NCAA Division II Regional Schedule
The 2013 NCAA Division II Super Regional 2 Tournament will be held at Ashland University's Kates Gymnasium on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23-24. Wrestling will begin both days at 11 a.m. An all-sessions pass costs $25. Other tickets are priced at $12, $10 and $5 dollars.
What's On the Line
The top four finishers from each weight class will advance to the NCAA Championships, which will take place Mar. 8-9 in Birmingham, Ala. Ashland sent eight wrestlers to nationals in 2012 and six grapplers in 2011.
The Tournament Field
AU head coach Tim Dernlan says that this is the toughest region in the country and it's hard to argue with his contention. This tournament will include second-ranked Notre Dame, third-ranked Central Oklahoma, ninth-ranked Findlay and Ashland, ranked 15th in the nation. Lake Erie and Ouachita Baptist will be in town for this event and both of those teams are listed among, "Others Receiving Votes," in this week's Top 20 poll.
Notre Dame won the GLIAC championship and received all eight second place votes in this week's poll. This is NDC's first year in NCAA Division II. The Falcons were a power on the NAIA level before this season (they won NAIA championships in 2009-10 and 2010-11). Central Oklahoma is a seven-time NCAA Division II national champion and is the defending regional champion. Findlay was second at last year's regional tourney and Ashland was third.
Both Notre Dame and Central Oklahoma have nine wrestlers ranked in the top four of the regional rankings.
In addition to the teams mentioned above, the other teams at the region are Belmont Abbey, Central Missouri, King, Limestone, Tiffin and Truman State.
About the Eagles
There are four wrestlers on this year's AU squad who have made the trip to nationals.
Senior Dan Genetin (Navarre, Ohio/Massillon Perry), wrestling at 149 pounds, has advanced to nationals for three consecutive seasons. At last year's regional championships, Genetin was fourth at 157 pounds. Genetin missed the first part of this season due to injury. He's 4-6.
Sophomore Bryson Hall (Doylestown, Ohio/Chippewa) was fourth at 174 pounds at last year's regional tournament. Hall is 19-6 this year with six pins. He is a second team All-GLIAC selection.
Another sophomore, Joe Brandt (Versailles, Ohio), reached last year's national championships wrestling at 197 pounds. Brandt was fourth a year ago at the regional event. He enters this tournament with a 28-3 record. Brandt has six pins. He's ranked fourth in the country.
Senior Adli Edwards (Gahanna, Ohio/Thomas Worthington) was third at 133 pounds at last year's regional. Edwards is 0-1 at 141 pounds this year and comes into this year's regional unseeded. He joined the team at midseason and has had to work overtime to get into condition for this chance.
"That will be a weight that makes a difference for us," said Dernlan, of Edwards at 141.
"Adli's made some breakthroughs in the past week. He's an exciting wrestler. He's always working on technique. He does it so much there are times we have to tell him to stop."
Two AU freshmen are nationally ranked and figure to be in the mix to finish among the region's top four finishers.
At 125 pounds, rookie Max Byrd (Cincinnati, Ohio/LaSalle) is 21-4 with eight pins and four major decisions. Byrd is ranked seventh in the nation. He is Ashland's lone first team All-GLIAC selection.
Freshman Michael Labry (Twinsburg, Ohio) is 28-1 and is ranked sixth in the country. Labry has five major decisions and three pins. The rookie is a second team all-conference pick.
Neither Byrd or Labry have ever been through the pressure cooker of a regional tournament. Both could also run up against, "The Wall," which has been known to inflict damage on a number of rookies.
"They're both excited about their positions," said Dernlan. "I'm excited about both of them. I think they can shine in this postseason."
Rough and Ready
Since he arrived at Ashland, Dernlan has talked about building a schedule that prepares the Eagles for the rigors of late February and early March. This year, Ashland wrestled against powerful Nebraska-Kearney (ranked first in the country at the time, now seventh) at Central Missouri. The Eagles squared off against ranked foes such as Pitt-Johnstown (currently ranked fourth), Mercyhurst (10th) and Ouachita Baptist outside the conference. In the GLIAC, they faced Findlay (ninth), Notre Dame (second) and surging Lake Erie.
"We've seen the best guys in the land," Dernlan said. "The trip to Missouri was great. Then, wrestling in the GLIAC, with that being so tough, that helped. The one team we haven't seen is Central Oklahoma."
Dernlan may not have seen UCO first hand, but he knows the reputation of the program and what it's produced over the years.
"They should think they can win the national championship," said Dernlan. "They are solid at every spot. They don't have any weaknesses."
Notre Dame and Central Oklahoma wrestled this season and the Falcons won that match, 19-13.
The Eagles went 11-6 in dual meet action this season. Dernlan has talked in the past about several of his AU teams being exceptional in dual meets, while others seemed to be more comfortable in a tournament setting. How does this year's team stack up?
"I think we're a good tournament team," said the AU head coach. "I think we can score points at every weight."
AU finished fifth this year at the Midwest Classic in Indianapolis. AU had five placers at that tourney. That would probably rank as AU's best performance at a tournament this season.
Blessing or Curse
Being at home for the regional can be viewed as a positive or a negative. The positive is that no time is lost to travel and the Eagles have the home crowd with them. The negative is that being at home can add some extra pressure.
"We're going to accentuate the positive of being at home," said Dernlan. "We won't have to travel and we'll be well rested. We know the facility. On the flip side, we have to eliminate the distractions of being at home. We'll talk about eliminating those factors."
Dernlan is in his fifth season as AU's head coach. Ashland's best regional finish under Dernlan came in 2010-11. AU was second that year and Dernlan was named the region coach of the year. The last AU wrestler to win a regional crown was Jacob Southwick. He won that a year ago at 285 pounds.
AU's last national championship came in 1996 when Corey Kline finished first at 134 pounds. Ashland's other national champions are Jim Guizotti (142, 1971), Jeff Freedman (158, 1979) and Jeff Esmont (190, 1982).
Notre Dame's Joey Davis is ranked first in the country at 165 pounds and Lake Erie's Matt Vandermeer is second at that weight class. Findlay's Adam Walters is second in the nation at 184 pounds. At 133 pounds, Central Oklahoma's Casy Rowell is ranked first in the nation, Notre Dame's Marty Carlson is fifth and Labry is sixth. At 157 pounds, Central Oklahoma's Cory Dauphin is ranked second and Bobby Williams of Ouachita Baptist is ranked fourth. At 174 pounds, Notre Dame's Eric Burgey is ranked third, Central Oklahoma's Kelly Henderson is sixth and Hall is eighth.