Labry, Brandt Still Going At Nationals

Dan Genetin
Dan Genetin

There are plenty of roads that lead to Birmingham, Ala. But at the NCAA Division II wrestling championships, the destination is really not Birmingham. It's a placement on the awards stand and no matter where nationals is held - North, South, East or West - the road to the podium is always a winding one.

Four AU wrestlers started that journey on Friday (Mar. 8) in Birmingham. Only two - freshman Michael Labry (Twinsburg, Ohio) at 133 pounds and sophomore Joe Brandt (Versailles, Ohio) at 197 pounds - are still alive in wrestling's version of a demolition derby.

Labry went 2-1 on Friday. In his opening match, he defeated Martin Ramirez of Adams State, 11-3. That put the AU rookie up against Andrew Pokorny of St. Cloud State. Pokorny is ranked second in the country. He got the better of Labry, 7-4. Pokorny is 22-2.

Facing elimination, Labry bounced back to take a 4-3 decision from Dylan D'Urso of Mercyhurst. Labry, ranked fifth in the nation, is 33-3. D'Urso entered this tourney with a 29-4 mark. This was the second time this season Labry nipped D'Urso. At Ashland on Nov. 30, Labry defeated the Mercyhurst grappler, 4-3.

Labry isn't the only AU wrestler on this trail. Brandt is on the same one. His day began with a 3-1 setback against Jayd Docken of Augustana, who is ranked fifth in the nation. Brandt rebounded from that loss to pin Justin Rockhill of New Mexico Highlands in 6:20.

That put Brandt into a battle with Samuel Mangum of Western State. Brandt, who is ranked fourth in the country, kept his All-America hopes alive with a 7-2 triumph. A year ago, Brandt finished seventh at nationals.

Two AU wrestlers saw their season end on Friday. At 125 pounds, freshman Max Byrd (Cincinnati, Ohio/La Salle) was pinned by Newberry's Jeffrey Vesta in 34 seconds. Byrd, who is ranked sixth in the country, then lost to Kyle Moorite of Grand Canyon, 18-8. Byrd is 25-6. Vesta has 15 pins, which leads all of NCAA Division II.

At 149 pounds, senior Dan Genetin (Navarre, Ohio/Massillon Perry) went 0-2. Seton Hill's Nick Nichols edged Genetin, 6-5. That's the second time this year that Nichols defeated Genetin. That loss put Genetin up against Marysville's John Hagerty. Hagerty won that bout, 16-3.

This was Genetin's fourth trip to nationals. He battled injuries for much of this season and ends his season with an 8-9 record.

The NCAA national meet runs through Saturday night.