The Midlands Championships celebrate their 50th anniversary this year when they are held on Dec. 29-30 at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. Throughout its history, the Midlands have featured some of the top talent in the history of collegiate wrestling. Take a look at some of the top moments in the tournament's history through this special photo essay.

A former Northwestern wrestler and head coach, Ken Kraft (right) is the founder of the Midlands Championships. Kraft used to take his team to the Wilkes Open in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and one year, while driving back from the Wilkes Open in a station wagon with his wrestlers, hatched the idea to start a wrestling tournament in the Midwest. That tournament, which was called the West Suburban YMCA Open in 1963, became the Midlands Championships in 1964 and in 2012, is celebrating its 50th year. Kraft has been at the center of all 50 tournaments.
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Jerry Torrence of Northwestern was one of the 10 original Midlands champions in 1963. Torrence won the 147 lbs. weight class for the Wildcats and joins Mike Palmisano (118, Michigan), Terry Finn (123, SIU-Carbondale), Don Schneider (130, SIU-Carbondale), Cal Jenkins (137, Michigan), Dave Gibson (157, Purdue), Rick Bay (167, Michigan), Roy Conrad (177, Irving Park Y), Dennis McCabe (191, Unattached) and Larry Kristoff (Hwt, SIU-Carbondale) on the list of original Midlands champions.
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Iowa State’s Dan Gable takes on Northwestern’s Clyde Smith in the 150 lbs. finals of the 1970 Midlands. A much-anticipated rematch between Gable and Larry Owings, who handed Gable his lone collegiate loss coincidentally at McGaw Hall during the 1970 NCAA Championships, from the University of Washington was expected to happen in the finals of the 1970 Midlands, but NU’s Smith defeated Owings 6-3 in the quarterfinals. Gable won his fifth of six Midlands titles in 1970.
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This photo is from the 1982 Midlands Championships at McGaw Hall (Welsh-Ryan Arena). This tournament was not always held on Northwestern's campus. The inaugural tournament in 1963 was held at the West Suburban YMCA in nearby LaGrange, Ill., moved to Lyons Township High School in 1964 where it would stay until the tournament found a permanent home in 1972 on Northwestern's campus.
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Ken Kraft awards Iowa the team title. The Hawkeyes have won 22 Midlands titles. Michigan won the inaugural tournament in 1963 and since then Iowa State, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Sunkist Kids WC, North Carolina, Arizona State, Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri have all won Midlands team titles.
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