Midlands Championships: Andy Hamilton's weight-by-weight analysis
Wrestling beat writer Andy Hamilton breaks down the top competition at Midlands:
125: Questions lingered in recent weeks about the health of two-time NCAA champion Jesse Delgado, who hasn't competed since Nov. 9. The Illinois senior was initally tabbed as the tournament's No. 1 preseed before Iowa's Thomas Gilman inherited the top spot. Gilman tripped up Delgado in last year's Midlands semifinals and went on to win the tournament. Delgado's absence leaves Virginia Tech's Joey Dance as the lone Division-I All-American in the bracket. Grand View's Ryak Finch, the reigning NAIA champ at 125, is the No. 10 preseed.
133: Cory Clark has been near the front of Iowa's parade of bonus points during the early portion of the season, but the degree of difficulty is ramped up for the sophomore All-American. The four-time state champ from Southeast Polk is part of a bracket that features top-ranked A.J. Schopp of Edinboro, four other ranked wrestlers and 2012 Midlands champ Jarrod Garnett, who bounced Clark into the Midlands consolations last year with an overtime win in the 125-pound semifinals. Tyler Clark, who placed fifth at the 2010 Midlands as a senior at Iowa, and Northern Iowa true freshman Josh Alber are also listed as unattached entrants.
141: The preseeds are set up for a possible title clash between past Midlands champions, but Edinboro's Mitchell Port and Virginia Tech's Devin Carter will have to navigate through a bracket with five ranked wrestlers and a few other highly acclaimed competitors. Iowa's Josh Dziewa is preseeded third, behind Port and Carter. Grand View's Brandon Wright, the 2014 NAIA champ, is preseeded 12th.
149: The battle for Iowa's starting job at 149 could become clear during the two-day tournament when Brody Grothus and Brandon Sorensen tangle with a bracket that features defending NCAA champ Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern and Edinboro All-American David Habat. Grothus beat Tsirtsis and Habat in last year's tournament before dropping a decision to Sorensen in a match for third place. The two Hawkeyes split time in the starting lineup during the first month of the season. Grothus enters the Midlands this year as the No. 3 preseed while Sorensen is fifth.
157: Much like 149, Iowa's 157-pound job could get cemented during the two-day tournament inside Welsh-Ryan Arena. Unlike 149, there's not a defending national champion — or even a returning Division I All-American — in the bracket. Super-skilled Illinois freshman Isaiah Martinez enters the tournament as the No. 1 preseed, ahead of 12th-ranked Cody Pack of South Dakota State. The intrigue on the Iowa end revolves around the battle between senior Michael Kelly, the No. 5 preseed, and transfer Edwin Cooper, who enters the tournament preseeded ninth. Cooper moved up from 149 this month to challenge for the starting spot.
165: Nick Moore reached the Midlands finals last year, but the Iowa senior will have to contend with a bracket that includes five of the top eight wrestlers in the national rankings in his pursuit of a title this time around. Wisconsin All-American Isaac Jordan is the No. 1 preseed at a weight that also includes Indiana's Taylor Walsh, who led Division I in pins last year, along with Northwestern All-American Pierce Harger and eighth-ranked Jackson Morse of Illinois.
174: Iowa's Mike Evans ripped through the bracket last year on his way to the Midlands title, registering three pins, two major decisions and a 6-0 win in his six tournament bouts. The second-ranked senior enters this year's tournament as the favorite again at 174, a weight that includes sixth-ranked Zac Brunson of Illinois, No. 8 Zach Epperly of Virginia Tech and returning All-American Bryce Hammond of Cal State Bakersfield. Iowa sophomore Alex Meyer — whose only loss in 10 bouts this season came against Evans — is the No. 6 preseed. The Hawkeyes will also get a look at true freshman Burke Paddock, the No. 9 preseed.
184: Perhaps only heavyweight Bobby Telford has gotten off to a better start than Sam Brooks for the Hawkeyes this season. The sophomore scored bonus points in all nine bouts and dismantled a couple ranked opponents along the way. Brooks placed eighth at the Midlands as a true freshman in 2012 and sixth last year. He enters this year's tournament as the No. 3 preseed. He'll have to contend with three returning All-Americans — Penn's Lorenzo Thomas, Old Dominion's Jack Dechow and Brown's Ophir Bernstein.
197: Iowa All-American Nathan Burak enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed, but it remains to be seen if he'll be wearing an Iowa singlet at the Midlands. Burak dealt with an early-season injury and hasn't wrestled since Nov. 15 when he won the Luther Open. He could compete unattached this week to preserve the possibility of a redshirt in the event of an injury during the Midlands. Burak's bracket includes sixth-ranked Abe Ayala of Princeton and No. 9 Alex Polizzi of Northwestern.
Heavyweight: Bobby Telford reached the Midlands finals as a freshman and again last year, but the Iowa senior is still in pursuit of his first title at the tournament. Telford kicked off his senior season with seven pins, a medical forfeit and a major decision in his first nine bouts, earning the No. 2 preseed behind longtime rival and top-ranked Mike McMullan of Northwestern. The bracket also features fifth-ranked Connor Medbury of Wisconsin and No. 6 Ty Walz of Virgnia Tech.