Each year at the end of December marks a very special time for the Iowa State wrestling team. That special time is the Midlands Wrestling
Tournament in Evanston, Illinois. Iowa State will compete in the 43rd
annual Midlands Wrestling Tournament that starts on Thursday and goes
through Friday (Dec. 29- 30).
Iowa State is coming off a close win over a good Cal-Poly wrestling team 26-18. The outcome may have been different had 3rd ranked Darrell Vasquez (133) been able to compete, but instead Cal-Poly had to forfeit the match and put 6 points up on the board for the Cyclones. The Cyclones did get the win and came away with some much-needed experience for some young and inexperienced wrestlers. Coach Bobby Douglas knows that with young teams there is nothing better then some good mat exposure at the collegiate level.
The Midlands is the unofficial midway point of the college wrestling season but for Iowa State (4-2) it will mark a time where the inexperienced and youth on this years team need to step up and make a difference for the Cyclones. This will be a good measuring stick for the Cyclones because it will show how far that the team has come this year with the first major tournament of the season.
Coach Douglas has emphasized this year how important that the tournaments are for his team. A team can be a great dual team but never be able to put it all together when the tournaments come along. That was exactly what last years team did as they started out the season with a 14-0 mark and finished with a 16-2 record but were not able to capitalize on their #2 team ranking for much of the year and finished 10th at the NCAA Championships.
Iowa State only has one defending Midlands champion in #1 Nate Gallick (141) but has great potential to pick up some other individual titles. 4th ranked Trent Paulson (157) has already won a Midlands title at 149-pounds in 2003 but he will have to fight through a tough weight class that features 4 top-five wrestlers in #1 Joe Johnston of Iowa, #2 Alex Tirapelle of Illinois, and #5 Brandon Becker of Indiana. His brother, Travis Paulson (165), is coming off a second place finish in last years Midlands Tournament at 165 lbs but the defending champion, Mark Perry of Iowa has moved up to 174 lbs, making Travis the favorite. This should not be easy for Travis as he will be challenged by #10 Nick Baima of Northern Iowa and 12th-ranked R.J. Boudro of Indiana. 5th- ranked Kurt Backes (184) has another extremely tough weight class that he will have to get through with defending champion and 2nd-ranked Paul Bradley of Iowa (who handed Backes his only loss of the season in a controversial 8-4 match), 3rd ranked Pete Friedl of Illinois, and 4th-ranked Ben Wessel of Purdue. This is a tournament where Backes has a chance to prove himself among some top-notch wrestlers.
Some other wrestlers like Joe Curran (197), David Bertolino (184), and Ben Hanisch (125) will have to step up and improve on some promise that they have shown if Iowa State is going to take this years Midlands Tournament crown.