Regional Tournament Up Next For Wrestlers

Joe Brandt
Joe Brandt

The stretch run of the wrestling season has arrived. This Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28-Mar. 1, the Eagles will be at Tiffin for the Midwest Regional Tournament. The top five wrestlers in each weight class will advance to the NCAA Division II Championships, which will be held in Cleveland on Mar. 14-15.

Wrestling will start on Friday at 11 a.m. On Saturday, the action begins at 10 a.m., and the finals are scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

The Eagles will go to Tiffin ranked 19th in the nation. The Eagles have two returning All-Americans -  Michael Labry and Joe Brandt - and both are favorites to make a return trip to nationals.

Labry is wrestling at 133 pounds. He's ranked second in the nation, trailing only Andy Pokorny of St. Cloud State. Labry is 27-4. The sophomore is fifth in the nation in technical falls (4-19:35) and eighth in the country (133 points, 3.7) in the  Most Dominant Wrestler standings. Last spring, Labry was second at the regional championships, which were held at Ashland. He went on to place fourth at the national meet in Birmingham, Ala.

Brandt is a two-time All-American. He's a junior and is ranked sixth in the nation at 197 pounds. Brandt is 22-3 with seven pins. He's finished seventh at nationals each of the last two seasons. Brandt was the regional runner-up in 2013.

Junior Bryson Hall is 18-1 at 184 pounds and is ranked first in the country. Hall is the GLIAC wrestler of the year.

At 149 pounds, redshirt freshman Brent Fickel is 25-5. Fickel isn't ranked, but when he's been healthy, he's been one of the top wrestlers in the region.

Senior Tyler Houska is 24-8 at 285 pounds. Houska is unranked and his weight class is loaded with talent, but he is a strong contender to reach the national meet. Two of the top wrestlers in this weight class are Newberry's Matt Wade and Kevin Christman of Tiffin. Wade is ranked seventh in the country and Christman is eighth.

Newberry would appear to be the favorite to claim the regional title. The South Carolina school is ranked fifth in the nation.  Three other contenders are McKendree, Maryville and Indianapolis. McKendree is ranked ninth, Maryville is 13th and Indianapolis is 14th.

A year ago the Eagles placed third out of 12 teams at the regional meet. Notre Dame won the 2013 regional championship. Central Oklahoma was the regional runner-up. Both schools have been moved to different regions of the country. NDC is the nation's top-ranked team and is in the East Region. Central Oklahoma is ranked fourth in the country and will host the Central Region championships.