A highly-successful first half of the 2018-19 season for Ashland University's wrestling team will come to a close on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 15-16) at the 40th Midwest Classic in Indianapolis, Ind.
"As always, our expectations are more the performance than the outcome," said Ashland head coach Josh Hutchens. "We're looking to see the guys improve in all areas. We've had a lot of matches this fall, and so every time we have those matches, we watch film, we work on specific techniques, so we're really hoping to see those guys improve in those areas."
The No. 14-ranked Eagles have gone 6-1 in duals so far this season, and will have several more to start 2019, including three at Kates Gymnasium – Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. vs. Notre Dame College, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. vs. Urbana, and Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. vs. Findlay.
But the annual first big test of a season at the Midwest Classic is fresh in the Eagles' minds.
"You never know who's going to be there," Hutchens said. "We're hoping to get a lot of placers. That's always the goal. This is the measuring stick for the fall."
Junior Bret Romanzak, ranked first in NCAA Division II and the Super Region Three at 165 pounds, enters the Classic at 14-2 with 31 takedowns. Nearly half of his victories have come by major decision (four), tech fall (one) and pin (one).
"Every year is different. For him, he'll have some new guys he's never seen before," said Hutchens. "That makes it exciting."
Another junior, Christian Price at 174, leads the Eagles in wins (15), takedowns (42) and tech falls (three). He is ranked fourth in the region.
Rounding out the veteran portion of the Eagle lineup is junior Chandler Minnard at 141. Ranked seventh in the country and first in the region, Minnard is 4-4 with eight takedowns so far this season.
Ashland's Classic lineup will feature three sophomores – Carson Speelman (8-1, three pins) at 149, Chance Esmont (4-3, two pins) at 157 and Tristen Weirich (10-4, four pins) at 285. Four Eagle freshmen will try their hands at the Classic for the first time this weekend – Bryce Davis (6-6, one pin) at 125, Luke Wymer (11-3, four pins) at 133, Daniel Beemer (13-4, team-high five pins) at 184) and Peter Abraham (2-4, one pin) at 197.
Of those seven underclassmen competing at the Classic, four are regionally ranked – Wymer and Speelman fourth, Weirich fifth and Davis sixth.
"From freshmen all the way up, they're going to test themselves," Hutchens said. "Matchups are different each time. You just never know what's going to happen when you get there."