EVANSTON, Ill. - In a field featuring almost 100 ranked wrestlers and 15 ranked teams, Columbia showed it can compete with the best in the nation on day one of the 50th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships. Columbia will head into the final day of the Midlands in 12th place (35.5 points), with three wrestlers still competing on the mat, including No. 8/15 Steve Santos who has reached the semifinals of the 149-pound weight class.
Santos reached the semifinals with four victories, each coming in a different fashion. In the opening round, it would be UW-Park's Dan Argueta who would be Santos's first victim, going down by way of technical fall, 17-0, in 4:43. In the next round, Chicago's Josh Hotta found himself pinned in 6:49. In a round of 16 matchup against Shawn Fayette from Northern Illinois, Santos captured a major decision, his second win Saturday via shutout, 11-0. No. 12/12 Eric Grajales served as a staunch challenger in the quarterfinals, but Santos secured his spot in Sunday's semifinals with an 8-3 decision. No. 1/3 Donnie Vinson from Binghamton awaits Santos in the semifinals.
Two Columbia wrestlers also remain alive to place at the Midlands in the wrestleback brackets of their respective weight classes.
In the 157-pound weight class, No. 17/15 Jake O'Hara reached the quarterfinals with three triumphs. Michigan's Michael Carpenter went down 10-3 in the opening round with Sunnyvale's Mike Schmidlin going down in the form of a technical fall, 18-3, in 5:37 in the round of 32. No. 20/- Tommy Churchard would be the next opponent of O'Hara's to fall, finding himself on the losing end of a 13-6 decision in the round of 16. Unfortunately, top seed and No. 2/2 ranked Jason Welch from host Northwestern forced O'Hara to the wrestleback draw with an 8-0 major decision in the quarterfinals. O'Hara will take on No. 14/12 Matt Lester from Oklahoma in his first match Sunday.
No. 12/18 Stephen West also made his way to the quarterfinals of the 174-pound weight class. West began competition in the round of 32 following a bye, defeating Rider's James Brundage in his first match, 7-4. In a very close round of 16 match, West secured a 3-1 sudden victory over Virginia Tech's Austin Gabel. In the quarterfinals, No. 10/12 Dan Yates from Michigan halted West's pursuit of a title with a 9-1 major decision victory. West will begin Sunday with a matchup against Central Michigan's Craig Kelliher who won four matches in the wrestleback draw Saturday.
Illinois sits atop the team standings with 61.5 points, just 0.5 ahead of Virginia Tech. CMU is next on the leaderboard, but trails the Hokies by 12.5 points.
Semifinals, consolations and seventh-place matches will commence Sunday at 1 p.m EST with the finals slated for an 8 p.m EST start time.