All-Time Greatest Midlands Wrestlers 3rd Round

With the 50th Midlands less than four weeks away, we wanted to find out who you thought was the best wrestler in Midlands history. For that reason, we'd like to introduce the "Midlands All-Time Greatest Bracket Challenge".

With 49 years of Midlands we had to get the list of wrestlers down to a manageable number. So we have a list of 32 wrestlers who qualified for the tournament. In order to qualify you had to meet at least one of the following criteria:

-Won 4 or more Midlands Championships OR
-Won 3 or more Midlands Championships and a "Ken Kraft Champion of Champions" Award OR
-Won 2 or more Midlands Championships and a "Triple Crown" (Midlands + 2 Of NCAAs, Worlds and Olympics)
-Won 1 or more Midlands Championships and a "Grand Slam"
(Midlands + NCAAs, Worlds and Olympics)

Those criteria yielded 32 wrestlers. Next, we split them into four groups of eight by weight. Those groups are small, medium, large and XL. This was somewhat difficult and there are some variations within the weights. Finally, we put them into a bracket divided into four sections (S, M, L and XL).

Now its up to you. The first two rounds are over and the third round match-ups are below. Voting will be open until December 23rd. Then we will tabulate the results and start the semifinals.

Decide who you think was the better wrestler (not necessarily who would win head-to-head, but who was the better wrestler) and make your choice. In the end, we will have the ultimate Midlands Champion!

And remember, tickets are on sale NOW for the 50th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, hosted by Northwestern on December 29th and 30th. To order tickets call 888-GO-PURPLE.

* 1. Small Weight Class Final Round:
Tom Brands (Iowa, 1 Midlands Championship) vs. Randy Lewis (Iowa, 3 Midlands Championships)

This is a match-up of two former Hawkeye wrestlers who have won gold medals. Brands was a four-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion and is now the head coach of Iowa. His challenger Lewis, a South Dakota native, is a two-time NCAA champion and also won a gold medal at the Olympics. He also qualified for the 1980 Olympic team (that boycotted for political reasons). Both wrestlers wrestled for the legendary Dan Gable while at Iowa.

Tom Brands:
Brands won the 1996 Olympic freestyle gold medal at 136.5 pounds in Atlanta, GA. He also won a gold medal at the 1993 World Freestyle Championships in Toronto, two World Cup gold medals (1994, 1995) and was the 1995 Pan American Games champion. He won four U.S. National titles (1993-96) and made four straight U.S. World or Olympic teams (1993-96). Tom was named 1993 USA Wrestling Athlete of the Year, the 1993 John Smith Outstanding Freestyle Wrestler and 1993 Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year. He was inducted into wrestling's Hall of Fame in 2001. Brands was a four-time All-American at Iowa (1989-92). During his career at Iowa, he won three NCAA titles and was named Outstanding Wrestler of the 1992 NCAA Championships. He was also a three-time Big Ten champion.

Randy Lewis:
Lewis reached the NCAA finals at 126 pounds as a freshman. The following two years, he proceeded to claim NCAA championships and put together a 74-match winning streak. During his senior year, placed as an All-American for the fourth time. Overall, he compiled a record of 127-11-1 with 64 pins and two national championships. Lewis qualified for the boycotted 1980 Olympics, but returned to the U.S. Olympic team in 1984. Lewis outscored his first four Olympic opponents, 52-4, to reach the gold medal match against Kosei Akaishi of Japan where he won to claim a gold medal for the United States.

* 2. Medium Weight Class Final Round:
Dan Gable (Iowa State, 6 Midlands Championships) vs. Dave Schultz (Oklahoma, 1 Midlands Championship)

Dan Gable is a man that needs no introduction. A three time All-American with only one loss in his entire college career. He was a three time USA national champion, and both a world champion and an Olympic gold medalist, not surrendering a point during the tournament. Gable also did a little coaching. Schultz is a legend in his own right, a Midlands Champion, NCAA Champion, gold medalist and world champion (among other accolades), Schultz did not lose often. He medaled six times at World Championships, and placed second at the prestigious Tblisi Tournament while still in high school. He died tragically in 1996.

Dan Gable:
Gable was 118-1 at Iowa State. His only defeat came in the NCAA finals his senior year. Gable was a three-time all-American and three-time Big Eight champion. He set NCAA records in winning and pin streaks. After college, Gable added titles at the 1971 Pan American Games, the 1972 Tbilisi Tournament and the 1971 World Championships. He won an unprecedented six Midlands Open championships and was that meet’s outstanding wrestler five times. In 1972, in Munich, Germany, he won a gold medal at the Summer Olympics without surrendering a point to any of his opponents. In Gable’s final 21 Olympic qualification and Olympic matches, he scored 12 falls and outscored his nine other opponents, 130-1. The single point was scored by Larry Owings, who defeated Gable in his final collegiate match.

Dave Schultz:
In college, Schultz was an NCAA All-American three times. After college, he won 10 Senior National titles over a 19 year period. He won the Pan American Games title twice, the World Cup four times, and the Tbilisi, Georgia tournament twice. Schultz also went on to win the 1983 World Championships and 1984 Olympic gold medal.

* 3. Large Weight Class Final Round
Cael Sanderson (4 Championships, Iowa State) vs. Joe Williams (10 Midlands Championships, Iowa)

In Sanderson vs. Williams we have arguably the most decorated NCAA wrestler of all time against arguably the most decorated Midlands wrestler of all time. Cael Sanderson is a four-time NCAA Champion with a record of 159-0. He has won three Hodge trophies and four NCAA titles. He also has a gold medal. As the coach of Penn State, he has two team titles in three years. Joe Williams has the most Midlands titles in the history of the competition, winning ten straight titles from 1994 through 2003. He also won three NCAA Titles and has two world bronze medals to go with his 2004 appearance at the Olympic Games.

Cael Sanderson:
Sanderson attended Iowa State University, where he became a Four-time NCAA champion from 1999 to 2002. He completed his entire college career undefeated, with a 159-0 record, including being named four-time NWCA All-Star champion and four-time Big 12 champion. In addition, Sanderson was a three-time Dan Hodge Award winner. Sanderson was also the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion, as well as the World Team Trials champion and U.S. Nationals champion from 2001 to 2003. In 2000, Sanderson was the South Olympic Regional Trials champion and in 2004 won the Olympic gold medal in Greece.

Joe Williams:
Williams was a 3-time NCAA Champion for the University Of Iowa, where he ended his collegiate career with a record of 129-9 and 2 Big Ten Championships as a Hawkeye. On a larger scale, Williams has earned honors as a 6-time U.S. National Champion, 5-time World Team Member, 4-time World Cup Champion, 2-time World bronze medalist, and represented the United States as a 2004 Olympic Team Member in Athens, Greece.

* 4. XL Weight Class Final Round Round:
Bruce Baumgartner (8 Midlands Championships, Indiana State) vs. Ben Peterson (6 Midlands Championships, Iowa State)

So far, Bruce Baumgartner has had no problem in this competition, getting over 95 percent of the vote in his first two matches. Baumgartner retired from Midlands competition with eight titles, the most titles won by anyone at the time (Joe Williams would eventually pass it with ten). An NCAA Champion, Baumgartner is one of the most decorated US International wrestlers of all time, winning four Olympic medals (2 gold) and nine World Championship medals (3 gold). The guy won a lot of matches, and did so for a very long time, retiring in 1997 at the age of 37. He is currently the AD at Edinboro University. Ben Peterson was Midlands champion six times over a nine year span. He also won two NCAA titles during his career. A gold medalist at the Olympics in 72 and a silver medalist in 76, he was also a member of the 1980 boycotted team. After he was done wrestling, he founded the "Camp of Champs".

Bruce Baumgartner:
Baumgartner wrestled at Indiana State University where he finished as the heavyweight runner-up at Nationals as a sophomore and junior, but won the national championship as a senior, completing a perfect campaign in which he went 44-0. He finished his collegiate career with a 134-12 record with 73 falls. In 1980, he was the National Freestyle champion, which he would follow up with the championship at the World University Games in Romania in 1982. In 1983, he won silver medals in the World Cup Championships and Pan-American Games, along with a bronze medal in the World Championships in Kiev, USSR. Baumgartner would capture his first gold medal in Los Angeles in the 1984 Olympic Games, and four years later he would add a second Olympic medal, winning the silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. In 1992 Baumgartner became the first American wrestler to ever medal in three consecutive Olympics when he brought home the gold medal for the second time while competing in Barcelona, Spain. He would add gold medals in the Pan-American Games in 1991 in Cuba and in 1995 in Argentina, along with World Championships in 1993 and 1995, and a bronze medal in the Goodwill Games held in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1994. Baumgartner capped his career by winning the bronze medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Ben Peterson:
Ben Peterson attended Iowa State, where he was the 1971 and 1972 NCAA champion. On the 1972 Olympic team, Peterson sweept the field to win the gold medal. Before the next Olympics, Peterson won two AAU titles and finished third at the 1973 World Championships. He managed another win at the 1975 Pan-American Games, before winning the silver medal at the 1976 Olympics. After the 1976 Olympics, Peterson won two more AAU championships and he was also selected to the 1980 Olympic team.