Lehigh wrestlers return to action at 50th Midlands Championships
Posted: 12/27/2012 | Last updated: December 27, 2012 at 01:54 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Following a break for final exams and the holidays, No. 25 Lehigh returns to the mats at the 50th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, hosted by Northwestern Saturday and Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Mountain Hawks last competed on December 6 when they dropped a 26-9 decision at Iowa. Lehigh returns to one of the college wrestling’s premier in-season tournaments with a full squad for the fourth straight year.
Twelve Mountain Hawks are expected to compete attached, led by senior Robert Hamlin, who will look to defend his Midlands title at 184. Senior Shane Welsh also returns after placing eighth at 149 in 2011, while fourth-ranked junior Joey Napoli looks to build on the strong start to his season.
The Midlands is a national invitational/open event for outstanding college teams, clubs and individuals. It is one of the premier wrestling events in the nation, annually drawing 350 of the country’s best wrestlers. The Ken Kraft Midlands Championships are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2012, with Lehigh sending a contingent of wrestlers to Evanston for the fourth straight year after previously not sending wrestlers since 2004 and not sending a full squad since 2002. More than 30 colleges will send wrestlers to this year’s Midlands. Defending champion Iowa will not be sending a full squad to this year’s Midlands, but the next six team finishers from 2011 return including Lehigh, which finished seventh.
It is believed to be the 32nd time in 50 tournaments that Lehigh will have at least one wrestler entered in the Midlands.Hamlin captured Lehigh’s fifth undergraduate Midlands title at 184 last year. He joins Zach Rey (2010), Jon Trenge (2002 and 2004) and Darryl Burley (1981) as Lehigh wrestlers who have won undergraduate Midlands titles. Burley was also a three-time finalist. Tihamer Toth-Fejel ‘76 was a five-time Midlands placer as a post-graduate competitor and also won a Midlands title.
Three Mountain Hawks are ranked in the latest Amateur Wrestling News rankings, led by Hamlin, the two-time defending EIWA Champion and two-time All-American, who comes in at No. 3 at 184. Hamlin is also ranked third by InterMat and W.I.N. Magazine. Napoli shot into the top ten with wins over top-six opponents from Penn State and Bloomsburg and is ranked fourth by both A.W.N. and Intermat. Sophomore Anthony Salupo moved into the rankings at 141 following his win over Luke Vaith of Hofstra. Sophomore Nathaniel Brown is not ranked by A.W.N. but is ranked 19th at 174 by InterMat.
Lehigh has sent wrestlers to five open tournaments this season. Nine Mountain Hawks have won a total of 21 places. Sophomore Mason Beckman has had an outstanding start winning titles at all four tournaments he has entered, while he defers his eligibility. Senior Kevin Bailey also captured a title, winning the Binghamton Open at 174. Beckman is expected to compete unattached at the Midlands at 133 along with unattached true freshmen Randy Cruz (133), Mitch Minotti (149) and Doug Vollaro (285).
Seeds and brackets for the 50th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships are expected to be announced Friday evening or Saturday morning. Competition begins Saturday at 9:30 a.m. (CT) from Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. Action continues all day Saturday and Sunday with the finals slated for a 7 p.m. start Friday night. The Midlands finals will be televised live on the Big Ten Network, Friday at 7 p.m. (CT).