Bennett, Lara compete at Midlands

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — The state of Iowa dominated at the 56th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships here this past weekend inside the Sears Centre Arena.

Third-ranked Iowa was the overall champion, scoring 184 team points with two individual crowns. Meanwhile, No. 19 Northern Iowa recorded a program-best runner-up showing with a pair of wrestlers leaving as champs.

Competing unattached for the Panthers were Fort Dodge Senior High graduates Drew Bennett and Cayd Lara, as the two combined to win four matches.

Behind individual championships by Austin DeSanto and Alex Marinelli, the Hawkeyes were able to secure their 28th Midlands team title, with the last 10 coming under the direction of head coach Tom Brands. Spencer Lee, Max Murin, Kaleb Young and Cash Wilcke all added second place medals for Iowa, with Pat Lugo and Jeren Glosser finished fourth each.

Marinelli claimed his second Midlands title with a 4-3 victory over Evan Wick, avenging a 16-3 loss at the NCAA Div. I Championships to the Wisconsin wrestler.

“I’ve waited a long time for that match,” Marinelli said. “It killed me to lose so many points at the national tournament to him last year. That match has been marked in my calendar for a long time, I’m happy he wrestled at the Midlands.”

Glosser had one of the more memorable performances of the event, reeling off eight consecutive victories after falling in the opening round in a tiebreaker to Fresno State’s Jacob Wright.

The 157-pounder scored all eight of those wins on the consolation side to reach the third place match, where he lost to Bucknell’s Zach Hartman.

Northern Iowa was led by Josh Alber and Drew Foster, as the top seeds each claimed titles, becoming the seventh and eighth from the school to do so here.

Max Thomsen and Taylor Lujan were runners-up, with Bryce Steiert adding a fourth place medal.

Bennett, who claimed a state title last year as part of FDSH’s run to the traditional team title, went 3-2.

He started his first Midlands tournament off with a major decision over Savion Haywood of Old Dominion, 18-5, before falling to Oregon State’s Devan Turner, 5-2.

In the consolation rounds, Bennett rebounded with a 7-5 decision vs. Kilian Cardinale from Old Dominion and a 16-1 technical fall vs. Honor Nguyen of SIU-Edwardsville. His run was stopped by Joey Silva, a wrestler from Michigan competing unattached, by a final of 10-2.

“This weekend was a great opportunity to see what I need to work on moving forward,” Bennett said. “Not the results that I wanted to leave my first Midlands with, but I learned what I need to fix in order to improve and that’s what really matters.”

Bennett finished the tournament atop the fastest technical fall board, earning his win in 2:15. That was eight seconds faster than Lee, a defending national champion. His 18 match points were also tied for 21st most by any wrestler.

Lara, a multi-time placewinner for the Dodgers, was 1-2 after receiving a bye in the first round at 157 pounds. The freshman earned a fall over Cole Smith from Old Dominion in 4:49 after falling to Mike D’Angelo and Central Michigan’s Logan Parks.

“Midlands was a eye oepner for me,” Lara said. “Although it was a honor to wrestle in such a tough tournament. It’s time to get back to Cedar Falls, and keep chipping away.

“Ever since I stepped foot on campus I believe in this team. We have a bunch of tough, hungry, and gritty individuals. I’m excited for the next couple of months.”

The field included wrestlers from such powerhouse programs as Wisconsin, Arizona State, Fresno State and the host school, Northwestern.

“As a team we had a pretty good weekend,” Bennett said. “But we’ll keep coming for that title.”

Other individual champions were Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera and Ryan Deakin, Princeton’s Matthew Kolodzik and Patrick Brucki, and Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia and Tanner Hall.