HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Iowa continued its dominance at one of college wrestling’s marquee regular-season tournaments.
The Hawkeyes closed the tournament with two perfect championship rounds.
Iowa swept its way through the semifinals and finals, crowning a school-record five champions at the 55th Annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships on Saturday night at Sears Centre Arena. The Hawkeyes won their 27th Midlands team title, scoring 156 1/2 points and beating runner-up Rutgers by 57.
“They’re closing matches,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “They’re winning matches. When you get to the semis that’s what you do. You win matches. You get yourself in position to win titles.”
Michael Kemerer (157) and Brandon Sorensen capped the title haul, repeating as tournament champions. Kemerer finished the record-setting performance and his second Midlands title run with a 5-2 decision over Arizona State’s ninth-ranked Josh Shields. He scored a takedown in the first period and coasted to the win over his old Franklin Regional High School teammate from Murrysville, Pa.
Kemerer was dominant on his way to the finals, scoring four pins in 9:54, which was a tournament best. He also notched a 19-4 technical fall in the semifinals.
Brandon Sorensen became the 12th Hawkeye to win three Midlands titles, finishing third each of his first two seasons. Second-ranked Sorensen dropped Central Michigan’s No. 3 Justin Oliver, 4-2, claiming a bracket with eight ranked wrestlers, a former NCAA champion and at least one other All-American.
Sorensen reached the finals with a 3-1 overtime victory against Arizona State’s Jason Tsirtsis, who was at Northwestern when Sorensen beat him by the exact same outcome in the 2015 finals.
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“I think it was good,” Sorensen said. “I had some good things. I opened the gap for one of the opponents I had earlier this year. There are also a couple I thought I could do better and widen that margin. Did some good things. Got some things to work on.”
Alex Marinelli kicked off the finals for the Hawkeyes. Marinelli scored a takedown with 22 seconds left in the sudden-victory overtime period for a 3-1 decision over Princeton’s Jon Schleifer in the 165-pound championship. Marinelli was named Champion of Champions, which is voted on by the other first-place finishers.
“It ranks big,” Marinelli said of a Midlands crown. “I didn’t wrestle the guys I wanted to wrestle. I had a few guys in mind and some didn’t show up.
“It’s a good thing to start with. It’s good to be wrestling here.”
The pair exchanged escapes in regulation and Marinelli increased the pressure in extra minute. He forced a stall call and countered a Schleifer shot by quickly spinning around behind him for a takedown.
“I think I watched one video today on him after my semis match,” Marinelli said. “I knew right away he was a lefty. He likes stuff from outside and I was ready for it. It worked out. I got the re-attack.”
Marinelli affirmed he can persevere hard-fought battles. He advanced to the finals with two one-point decisions, including a second win over Rutgers’ highly-ranked Richie Lewis in the semifinals. Marinelli doesn’t want them that close.
“It’s just grit,” Marinelli said. “I can widen the gap and that’s the goal. The score doesn’t display what I can do, but coming out with a win is huge.”
Teammate Cash Wilcke produced a similar result, taking the 197 title. Wilcke only needed 15 seconds in sudden victory to score his decisive move, beating Penn’s Frank Mattiace, 3-1.
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“I could have done that six minutes earlier but it felt good to get the win,” Wilcke said. “One of my goals coming into the season was to win the Midlands. It’s really exciting.”
Wilcke reached the final with an overtime victory as well. The semifinal came against Iowa redshirt Jacob Warner. He scored a takedown and kept Warner on his back for the sudden-victory pin. Warner finished sixth.
“We’re friends off the mat,” Wilcke said. “We went out there and wrestled hard for seven or eight minutes and still good friends after. That’s good stuff.”
Stoll followed Wilcke and delivered the Hawkeyes’ third title, beating Arizona State’s fourth-ranked Tanner Hall, 2-1, in the finals. Stoll had a third-period escape and received a penalty point for unsportsmanlike conduct. Stoll had finished third here the last two years.
“It’s a good benchmark to see where you’re at,” Stoll said. “I have a lot to work on.”
Stoll added, “It definitely feels good to win it.”
The tight matches might be a concern for Brands, who said the Hawkeyes have to score with more efficiency and score more, especially early in matches. They did get the job done.
“This is like a mid-term,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “This is a midseason review or test. Where we have to go from here to the next one is a significant step or two.
“A lot of work to do.”
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