At the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships this past week, two Fighting Illini wrestlers claimed titles as Illinois placed fifth in one of the biggest wrestling tournaments of the season.
Edmond Ruth was the 1-seed at 174lb and cruised through his bracket, knocking off Penn’s Nick Incontrera with a 4-1 decision in the finals. At 197lb, 2-seed Zac Braunagel defeated Wisconsin’s top-seeded Braxton Amos in dramatic fashion, notching an escape in overtime to win 2-1.
Two other Illini won third place in their bracket. At 133lb, Lucas Byrd dug himself an 11-1 hole at the end of the 2nd period of his semifinal match against Penn’s Michael Colaiocco and his furious rally in the third came up short by the score of 15-13. He nevertheless won the third place match 8-1 to land on the podium.
He was joined there by Danny Braunagel, who pulled off an impressive upset in the 165lb bracket with a 7-6 decision in the semifinals over #5 Peyton Hall (not 5th-seeded, but #5 in the country!). This landed him a date with Princeton’s Quincy Monday, the #1 wrestler at 157lb wrestling up a weight class for this tournament. He lost a 6-4 decision but scored the bronze when his opponent in the 3rd place match took a medical forfeit.
Elsewhere, Dylan Connell finished 5th at 184lb, Danny Pucino won the 7th place match at 141lb and Trey Sizemore (also wrestling at 174lb in addition to Ruth) finished 8th in his bracket.
The overall championship was won by hosts Northwestern. Illinois is currently ranked 28th in InterMat’s rankings, but boasts the #8 wrestler at 133lb (Byrd), the #15 wrestler at 165lb (D. Braunagel), the #10 wrestler at 174lb (Ruth) and the #13 wrestler at 197lb (Z. Braunagel). Their next action is on the road against #2 Iowa on January 6th.