Ashland University head wrestling coach Tim Dernlan constantly preaches about bonus points.
Sunday (Jan. 6) at the Central Missouri Duals, bonus points almost carried his 18th-ranked Eagles to a bonus win – a victory over the nation's top-ranked team.
The Eagles had a 19-17 lead over the nation's number one team, Nebraska-Kearney, heading into the bout at 285 pounds. Thanks to Zach Anderson's 6-4 decision over sophomore Kurt Schaefer (West Salem, Ohio/Northwestern), UNK escaped with a 20-19 triumph.
Schaefer deserves some credit – he's normally AU's 184-pounder. Injuries have forced him to wrestle up in weight class. He went toe-to-toe with a grappler from one of the nation's top programs.
AU won the first two bouts in the match and did it in a style that would impress Dernlan. At 125 pounds, sophomore Max Byrd (Cincinnati, Ohio/LaSalle) pinned Jake Gentzler in 5:26. At 133 pounds, freshman Michael Labry (Twinsburg, Ohio) took a 10-2 major decision from Stephen Weimer. At that point, AU was in front, 10-0.
UNK regrouped and the Eagles did not win again until 184 pounds. But again, the Eagles got extra points there as sophomore Bryson Hall (Doylestown, Ohio/Chippewa) pinned Mark Fiala in 3:19. Ashland's last win came at 197 pounds where sophomore Joe Brandt (Versailles, Ohio), ranked third in the nation, won a 3-1 decision from Matt Lenagh. The UNK grappler is ranked seventh in the nation.
The match with Nebraska-Kearney was AU's first of the day. Later in the afternoon, the Eagles pounded Newman, 38-9.
AU had five pins and a technical fall in this win. The pins went to Labry at 133 pounds, sophomore Dan McNulty (Highland Heights, Ohio/Mayfield) at 141 pounds, freshman Nolan Dilts (Fredericktown, Ohio) at 149 pounds, rookie Randall Perkins (Greenville, Ohio) at 165 and Brandt at 197. Byrd won by technical fall at 125.
Labry is 17-0 and ranked fourth in the nation. Labry and Brandt are the only two Ashland wrestlers who appear in this week's national rankings.
The Eagles are 2-2 in dual meet action this season and will wrestle three times on Tuesday (Jan. 8) at the Central Missouri Duals. Matches that day will be against 19th-ranked Fort Hays State, 10th-ranked Ouachita Baptist and Central Missouri.