At a two-day tournament that featured 15 of the top 25 teams in the country, No. 10-ranked Ashland University wrestling finished second behind titles from senior Jordan Murphy and sophomore Bret Romanzak.
All nine Eagles who made the trip to the 39th annual Midwest Classic in Indianapolis advanced through Day 1 on Saturday (Dec. 16). Eight of them went on to place on Sunday (Dec. 17).
The results for AU are a vast improvement compared to last season's team that finished fifth with five wrestlers that placed.
"We beat a lot of the best competition in the nation this weekend," third-year assistant coach Ryan Kirst said. "This shows me that we can definitely reach the goals we've set. We can definitely win a regional and national title. It's foreseeable now. It's not just talk."
Murphy (4-0, 184 pounds) and Romanzak (20-3, ranked No. 3 at 165) both went undefeated over the weekend. In his first competition of the season, Murphy won four matches, including a 13-4 major decision in the title match over No. 7 Findlay senior Bradley Metz. Romanzak won five, with his biggest also coming in the final against No. 6 Lake Erie junior Nick Vandermeer by a 5-3 decision.
"We're both truly enjoying the process right now," Murphy said. "That process is waking up and being at lifts in the morning and being at practice, whether it's the hardest day or lightest day. When you enjoy everything about it, it takes that pressure off of you to perform well.
"It also helps that we have about 30 other guys on our team that push us every day in practice and don't even get to make these trips."
No. 10-ranked 285-pound junior Deaken McCoy (9-6) placed eighth with a 3-3 record, making him the only Eagle to have placed at the Midwest Classic each of the last two seasons. He also placed eighth in 2016.
Redshirt junior Sebastian Vidika (10-6, 125) and redshirt senior Bob Mason (4-2, 141) both took home fourth place. Vidikia finished the tournament 3-2 with two wins against ranked opponents. Mason went 4-2 in his first action of 2017-18.
Sophomores Garrett Hall (8-7, 157) and Christian Price (14-5, No. 10 at 174) won fifth-place matches, while junior Lawrance Dudgeon (11-7, No. 12 at 133) lost his to place sixth. Hall went 5-2 with victories over the No. 7 and No. 11 wrestlers in his class. Dudgeon finished 5-3 and also beat two ranked opponents. Price finished 5-2.
J.J. Diven (8-3), a 149-pounder, also turned in a solid showing, but fell one win short of placing with a 3-2 record.
"This is a special group," Kirst said. "By finishing second after a fifth-place finish last year, the nation is starting to see how we take care of our guys."
Last season, all five Ashland wrestlers who placed at the Midwest Classic went on to qualify for the national tournament.
"This is a really tough tournament," Murphy said. "Our performance this weekend says that we're in a good place. The goal was to win the tournament, but it's still December. And our biggest goal is to win a team national title in March. We still have two months to work."
AU will get a couple weeks off for Christmas break and head right back to Indiana for the National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals in Fort Wayne on Jan. 4-5.