Wisconsin All-American Austin Gomez (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
It's back! After a weird 2021-22 season that saw the Midlands abruptly canceled due to Covid concerns and the MatMen Open trying to replace it, the most storied collegiate tournament is ready to rock. While the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational may surpass the Midlands in terms of ranked wrestlers/teams and the Southern Scuffle has had its moments, the Midlands has the history on its side. Famous for its format open to post-grads, the Midlands was famously as difficult (or more) than the NCAA Tournament due to the talented Olympic hopefuls that returned in the 1980's and 1990's.
Now, those post-grads are few and far between, but there are still high-quality collegiate wrestlers ready to throw down. This year's edition of the Midlands (the 58th annual) features a pair of number-one ranked wrestlers along with three others ranked #2. In addition, top 20 tournament teams like #6 Arizona State, #7 Pittsburgh, #9 Wisconsin, and #13 Princeton are all expected to send full squads along with host #15 Northwestern.
Below is our preview of the action at all ten weights, along with predictions for champions at all ten weights.
Ranked Wrestlers: #2 Patrick Glory (Princeton), #3 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern), #5 Richie Figueroa/Brandon Courtney (Arizona State), #6 Killian Cardinale (West Virginia), #7 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin), #18 Dean Peterson (Rutgers), #21 Ryan Miller (Penn), #31 Blake West (Northern Illinois)
Right off the bat, we have perhaps the most star-studded bracket of the entire tournament. There's the potential for five All-Americans to be in action at the Midlands. That being said, there are plenty of reasons why one or more of them may not actually compete this week. The finalists from the most recent Midlands (2019), Patrick Glory and Michael DeAugustino, are both slated to compete; however, both have missed time during this season. DeAugustino injury defaulted out of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, while Glory has sat out multiple duals. The two also finished second (Glory) and fourth (DeAugustino) at nationals last year.
We could have the season debut for a couple of notable wrestlers at this weight class in Brandon Courtney and Killian Cardinale. The 2021 NCAA runner-up, Courtney, has been aiming to make his first appearance at the Midlands. In his place, redshirt freshman Richie Figueroa has been excellent, going 10-0 and winning the CKLV. Cardinale also got off to a late start last season and ended up winning the Big 12 Championships and was an NCAA Round of 12 finisher.
Aside from Figueroa, the most steady from this group in 2022-23 has been Eric Barnett. The two-time All-American has earned wins over five national qualifiers during his six wins.
Someone who may prove to be amongst the top-tier of contenders with a good tournament is Dean Peterson. All of his three losses have come to 2022 NCAA All-Americans, with two coming from Glory. His teammate, Dylan Shawver, is capable of a spot in the top eight, as well. Peterson's biggest win of the year, thus far, was a major decision over Ryan Miller, who made the finals at the Midlands 2021 replacement, the MatMen Open. He should fare well here, too.
Finally, freshman Blake West has used the momentum created from his redshirt season and is 11-4 on the season.
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