The Eagles will host a power-packed tournament for the second consecutive Saturday. Last week, it was the Mid-Atlantic Duals. Now comes the 22nd Annual Wendy's Classic Duals. Eight teams are in this event. All the matches are pre-determined. Matches will be staged at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Action will be taking place on four mats.
In addition to Ashland, the list of teams in town for the Wendy's includes Campbell, Eastern Michigan, Gardner-Webb, Kent State, Newberry, Olivet and Purdue.
Saturday's schedule appears below.
10 a.m. Matches Noon Matches
ASHLAND vs. Campbell ASHLAND vs. Newberry
Kent State vs. Newberry Kent State vs. Purdue
Purdue vs. Gardner-Webb Campbell vs. Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan vs. Olivet Olivet vs. Gardner-Webb
ASHLAND vs. Purdue
Kent State vs. Campbell
Newberry vs. Olivet
Garnder-Webb vs. Eastern Michigan
A Menu of Quality Wrestling
When the Wendy's Classic was started, there was a dearth of quality wrestling tournaments in the Midwest. Ashland's location made for an excellent meeting point to bring together some of the top wrestling programs in the nation. That was the objective of this tournament, to bring in top teams regardless of division, and have them meet in Ashland. Over the years, the field has included Big Ten teams like Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois and Indiana. Teams like Fresno State and Cal Poly have come from the west coast. This has also been a draw for the service academics – Air Force and Navy have come to Kates Gymnasium.
Ashland's all-time record at the Wendy's Classic Duals is 26-41. Most fans don't read too much into that because the Eagles have been consistently matched against Division I teams. That David-vs.-Goliath format has made for some exciting wrestling. The high point of this tournament probably came in 2000 when the Eagles slipped past Ohio State, 19-16. That was Ashland's only victory over the Buckeyes in 13 meetings at the Wendy's Classic. In 2000, AU went 3-0. In addition to the win over Ohio State, the Eagles downed Slippery Rock (28-11) and Marquette (28-9).
"Our guys are really looking forward to this," said AU head coach Tim Dernlan. "After last Saturday, our guys were getting together to talk out in the hall and Jacob Southwick (Bowling Green, Ohio/Otsego) said, 'Enough talk, it's the Wendy's. I told him to relax and enjoy this one first."
Dernlan and AU assistant coaches Marcus Gordon and Justin Ferguson have all wrestled at the Wendy's Classic Duals. Dernlan wrestled for Purdue and Gordon and Ferguson wrestled for the Eagles.
"I always enjoyed it," said the energetic Dernlan. "I knew it would be tough competition. Not just one match, it was going to be three tough matches in one day. This is such a great event. There are a lot of memories here for a lot of different wrestlers and teams."
Last week, Dernlan's mother, Sue, was directing the hospitality room at the Mid-Atlantic Duals. She remembered coming to AU for the Wendy's Classic and thinking, "This will be the last time we're here." Now, Sue Dernlan can be found at AU home meets in the hospitality room or helping to watch the Dernlan children in the stands.
Update on the Eagles
Ashland is 5-1 in dual meet action. Last week, the Eagles won the championship at the first Mid-Atlantic Duals, held at Kates Gymnasium. AU defeated Belmont-Abbey (35-8), West Liberty (26-10) and Adams State (24-16). B-A was listed among, "Others Receiving Votes," in last week's national poll. West Liberty was ranked 15th and Adams State was 17th…AU will be without senior Tommie Graszl (Mansfield, Ohio/Madison) at 165 pounds due to injury. Also missing this week will be senior Brandon Kelly (SR, Fort Myers, Fla./Newberry), who will be held out of action for precautionary reasons. Kelly was 3-0 last week with three pins. AU's projected lineup for this week appears below.
125 – Dan Mandara (JR, Canadaigua, N.Y.) – is 10-4 and went 3-0 last week.
133 – Scott Meyer (JR, Ravenna, Ohio) – is 16-7, third on the team in wins.
141 – Kyle Kanaga (SR, Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) – Brings a 15-7 record to the mat.
149 – Dan Genetin (SO, Navarre, Ohio/Massillon Perry) – Off to a 14-7 start.
157 – Mark Hoff (JR, Liberty Center, Ohio) – Is 7-5.
165 – Jake Piatt (FR, Medina, Ohio) – Second week in the lineup, is 8-8.
174 – Ryan Thatcher (SO, Loudonville, Ohio) – Moving down from 184, is 17-5.
184 – Justin Cheesman (SO, Mansfield, Ohio/Crestview) – Has 1-2 record.
or Jon Beam (FR, Holmesville, Ohio/Waynedale) – Is 4-4.
197 – Corby Running (FR, Wilmington, Ohio/Clinton Massie) – Is 8-11.
285 – Jacob Southwick (JR, Bowling Green, Ohio/Otsego) – Went 3-0 last week and is 18-2 on the year with nine pins.
This week will give Dernlan and the AU coaches an indication of how fast the Eagles are maturing. This is the second consecutive weekend the Eagles are hosting a major event. Next Tuesday (Jan. 18), AU wrestles at Gannon, which is on the verge of breaking into the Top 20. Then comes a home meet with Lake Erie (Jan. 21) and the Simonson Open (Jan. 22). How will the Eagles make their way through this gauntlet?
"I don't really know," admitted Dernlan. "I don't have a good sense of where we are right now. I should have a better idea after our practice on Thursday."
Dernlan pointed out that at the Mid-Atlantic Duals, Southwick was 3-0 at 285 and Mandara was 3-0 at 125.
"It's great to have those bookends," the AU coach said. "That gives you confidence that you'll always be in the match."
Southwick is 18-2 with nine pins and was a contender for the outstanding wrestler of the meet award last Saturday. It would be no surprise to see him jump into the national rankings soon.
"He's definitely one of our most improved wrestlers," said Dernlan. "He's figured out how to use his body. He's so big and he's got long arms. I kept telling him that last year. He's figured it out and turned the corner. He doesn't try to just win, he wants to dominate."
Mandara missed the Midwest Classic (Dec. 18-19) due to injury. He's been solid since his return.
Thatcher will move from 184 pounds to 174 this week. The Loudonville High School product has developed into one of AU's most trusted wrestlers. That took some time, but for Dernlan and his staff, it's been well worth the wait.
"He's been getting tougher as the year's gone on," noted Dernlan. "He was off the mat for two years. Ryan was working off some of the rust. He's starting to feel good and wrestle well. I think he's more aggressive. Some of that can be attributed to working with Brandon Kelly every day. Brandon brought us that attitude."
Thatcher began his wrestling career at Findlay. He transferred to AU and was redshirted last year.
The Scouting Report
Newberry is one of the top NCAA Division II outfits in the country. Last week, Newberry was fourth at the National Duals. Earlier this year, Newberry won the Midwest Classic. The South Carolina school is ranked fifth in the country and has six wrestlers who are nationally ranked. That leader of that group is Bryant Blanton, ranked first in the country at 184 pounds. B.J. Young is fifth at 133, Dale Debacco is fifth at 149 and Sean Byrnes is fifth at 157. Conor McDonald is sixth at 125 and Deral Brown is eighth at 141. Newberry went 2-2 at the National Duals and 3-1 at the Grand Canyon Duals in Phoenix, AZ. "A lot of our guys are excited to test themselves against Newberry," said Dernlan…Campbell is a Division I school located in Buies Creek, N.C. Campbell's head coach is Joe Boardwine, a 1997 Kent State grad. According to Dernlan, he's working hard to mine some of the top talent in Ohio. "He recruits a lot of Northeast Ohio guys," said Dernlan. "Campbell is well trained and well conditioned and this should be a fun match. Campbell currently has two Ohio natives on the roster…Purdue is ranked 21st in the nation. Ashland is 0-6 against Purdue at the Wendy's Classic Duals…redshirt junior A.J. Kissel is 14-3 at 184 and senior Logan Brown is 12-2 at 197. At 157, senior Colton Salazar is 9-4. Dernlan believes this is the best team Purdue has sent to the mat in the last 20 years.
Kent State is 7-4 and ranked 17th in the country. Last weekend, the Golden Flashes were at the Virginia Duals. Kent State defeated 12th-ranked Lehigh (18-16) and 25th-ranked Arizona State (31-17). KSU lost to second-ranked Penn State (27-15). Junior Dustin Kilgore is 23-2 at 197. Kilgore is 11-0 in dual meets. He has seven major decisions and six pins. At 125, sophomore Stevie Mitcheff is 18-6. Junior Ross Tice is 18-9 at 165…Eastern Michigan is 4-5. Last weekend, EMU was in East Lansing, Mich., for a pair of matches. The Eagles defeated Lock Haven, 34-6 and lost to Michigan State, 19-15. Junior Filiberto Colon is 21-8 at 133 and sophomore Aaron Sulzer is 14-9 at 157…Olivet is 6-5-1 and ranked ninth in NCAA Division III. Head coach Brandon Brissette is in his second season at Olivet. Before taking over with the Comets, he spent four years as an assistant coach at Heidelberg. The Comets have won four of their last five matches. Co-captain Jim Neal is 10-3 at 184 pounds…Gardner-Webb went 0-3 last weekend at the Indiana Quad. The Runnin' Bulldogs lost to SIU-Edwardsville (21-17), Cleveland State (30-12) and Indiana (41-6). Redshirt sophomore Alex Medved is 17-7 with five major decisions at 157. He was 22-6 a year ago. His brother, redshirt sophomore Ryan Medved, is 12-6 at 149.
The Eagles will wrestle at Gannon on Tuesday (Jan. 18, 7 p.m.). They will host Lake Erie on Friday (Jan. 21, 7 p.m.). Next Saturday (Jan. 22, 9 a.m.) the Eagles host the Simonson Open.