EVANSTON, Ill. – Junior Robert Hamlin won a 5-2 decision over Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett to win the 184 lb. weight class at the 49th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, which wrapped-up Friday at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. With the win Hamlin becomes the fourth Lehigh undergraduate to win a Midlands title, and the second in as many years.
Hamlin was one of three Mountain Hawks to place in the top eight as senior Joe Kennedy finished fifth at 197 and junior Shane Welsh placed eighth at 149. As a team Lehigh finished in seventh place with 63.5 points.
Despite a rough day overall on the mats for Lehigh, Hamlin picked up a pair of wins to join Darryl Burley (1981), Jon Trenge (2002 and 2004) and Zach Rey (2010) as undergraduate Midlands champions for the Brown and White.
Hamlin opened up his day with a 12-4 major decision over Braden Atwood of Purdue in the semifinals. The No. 1 seed and the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 184 scored an early takedown and two point near fall to lead 4-0 and never looked back as he advanced to his first Midland’s final, a rematch of a NCAA tournament first round match at 174 from 2010 won by Bennett 4-2 in the tiebreakers.
In this matchup, Hamlin came out and scored an early takedown on the third-seeded Bennett. A Bennett escape cut Hamlin’s lead to 2-1 and Bennett opened the second period with an escape to leave the bout tied at two after two periods. Hamlin chose down in the third and escaped to take a 3-2 lead, before adding a takedown to win 5-2. Hamlin is now 15-0 on the season. He is now a three-time Midlands place winner, after taking eighth at 174 as a freshman and third at 184 last year.
Kennedy joined Hamlin in the semifinals but could not replicate his teammate’s success. The No. 2 seed at 197, Kennedy met EIWA rival and No. 3 seed Micah Burak of Penn. Like in their dual meeting December 4, Kennedy scored first with a first period takedown, but Burak mustered a quick escape. The two men traded escapes in the second and third periods, as Kennedy held a 3-2 lead, but Burak battled back to score a takedown in the final 30 seconds of regulation, and was able to prevent Kennedy from escaping as he pulled off the 4-3 win.
The tough luck continued for Kennedy in the consolation semifinals, as he dropped a 4-2 decision in sudden victory to Christian Boley of Maryland. Kennedy was able to finish strong, however, winning a 4-3 decision over Division III National Champion Byron Tate of Wartburg to place fifth for the second straight year. He also placed eighth as a sophomore in 2009.
Welsh became Lehigh’s somewhat surprising third place-winner, coming from his No. 12 seed to place eighth at 149. Needing a win to earn a spot in the top eight, Welsh’s day began with a 8-3 decision over Northwestern’s Kaleb Friedley, but Welsh was injured in the process and had to forfeit his last two matches to settle for eighth place.
Three other Mountain Hawks entered the day alive in the consolation brackets. Senior Brandon Hatchett was unable to compete at 165 after suffering an injury in Thursday night’s quarterfinal round, so he forfeited to Ben Jordan of Wisconsin. At 133, freshman Mason Beckman had an opportunity to place but dropped a 9-5 decision to Tyler Clark of Iowa. Sophomore Steve Dutton’s bid to place at the Midlands for a second straight year ended with an 11-4 defeat at the hands of Bebeto Yewah from Wisconsin-Lacrosse.
Iowa ran away with the team title, placing nine wrestlers in the top eight and scoring 152 points. Northwestern was second with 105.5 while Oklahoma finished in third place with 94.5 points. Virginia Tech (76.5), Edinboro (74.5) and Illinois (73) occupied spots four through six, while Lehigh held off Iowa State (62.5) by one point for seventh place. Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple, the 141 point titlist, was named both Champion of Champions and the Dan Gable Outstanding Wrestler.
The Mountain Hawks will return to the mats on Sunday January 8, when they travel to Ithaca, N.Y. to take on EIWA rival Cornell at 1 p.m. The match will be broadcast on WLVR-FM (91.3) and online at Lehighsports.com.
133 – Mason Beckman
Rd. of 12: L by dec. Tyler Clark (Iowa) 9-5
141 – No. 4 Steve Dutton
Rd. of 12: L by dec. Bebeto Yewah (UW-Lacrosse) 11-4
149 – No. 12 Shane Welsh – 8th place
Rd. of 12: dec. Kaleb Friedley (Northwestern) 8-3
Consolation Quarterfinals: medical forfeit to Mike Kelly (Iowa)
165 – No. 3 Brandon Hatchett
Rd. of 12: medical forfeit to Ben Jordan (Wisconsin)
184 – No. 1 Robert Hamlin – 1st place
Semifinals: major dec. Braden Atwood (Purdue) 12-4
Finals: dec. Ben Bennett (Central Michigan) 5-2
197 – No. 2 Joe Kennedy – 5th place
Semifinals: L by dec. Micah Burak (Penn) 4-3
Consolation semifinals: L by dec. Christian Boley (Maryland) 4-2, s.v.
Fifth place match: dec. Byron Tate (Wartburg) 4-3