All-Time Greatest Midlands Wrestlers Semifinals

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 three rounds are over and the semifinal match-ups are below. Voting will be open until December 27th. Then we will tabulate the results and start the finals.

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.

Question Title

* 1. Semifinal #1
Tom Brands (Iowa, 1 Midlands Championship) vs. Dan Gable (Iowa State, 6 Midlands Championships)

Iowa fans are very familiar with these two guys, as they are both Iowa wrestling coaches. Gable, of course, had his legendary run with the Hawkeyes in the 70's, 80's and 90's, winning 16 NCAA titles and 21 straight Big Ten Titles. Since Brands took over for the Hawkeyes in 2007, they have won three more NCAA titles. Gable served as an assistant to Brand for a number of years. Brands wrestled for Gable at Iowa. Both men are accomplished on the mat themselves, as most of you know. They both won the "grand slam" of Midlands, NCAAs, Worlds and Olympic gold.

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.

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.

Question Title

* 2. Semifinal #2
Cael Sanderson (4 Championships, Iowa State) vs. Bruce Baumgartner (8 Midlands Championships, Indiana State)

Here we have what might be the most interesting match-up of the tournament to date. Sanderson is arguably the most decoated collegiate wrestler in NCAA history, while Baumgartner may be the most decorated international wrestler in US history. Sanderson, it is well known, is one of just two wrestlers that has won four NCAA titles. He finished his career undefeated in four seasons. He does have a gold medal, but didn't experience the same level of success at the international level. Baumgartner, on the other hand, only has one NCAA title. But internationally he shone, competing until he was 37 and winning Olympic medals (two gold), and as well as nine medals at the world championships (three gold). Sanderson is now the head coach of Penn State where has won two NCAA titles, while Baumgartner is the AD at Edinboro. Baumgartner has garnered over 90% of the votes in his first three matches, but that figures to change here.

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.

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.