is redshirting this year, brings plenty of excitement himself. Still, I’ll call for the mild upset and for Parco to knock off Zapf for the title, getting revenge for a loss by INJ Def. back in mid-November. It would be really fun to see Thomas recapture the form that led him to a 3rd place finish in ‘21. His only loss this year is to Sammy Sasso, so keep an eye on him.

157: 1) Anthony Artalona (PENN), 2) Garrett Model (UW), 3) Trevor Chumbley (NW), 4) Dazjon Casto (PITT)

Probably the weakest weight. None of these guys are guaranteed to make the blood round at nationals, much less compete for a title. Artalona has a 3-2 win over Model in their dual meet earlier this month. I guess he’s the favorite, but my dart landed on Chumbley, so...

165: 1) Dean Hamiti (UW), 2) Quincy Monday (PRINCETON), 3) Peyton Hall (WV), 4) Justin McCoy (UVA)

Is Monday (#1 at 157) really going at 165? Is Princeton (see Glory listed at 133) just saying to hell with it? Are the brackets off? I can’t be 100%, but if Monday goes at 165, it adds to already exciting bracket. Hamiti and Hall had a memorable battle at the NCAAs last year that went Hamiti’s way. They seemed to be on a collision course for a rematch until I say Monday’s name. Gotta go with the homer pick here and stick with Hamiti, but a Hall/Monday semi would be dynamite on its own terms. 5) Izzy Olejnik is good enough to get to the semis and could give Hamiti a match if that happens.

With Monday still in the bracket, THIS is now easily the must watch weight. Olejnik/McCoy has the potential to be an exciting quarter, and both semis should have NCAA intensity to them.

174: 1) Edmond Ruth (ILL), 2) Troy Fisher (NW)3) Nick Incontrera (PENN), 4) Jackson Turley (RUT)

Ruth deserves his seed, but this isn’t the strongest weight (better than 157, though). Incontrera could put things together, but let’s say chalk until the final, then go with the mild upset with Fisher grabbing the title in what might not be the last matchup this year between Ruth and Fisher.

184: 1) Brian Soldano (RUT), 2) Anthony Montalvo (ASU), 2) Reece Heller (PITT), 3) Anthony Carman (WV), 4) Neil Antrassian (VIRGINIA)

Okay, this might give 157 a run for it’s money as the weakest weight. With Montalvo dropping out this IS the weakest weight, BUT Soldano is a story. Soldano is one of two B1G frosh at 184 (Nebraska’s Lenny Pinto is the other) to have surged into the top 10, and this could be a coming out party for him. However Montalvo, who transferred in from Oklahoma State, is good enough to win the title, if healthy. The fifth year junior has only wrestled nine competitive matches the last three years, but his last match was a very respectable 5-3 loss to Parker Keckeisen at CKLV, so don’t be surprised to see him atop the podium. Antrassian, newly ascended to 4-seed, is, per Intermat, ranked above Heller and Carman, so let’s say whoever wins a Soldano/Atrassian semi takes the title (though Antrassian did drop a 5-4 decision to Carman earlier this year).

197: 1) Braxton Amos (UW), 2) Zac Braunagel (ILL), 3) Luke Stout (PRINCETON), 4) Mac Stout (PITT)

Would be more interesting if Pitt was sending out Nino Bonaccorsi, but this will still do. Amos looks improved this year—he has a SV win over L. Stout, and an MD over 6) Cole Urbas (PENN), but top seed probably should have gone to Braunagel, who took Bonaccorsi to SV his last match out. Hopefully they get a chance to settle it in the final.

275: 1) Cohlton Schultz (ASU), 2) Lucas Davison (NW) 3) Yaraslau Slavikouski (HARVARD), 4) Trent Hillger (UW)

Schultz has 2nd and 4th NCAA finishes in his pockets (which is 1st and 3rd in a world without Gable Steveson), but he was upset by AJ Nevills at CKLV and then had to MFF out, so there’s intrigue here, especially since Davison beat Nevills at CKLV, and gave Mason Parris a tough fight in a 6-4 loss. Still, if Schultz is healthy enough to go, you’ve got to tab him the favorite. A Schultz/Davison final would be the perfect cap to the event.