As 2020 moves forward, it's time to look back at the hundreds of ranked college wrestlers who competed at some of the nation's most prestigious winter tournaments over the last week. Most of the top teams wrestled in one of the three major events, though the No. 2 team in the country, Nebraska, was notably missing from the tournaments. We'll break the results down each of the events below, but first, here's a quick rundown of the teams who opted out of Midlands, South Beach Duals and the Southern Scuffle.
The defending champion Nittany Lions missed their traditional Southern Scuffle trip after sending 2019 heavyweight champion Anthony Cassar to senior nationals in Fort Worth, Texas last weekend and most of the rest of the team to the Wilkes Open. Three redshirt freshman did compete at the Scuffle as individuals, with Carter Starocci winning a title at 174 pounds.
Nebraska did not send any current athletes to senior nationals like Penn State, but the Cornhuskers did just win the Cliff Keen title as a team, giving them plenty of mat time before their January 12 dual against Wisconsin for what will be a must-watch wrestling match.
Virginia Tech also did not compete as a team at Midlands, but the Hokies sent three-time All-American David McFadden, who finished second. The Sun Devils were also absent from the tournaments but will be back in action January 6 against Ohio State. The Buckeyes, as well as Big Ten foe Michigan, were also not at any of the winter tournaments.
The 57th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championship headlined the three big events over the course of the lsat week, but we have results from both tournaments and the South Beach Duals. Here's what you need to know about the winners and storylines from Midlands as well as the the two other major events, the Southern Scuffle and the South Beach Duals.
57th Annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships
When: December 29-30
Where: Hoffman Estates, Illinois
Individual champions: Pat Glory (Princeton, 125 pounds), Seth Gross (Wisconsin, 133 pounds), Max Murin (Iowa, 141 pounds), Pat Lugo (Iowa, 149 pounds), Kaleb Young (Iowa, 157 pounds), Alex Marinelli (Iowa, 165 pounds), Dylan Lydy (Purdue, 174 pounds), Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa, 184 pounds), Christian Brunner (Purdue, 197 pounds), Tony Cassioppi (Iowa, 285 pounds)
What we learned:
1. This was Iowa's tournament from start to finish. The Hawkeyes dominated with five champions, a tournament scoring record and statement wins in every weight class. Two-time defending NCAA champion Spencer Lee finished sixth after medical forfeiting following his quarterfinal tech fall win against Nolan Hellickson of Harvard, while teammates Max Murin, Pat Lugo and Kaleb Young picked up gold at 141, 149 and 157 respectively. Austin DeSanto was second at 133 pounds. At 165 pounds, Alex Marinelli became the fourth Hawkeye to earn a title when he avenged a loss from the 2018 NCAA tournament against David McFadden for his third Midlands championship. The Hawkeyes held out No. 2 Michael Kemerer from the weight class, but that didn't slow them down as a team. Freshman Abe Assad earned big team points as a finalist for the Hawkeyes at 184, and Cash Wilcke added a bronze. At 197, Jacob Warner finished fourth, while freshman Tony Cassioppi became the fifth Hawkeye to top the podium when he beat All-American Matt Stencel 5-1 in the championship bout.
2. The results of the "wrestle-offs" leave even more questions: The winter tournaments always serve as check-ins for coaches and a chance to evaluate their athletes' status, weight and talent against teammates and opponents; this year was no different. Teams could enter more than one athlete per weight and use Midlands as a measuring stick for who might earn the starting spot. The Hawkeyes, in particular, had a unique situation at several weights with multiple entries of particular importance at 133, 141, 149 and 184 pounds. The lightest of those four weights, 133, is clearly DeSanto's spot, but Iowa did also have an opportunity to assess the skills of 133-pound freshman Gavin Teasdale as well as senior Paul Glynn. At 141 pounds, Tom Brands had Max Murin and Carter Happel both competing for the starting spot, but Murin left no doubt of his power at the weight after winning the tournament title. Pat Lugo also made a statement at 149 pounds, taking down then-No. 1 Austin O'Connor of North Carolina in the finals to earn the top spot in the nation. Iowa's Vince Turk finished fourth at 149 pounds. At 184 pounds, freshman Abe Assad finished as the highest-ranked Hawkeye at the weight, but he's expected to continue to hold his redshirt through this year. Iowa's Cash Wilcke finished fourth while freshman Nelson Brands did not place at 184 pounds.
COLLEGE WRESTLING RANKINGS: Iowa holds on to No. 1 ranking after a big win against Wisconsin
3. Seth Gross is back on top: Drama and intensity emerged at every weight at Midlands, but one weight of particular interest with a No.1 spot on the line was 133 pounds where top-ranked Austin DeSanto of Iowa ultimately dropped to 2018 NCAA champion Seth Gross. The Wisconsin graduate student beat 2018 Midlands champion Sebastian Rivera on his way to the finals match, where he would ultimately scramble a competitive seven-minute match before ending up on top. Seth Gross, Austin DeSanto and Sebastian Rivera will all see each other again at the Big Ten tournament, and the weight class will continue to be one of intrigue throughout the season.
4. The rise of Purdue: The Boilermakers were the only team other than Iowa to have two champions at the 57th annual Midlands tournament, with 174-pounder Dylan Lydy winning his second tournament in just over a month and 197-pounder Christian Brunner stopping Jay Aiello of Virginia for his championship win. Brunner's win required him to beat Princeton's Patrick Brucki earlier in the bracket, while Lydy's biggest win came against Bryce Steiert of Northern Iowa. The Boilermakers are currently ranked No. 20 in the country, but their performance at Midlands proved that they are worthy of perhaps rising even higher.
South Beach Duals
When: December 29-30
Where: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Teams: Lehigh, Minnesota, Duke, Missouri, Old Dominion, Cornell, South Dakota State, Wyoming, Michigan State
WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS: Here's what you need to know about the 2019 Cliff Keen Invitational results
What we learned:
1. Lehigh picked up some much needed wins: While not technically a tournament, the duals were a chance for several top teams to showcase the best talent in the country. No. 14 Lehigh came in as the top-ranked team competing in Florida and picked up a series of wins against No. 15 Minnesota, Duke and No. 19 Missouri, with the closest match ending in Lehigh's favor by a margin of 19 points. The Mountain Hawks are now 4-3 with recent losses to Princeton, Pittsburgh and Penn State and a lone win prior to the duals over Oklahoma State. A historically dominant team not only in the conference but in the country, Lehigh ended 2019 on the right foot with its dominating performance across both days of the duals.
2. More matches for Gable Steveson: The Minnesota sophomore heavyweight returned to the lineup last weekend against South Dakota State State where he rolled to a comfortable major decision over Blake Wolters in his first collegiate match since the NCAA tournament. Steveson was tested even more at the South Beach Duals, facing No. 11 Jordan Wood of Lehigh as well as heavyweights from Duke, Old Dominion and Cornell, but he passed all of those tests with flying colors. Having already qualified for the Olympic Trials in freestyle and finished third in the country at the 2019 NCAA tournament in folkstyle, Steveson has proven himself to be a tough competitor who is always chasing the top of the podium, and he'll no doubt aim to stay undefeated this season after going 4-0 at the South Beach Duals. Minnesota will also be counting on Steveson moving forward for bonus points, as the sophomore Gopher is currently scoring bonus points in 100% of his matches.
When: January 1-2
Where: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Champion: Oklahoma State
Individual champions: Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State, 125 pounds), Sammy Alvarez (Rutgers, 133 pounds), Real Woods (Stanford, 141 pounds), Jaden Abas (Stanford, 149 pounds), Hayden Hidlay (North Carolina State, 157 pounds), Shane Griffith (Stanford, 165 pounds), Carter Starocci (Penn State, 174 pounds), Lou Deprez (Binghamton, 184 pounds), Noah Adams (West Virginia, 197 pounds), Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State, heavyweight).
What we learned:
1. Oklahoma State won, but Stanford impressed with three champions: The Cowboys picked up a Southern Scuffle team title behind the success of 125-pound champion Nick Piccininni, finalist Kaden Gfeller, third-place finishes from Dusty Hone (141), Wyatt Sheets (157) and Travis Wittlake (165), a sixth place finish from Anthony Montalvo (184) and a fifth-place finish from Dakota Geer (197). Gfeller's return made news as the sophomore made his 2019-2020 season debut in Chattanooga and picked up a ranked win over Kyle Shoop of Lock Haven in the process. He ended the tournament 5-1 and will be one to watch as he climbs his way up the rankings now that he's back in the lineup. No. 1-seeded Joe Smith also started his season at the Scuffle, but the All-American Cowboy made an early exit from the bracket after an upset by Lorenzo De La Riva of North Dakota and a medical forfeit against Dean Caravela.
BEDLAM RESULTS: Oklahoma State topped Oklahoma in the rivalry dual
North Carolina State finished second in the Southern Scuffle behind champion Hayden Hidlay and finalist Trent Hidlay, but it was Stanford, the third-place team, that left Chattanooga with the greatest number of champions. The Cardinal set a program record with three Southern Scuffle title winners: Real Woods, Jaden Abas and Shane Griffith. Woods continued his impressive season, moving to 12-1 on the year with his only loss coming to No. 1 Luke Pletcher of Ohio State in overtime. Abas, who is currently taking a redshirt year, is 18-4 on the year, but his Scuffle wins suggested that he is at a competitive level and will be a Stanford wrestler to watch in the coming years. The young Card beat Northern Colorado's Andrew Alirez in a tight 3-2 battle, giving him the first Scuffle gold of his career. Griffith, for his part, is undefeated at 17-0 with the most impressive wins of the season prior to the Scuffle coming against Ethan Smith of Ohio State, Kennedy Monday of North Carolina, Ebed Jarrell of Drexel. In his three biggest matches of the first tournament of 2020, Griffith beat Chase Straw of Iowa State, Tanner Skidgel of Navy and Travis Wittlake of Oklahoma State by a combined 17-4. He's currently ranked No. 7 in the national rankings and will be fighting for his first All-American honor this year.
2. Hidlay holds tough: North Carolina State's Hayden Hidlay dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 after a loss to Northwestern's Ryan Deakin at the 2019 Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, but he wrestled at the Scuffle with the force of someone who wants another opportunity against Deakin. The junior Wolfpack gave up just six points in his entire Southern Scuffle tournament on his way to a title at 157 pounds, taking down Jared Franek of North Dakota State, Wyatt Sheets of Oklahoma State, Ethan Woods of Stanford, Jesse Dellavecchia of Rider and Trey Brisker of Air Force in the process. He's absolutely a title contender and will be looking for his third All-American honor in March.
3. Noah Adams rises: West Virginia 197-pounder Noah Adams earned Outstanding Wrestler honors at the Scuffle after winning his bracket and earning a statement win against Stanford's Nathan Traxler in the finals by pin within the first period. Adams is undefeated on the year at 17-0 and was ranked No. 13 heading into the tournament. With the win over No. 8 Traxler, expect to see Adams crack to the Top 10 soon.
Midlands, the Southern Scuffle and the South Beach Duals were full of action, and the rest of 2020 will no doubt be full of tight dual, intense storylines and lots of highlights.