OREM, Utah — The Utah Valley University wrestling team will send five of its grapplers to the 50th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill., on Dec. 29-30.
Midlands is known as one of the toughest wrestling tournaments of the season and is hosted by Northwestern University. The tournament will take place at NU's Welsh-Ryan Arena and Sunday's finals will be televised live at 6 p.m. MT on the Big Ten Network. The tournament will get underway Saturday at 8:30 a.m. MT.
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 latest USA Today/NWCA/AWN Division I Coaches Poll. The ranked teams in this year's field are: 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.
The five grapplers from UVU that will compete at the tournament will be redshirt freshmen and twin brothers Jade Rauser (125 pounds) and Val Rauser (133), senior Josh Wilson (149), sophomore Ethan Smith (157) and junior Abner Cook (165).
The Wolverines competed at the Midlands Championships last season and Wilson led UVU by placing sixth at the prestigious tournament. Wilson went 4-3 against stiff competition en route to his sixth-place finish.
UVU junior Avery Garner (141) also wrestled well for UVU last year at the tournament by going 3-2 and finishing just one victory shy of placement. His two losses came to the then No. 1 and No. 2 ranked wrestlers in the nation in Iowa's Montell Marion and Penn's Zack Kemmerer.
The Wolverines last competed at the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 16 in Reno, Nev., and sophomore David Prieto (197) led the way by placing fourth. Prieto had a solid outing by going 5-2 at the one-day tournament. Garner too fared well as he finished 4-2 and just missed out on placing.
Following the Midlands Championships, UVU (1-1) will return home to begin its Western Wrestling Conference dual season by welcoming No. 16 Wyoming to the PE Building on Jan. 4. The Wolverines will then host the sixth annual UVU Open the following day.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.