2012 NCAA Division III Midwest Wrestling Regional Weight Class Preview

Case Western Reserve's Isaac Dukes has a pair of regional titles at 149, but will compete in a stacked 157-pound bracket this season.
Case Western Reserve's Isaac Dukes has a pair of regional titles at 149, but will compete in a stacked 157-pound bracket this season.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Case Western Reserve University will serve as host for the 2012 NCAA Division III Wrestling Midwest Regional Championship on Saturday, February 25 at Horsburgh Gymnasium inside the Veale Convocation, Athletic and Recreation Center. More than 100 wrestlers from 10 different NCAA institutions will be competing for 12 bids (10 champions plus 2 wild-card entries) to the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championship held in March in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

View the official Midwest Regional information site HERE.

125 pounds
Junior defending 125-pound champion Alex Crown of Waynesburg University returns with a 22-6 overall record. Crown was an All-American last season, placing fourth in the nation at 125, and was an alternate to nationals in 2010 after winning the true second-place match. Sophomore Robbie Bidlingmaier of Olivet College is the highest ranked grappler in the bracket and the favorite to earn the automatic bid to nationals despite being a rookie at the event. With a 25-8 overall record, Bidlingmaier is ranked eighth in the nation at 125.

133 pounds
Senior Corey Brown of Thiel College is the defending champion and overwhelming favorite at 133 pounds with a 32-1 overall record. Ranked second in the nation at 133, Brown is Thiel’s only three-time All-American with eighth-place national finishes in each of the last two years and a sixth-place showing as a freshman. Brown recently became the third wrestler in Thiel history to reach the 100-win plateau. Marc Escobeo of Wabash College finished third in the region as a rookie at 133 last season and is 13-15 in 2011-12.

141 pounds
Last year’s regional runner-up, sophomore Josh Etzel of Washington & Jefferson College, and 133-pound runner-up Kenny Richmond of Olivet are the favorites. Etzel is 21-3 in his sophomore campaign and Richmond is 22-12 after moving up a class from last season. Sophomore Wayne Black (33-21) of the College of Mount St. Joseph enters with the most match experience this year and will also be looking to work his way into the championship mix.

149 pounds
Two-time defending champion Isaac Dukes of Case Western Reserve has moved up to 157, but a stacked class remains with Jake Strausbaugh of Wabash and Gage Pederson of Olivet as the favorites. Strausbaugh, the nation’s eighth-ranked wrestler at 149, is 42-4 this season after placing third in the region last season. Pederson, last year’s fifth-place finisher, is 30-9 and the nation’s 10th-ranked grappler at 149. Cameryn Brady of Manchester College, the 2010-11 regional runner-up, upset Strausbaugh last season and has posted a 23-4 record as a sophomore with the No. 7 ranking in the nation ta 149. 

157 pounds
The 157-pound bracket is also stacked with junior defending regional champion Elias Larson of Trine University back as the favorite with a 33-2 overall record. Larson placed third in the nation last season and is the third-ranked wrestler in the nation at 157 this season. Not far behind Larson are last year’s second and third-place finishers, Garett Johnston of Waynesburg and Steven Mena of Olivet. Johnston was runner-up in 2011 and boasts a record of 31-3 this season. Mena was third last year and is 20-11 this season. Thomas Fehring of Mount St. Joseph is also back with a 32-14 record after just missing the top-five last season. Case Western Reserve’s Isaac Dukes should also be in the mix as the nation’s eighth-ranked wrestler in the nation at 157. Dukes is a two-time All-American at 149 at the national champion in 2010.

165 pounds
Junior James Myers of Olivet, the reigning regional champion, and Wabash senior Jake Moore, the regional runner-up a year ago, headline another strong class at 165. Myers enters at 22-9 overall after placing sixth in the nation last season at 165, while Moore enters the meet with a 16-9 overall mark. Also expected to be in the mix is Washington & Jefferson sophomore David Dibenedetto with a 25-12 record in his second season as well as Waynesburg sophomore Sam Lombardo (22-9), who placed fifth in the region last season. Trine senior George Markou was runner-up at 174 a year ago, and has posted a 28-7 record after dropping down a weight class this season.

174 pounds
Olivet senior Trevor Tyler pulled off a mini upset to win the region last season as the No. 2 seed. This season, Tyler is the No. 7-ranked wrestler in the nation at 174 and enters this weekend’s meet with a 29-8 overall record. Last year’s runner-up, George Markou, and third-place finisher Billy Malicote of Mount St. Joseph, have each moved to different weight classes. Malicote’s freshman teammate Nicholas Manning looks to challenge for the weight class title entering the regional with a 30-15 mark.

184 pounds
Returning to defend his 2011 regional title will be Wabash senior Greg Rhoads. The fourth-year Little Giant enters this weekend’s action ranked No. 6 in the nation at 184 with  a 44-6 record. Rhoads surrendered just four total points in his three victories at regionals last season. Mount St. Joseph’s Billy Malicote, last season’s third-place finisher at 174, moves up a class and will look to contend as will Trine’s Jason Alber (22-11) who finished fourth a year ago.

197 pounds
The 197 bracket may be the most wide open of the classes as the top-four finishers from a year ago do not return. Olivet senior Justin Leonard, the fifth-place finisher a season ago, enters action with a 25-14 mark this winter and looks to be a strong competitor to win the title. Thiel senior Patrick Morris should also be in the mix with a 25-7 record this season.

285 pounds
Headlining the heavyweight class will be the top-two wrestlers from a year ago in Olivet junior Logan Renas and Wayneburg sophomore Brandon Fedorka. Fedorka, the No. 2 seed last winter, upset top-seeded Renas in the finals by a 3-1 count. Fedorka enters action tallying a 13-7 overall record while Renas, the No. 8 nationally-ranked heavyweight grappler, enters with a 20-10 record. Case Western Reserve senior Cale Harter (22-11) also looks to utilize the home-mat advantage and work himself into the championship mix.