No matter what happened to this point in the Division II wrestling season, 10 grapplers from each school get to compete in the regional tournament this Friday (Feb. 23) and Saturday (Feb. 24).
However, a wrestler's performance now determines whether or not he will advance to the national championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on March 9-10.
For No. 8-ranked Ashland University, the setting for regionals will be Findlay, Ohio. And according to head coach Josh Hutchens, the goal is to win the title and have every Eagle wrestler move on by placing top four in their weight class.
Last season, AU placed second in the region, one point behind Indianapolis. Seven Eagles advanced to nationals, which is a team-high since Hutchens took over five years ago. Ashland hasn't won a regional title during his tenure.
"If we don't win regionals," Hutchens said, "it would mean we had a bad performance. But if we can get all 10 guys to nationals, that ultimate goal would still be alive. I would much rather have 10 guys at nationals than to win the regional with only four guys advancing."
The Eagles were No. 1 in the regional rankings released on Feb. 13. Of the 10 Ashland wrestlers who will have a shot at the title, eight are ranked in the top four regionally in their weight class.
The team's lineup is as follows - redshirt junior Sebastian Vidika (No. 2 regionally at 125), junior Lawrance Dudgeon (No. 4 at 133), redshirt senior Bob Mason (No. 4 at 141), redshirt freshman Dustin Marteney (149), sophomore Garrett Hall (No. 6 at 157), redshirt sophomore Bret Romanzak (No. 1 at 165), redshirt sophomore Christian Price (No. 2 at 174), senior Jordan Murphy (No. 1 at 184), redshirt senior Luke Cramer (No. 1 at 197) and junior Deaken McCoy (No. 3 at 285).
Mason, Romanzak, Murphy, Cramer and McCoy all have made the trip to nationals in the past.
"All of the top 10 teams in the country have a lot of experience at nationals," Hutchens said. "Obviously it helps, but with the way we've been running things, I don't think the nerves should play a part in anything."
In the national rankings that were issued on Friday, No. 3 Wisconsin-Parkside is the only team in Super Region II ranked higher than AU.
Official seeding for the tournament will be determined on Thursday (Feb. 22) night.