Studies show that people who make resolutions at the start of the new year often fall back into their hold habits a week or two into January.
The Ashland University wrestling team doesn't want to be included in that group with big hopes but faint hearts.
The Eagles, ranked 18th in the nation, have pledged to be stronger and smarter in the second half of the 2012-13 season. That promise looks good right now – the Eagles went 4-1 at the recent Central Missouri Duals (Jan. 6-8). On that trip, AU's only blemish was a one-point loss to Nebraska-Kearney, the team that's ranked first in the nation. Ashland posted wins over two nationally ranked teams – Fort Hays State (19th) and Ouachita Baptist (10th).
"It was fun to be in Missouri for a week and to go up against great competition," said AU head coach Tim Dernlan. "It was fun to come home 4-1 and feel you wrestled well. Our success reflected our effort. It was nice to see how hard over guys worked and the focus they maintained for being on the road that long."
The Eagles will host Lake Erie on Tuesday (Jan. 15, 7 p.m.). This is AU's first home date since a dual with Mercyhurst on Nov. 30. The Eagles are 6-2 in dual meets. The Storm is 7-3 and coming off a 44-3 victory over Millersville. That's the biggest margin of victory in LEC history.
"They've gotten tougher in a hurry," said Dernlan of the Storm. "They've had a couple of good recruiting years."
The AU head coach says his team has gone back to working on basics over the break. He also noted that the Eagles have experimented with a couple of different techniques and spent time sharpening their mental approach.
"Last year, we didn't have to explain things like riding time and the basics of college wrestling," said Dernlan, harking back to last season when he had a lineup filled with veterans. "We've had to re-educate some of our guys this year. We want the right mental approach, getting in the right frame of mind."
Whatever the Eagles are thinking about right now, it appears to be working. Freshman Michael Labry (Twinsburg, Ohio) is 20-0 and ranked fourth in the nation at 133 pounds. At 125 pounds, sophomore Max Byrd (Cincinnati, Ohio/La Salle) is 14-3 with five pins and a technical fall. Sophomore Bryson Hall (Doylestown, Ohio/Chippewa) is 16-4 with six pins at 184. At 197, sophomore Joe Brandt (Versailles, Ohio) owns a 20-2 record with five pins. Brandt is ranked third in the nation.
The LEC match kicks off a busy week for the Eagles. On Friday (Jan. 18, 7 p.m.) the Eagles visit 12th-ranked Pitt-Johnstown. On Sunday (Jan. 20, 10 a.m.), AU hosts the Wendy's Mid-Atlantic Duals. Seton Hill, Belmont Abby and East Stroudsburg will come to Kates Gymnasium for that event.