No. 11-ranked Ashland University wrestling begins its season on a big stage Sunday (Nov. 5) at the Michigan State Open in East Lansing, Mich.
The meet will feature a full slate of Eagles, including three who were nationally ranked in the Division II Wrestling Coaches Association polls that were released on Oct. 20. Senior Luke Cramer is first at 197 pounds, sophomore Bret Romanzak is eighth at 165, and junior Deaken McCoy is 10th at 285.
Each of the aforementioned wrestlers competed on the national stage in Birmingham, Ala., last March, during which AU placed sixth and Cramer earned All-American status with a third-place effort. All of that is just a part of the reason that fifth-year head coach Josh Hutchens is excited about his 2017-18 team's potential.
"The team national title is our goal," he said. "We've got so many guys coming back that the confidence of the team right now is higher than it's ever been, even higher than last year.
"We want to get 10 guys at the national tournament, and we want to have 10 All-Americans. We believe we have the potential to do that on our team."
Last year was the first time that the team finished among the top 10 in the country since 2002. And 2017 senior Michael Labry was the first Eagle to win a national title since Corey Kline in 1996.
Murphy garnered All-American honors in 2017 with a sixth-place finish at nationals. He also earned first-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference recognition, but he won't compete this season until the Midwest Classic set for Dec. 16-17 in Indianapolis, Ind.
Mason, a redshirt in 2016-17, will also return to the mat at the Midwest Classic this year having qualified for nationals in the past. Vidika was a second-team all-conference selection last season and has placed sixth twice at the regional tournament.
The Eagles have four home duals this season, beginning with No. 6 Pitt-Johnstown at 3 p.m. on Dec. 2, followed by West Liberty at 7 p.m. on Dec. 8, No. 18 Lake Erie at 7 p.m. on Jan. 20 and Tiffin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3.
"I think it's going to be exciting wrestling, top to bottom," Hutchens said. "We don't have any holes in the lineup, so every weight class is going to be competitive. I think our team is going to be fun to watch in a dual meet."
Sunday's meet, slated to begin at 9:30 a.m., will feature NCAA Division I talent.