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2018 Midlands Championships Preview and Predictions

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photo courtesy of Richard Immel

What: The 56th Midlands Championships
When: Saturday December 29th and Sunday December 30th
Where: Sears Center Arena, Hoffman Estates, IL
Video: FloWrestling & BTN Plus
Stats: Trackwrestling
Twitter: @MidlandsChamps
#Midlands56

The Midlands are back baby. It is wrong to say that they were gone, but with the return of talented teams, the 56th Midlands is set to be an incredible show at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates. In one more year the teams will return to the newly remodeled Welsh Ryan Arena, but for now they return to the site of Iowa’s victory in 2017. Twelve teams that are currently ranked in TOM’s NCAA DI Wrestling Team Rankings will be sending competitors. That includes second-ranked Iowa, sixth-ranked Michigan, seventh-ranked Minnesota, and rounding out the top 10 teams will be ninth-ranked Arizona State. Host team Northwestern sits just outside the top 10 tied with Princeton at 11th. Wisconsin and Illinois are two more Big Ten teams currently ranked that will have athletes participating while UNI and UNC will also send their ranked teams to Chicago. Oregon State sits at 25th, but they have the individual talent to push the teams ahead of them this weekend. Add to this deep field that very strong third-ranked Johnson & Wales program that is third in DIII and the fourth-ranked NAIA Cumberlands (KY) and we have ourselves a tournament.
Now, there will be teams that do not send their entire teams. I do not expect Oregon State, Michigan, or Minnesota to have their starters making the trip, but that does not mean we will not be seeing the futures of these programs on the mats. It is also important to note the return of a four-time All-American and two-time NCAA finalist Nathan Tomasello who is entering the tournament at 133. From an individual standpoint, this tournament is loaded at quite a few weights. There are always surprises and teammates battling teammates for placing. Keep an eye on scoring as well, only the highest placing wrestler for each team will count towards team scoring. No double-dipping.

Not counting wrestlers from Minnesota, Oregon State, or Michigan I have 55 wrestlers ranked in the TOM NCAA Individual Rankings set to compete. Four wrestlers ranked number one at their weight will take the mat as well. We will not know the exact number until brackets are released on Friday night, but that still means a quarter of the ranked wrestlers in the nation could be stepping on the mats at the 56th Midlands. There would be something perfect if the final number is 56, but we have to show patience. And by “we” I mean “you.” I am going to go ahead and assume that everyone I think is wrestling will when I make my predictions.

With teams traveling to the South Beach Duals and to the Scuffle as well, this is an assembly of dangerous and talented athletes. Questions abound as we enter the tournament and hopefully wrestling fans get some answers. Can Princeton be a top 10 team? Will Iowa find a starter to fill the hole at 174? Is Arizona State ready to make the jump to a program that earns an NCAA team trophy? Will UNI and Old Dominion bring their talented squads to test them against other top competitors? We will find out.
TheOpenMat will be sitting matside watching all the action and bringing you coverage. Tune in and follow along. Before that, take a look at our breakdown of each weight and our predictions for how things may shake out. Follow us @Theopenmat & follow me @bvilltheopenmat to stay up with the action.

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