The No. 22-ranked North Dakota State wrestling team heads to Evanston, Ill., this weekend to participate in the 50th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships hosted by Northwestern University. Wrestling begins inside Welsh-Ryan Arena at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29, and will continue until the final session begins at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 30.
Big Ten Network will broadcast Sunday’s finals live at 7 p.m. Live updates of the tournament on Twitter can be followed throughout the weekend with the #Midlands50 hashtag. Updated brackets will also be posted on NUsports.com
The 50th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships will welcome more than 30 Division I wrestling teams, along with a number of Division II and III teams and post-graduate competitors, to Welsh-Ryan Arena. Competition begins at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29, resumes with Session II at 7 p.m. on Saturday, and wraps up on Sunday, Dec. 30. The second day of competition begins at noon with Session III, which includes semifinal and consolation rounds, along with seventh-place matches. First, third and fifth-place bouts begin at 7 p.m.
Midlands annually features some of the top programs in the country, and the 2012 edition is no different. Of the 32 Division I teams competing this year, 14 of them placed in the top-25 at the 2012 NCAA Championships and 15 are currently ranked in the Dec. 18 USA Today/NWCA/AWN Division I Coaches Poll. The ranked teams in this year’s field include: No. 6 Illinois, No. 9 Central Michigan, No. 10 Oregon State, No. 11 Virginia Tech, No. 12 Michigan, No. 13 Pittsburgh, No. 14 Oklahoma, No. 15 Northwestern, No. 17 Nebraska, No. 18 Edinboro (tie), No. 18 Maryland (tie), No. 21 Purdue, No. 22 Penn, No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 25 Lehigh.
According to the latest Amateur Wrestling News rankings, there are scheduled to be 92 ranked wrestlers competing at the Midlands Championships.
Top Contenders by Weight Class
The North Dakota State wrestling team is currently No. 22 in the Intermat team rankings. The Bison improved their spot for four consecutive weeks in the national tournament-strength poll earlier this season, climbing as high as No. 21 for the week of Dec. 11.
The Bison are once again the highest-rated team from the Western Wrestling Conference, and NDSU is ranked higher than five teams from the Big Ten Conference. The Intermat team rankings are based on projected NCAA Tournament strength.
Leading the Way
North Dakota State wrestlers Trent Sprenkle and Steven Monk continued their work as trailblazers for the Bison wrestling program, with Sprenkle ranked No. 4 in the nation at 125 pounds and Monk climbing to No. 6 at 165 pounds in the latest Amateur Wrestling News (AWN) individual rankings.
Sprenkle’s No. 4 ranking is the highest ever achieved by a Bison wrestler in NDSU’s Division I era.
Sprenkle has climbed steadily in the AWN rankings this season after starting the year at No. 9. He is 10-0 on the season with five wins by fall, including a win over the current No. 6-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds, David Thorn of Minnesota.
Monk improved to 15-1 on the season with a pin of No. 18 Michael Moreno of Iowa State on Dec. 16. He owns two wins this season over wrestlers currently ranked in the Top 10 at 165 pounds – No. 7 Nick Sulzer of Virginia and No. 9 Cody Yohn of Minnesota.
Monk is 32-4 in his last 36 matches and owns a record of 77-19 in his Bison career. His .802 career winning percentage currently ranks 10th-best in NDSU history.
Senior Mac Stoll (7-3) is currently ranked No. 18 in the AWN rankings.
Sprenkle, Monk Named Back-to-Back WWC Wrestlers of the Week
NDSU wrestlers Trent Sprenkle (125) and Steven Monk (165) claimed back-to-back Wrestler of the Week awards from the Western Wrestling Conference. Sprenkle (10-0) won the award on Nov. 27 after defeating No. 5 David Thorn of Minnesota as part of a 3-0 record at the Bison Quad. Monk (15-1) took the honor on Dec. 4 after earning a runner-up finish at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
Monk, Sprenkle Return After Placing at 2011 Midlands
Junior Steven Monk (165) and senior Trent Sprenkle (125) will return to the prestigious Midlands Championships looking to improve on their high finishes at the 2011 event. Monk placed fourth at 157 pounds last season, and Sprenkle took eighth place at 125 pounds. No Bison wrestler has ever won the Midlands Championships.
Steven Monk won the Gorriaran Memorial Award, presented to the wrestler with the most falls in the least time, at the 2011 Midlands Championships. Three of Monk’s six victories in the tournament came by fall, with each of the three pins taking less than two minutes.
2011 Midlands Championships Results
125 – Trent Sprenkle, 3-3, 8th Place
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133 – Justin Solberg, 1-2
141 – Tyler Diamond, 2-2
149 – Mark Erickson, 2-2
157 – Steven Monk, 6-2, 4th Place
165 – Tyler Johnson, 1-2
197 – John Gusewelle, 0-2
285 – Evan Knutson, 1-2
Team: T-16th, 41.5 points
Two Good Runs
Steven Monk is 32-4 over his last 36 matches dating back to Jan. 13, 2012. Trent Sprenkle is 22-3 in his last 25 matches dating back to Jan. 20, 2012, with two of those three losses coming against the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked wrestlers in the nation at last season’s NCAA Championships.
Complete NDSU Wrestling Notes