Another weekend, another breakthrough. That's life these days for the Ashland University wrestling team and no one connected with the program – coaches or wrestlers - can find much fault with this pattern.
Last Saturday, the Eagles went 3-0 and won the championship of the Mid-Atlantic Duals, held at Kates Gymnasium. This Saturday (Jan. 15) at the 22nd Annual Wendy's Big Classic Duals, the Eagles went 1-1, defeating Division I Campbell, 38-9 and losing to Purdue, 30-9. The win over Campbell was Ashland's first at the Wendy's Classic Duals since a 24-9 victory over Air Force in 2007.
"We wrestled hard," said AU head coach Tim Dernlan. "Anytime you get a couple of Division I opponents, it's great. Coming into this I didn't know how our guys would react. I was pretty confident that they would come into each match with heart and go after the win. We did that in both matches."
The original schedule called for AU to have one more match Saturday, a collision with one of the top teams in Division II, Newberry. But Newberry had to scratch the trip to Ashland due to problems getting out of Iowa. Newberry competed there a week ago in the National Duals and didn't get back on campus until the end of this week.
While the Eagles had looked forward to that battle, they wasted little time wondering what might have been. Against Campbell, AU won the five weight classes to take a 22-0 lead. That run included a major decision by Scott Meyer (Ravenna, Ohio) at 133 pounds and a pin by Kyle Kanaga (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) at 149. Meyer was a 10-2 winner over Gabe Gardner while Kanaga pinned Brad Merriman in 5:42.
"We were able to get started early against Campbell and get some bonus points," observed Dernlan. "We didn't have to squeak out any close wins. This was a match our guys expected to win. That's the kind of team we're becoming. We just have to keep training the way we've been training."
This match also featured a victory by Marc Hoff (Liberty Center, Ohio) at 157 and a major decision by Ryan Thatcher (Loudonville, Ohio) at 174. Freshman Corby Running (Wilmington, Ohio/Clinton Massie) got his fourth pin of the season at 197. His match with Justin Sparrow ended in 3:13. At 285, Jacob Southwick (Bowling Green, Ohio/Otsego) pinned Parker Burns in 2:30.
That was the first of two pins for Southwick. Against Purdue, he registered a pin of Roger Vukobratovich in 6:02. Southwick has gone 5-0 over the last two Saturdays. His season mark is 20-2 with 11 pins.
"Jacob Southwick is the best heavyweight in Division II," remarked Dernlan.
Southwick will probably get some headlines and a national ranking soon. Hoff, who also went 2-0 on this day, has not spent this season on center stage. Against Purdue, he was a 4-2 winner over Sam Patacsil, who entered the day with a 12-11 record. Hoff is 9-5.
"He did a great job today," Dernlan said of Hoff. "The kid from Purdue is from a long line of brothers who have wrestled for them. Marc wrestled smart today."
A year ago at this event, Purdue smashed the Eagles, 43-12. While the Eagles didn't get a win against the Boilermakers, they put up a much better fight than they did a year ago.
"We were in every match and we didn't give up too many bonus points," said Dernlan. "This was a big improvement over last year."
The Eagles face another major challenge this coming Tuesday (Jan. 18) when they travel to Gannon. The Golden Knights defeated sixth-ranked Pitt-Johnstown this past week.
"It's a short turnaround and this will be every bit as hard for us as the Purdue match," said Dernlan.