Ashland University junior Bret Romanzak won the NCAA Division II Super Region Three at 165 pounds on Saturday (Feb. 23).
"Overall, we exceeded the rankings in the country," said Ashland's head wrestling coach Josh Hutchens. "I'm happy we got three guys out of such a brutal regional, would've loved to have more though."
Romanzsk was business-like all day, as he methodically moved through the competition.
"Having the experience definitely helped. It was the same deal as last year, had to win four matches, but this time they were all the same day," said Romanzak. "That experience helps. Pacing for four and making sure I have energy to get it done.
"It feels good. Body and mind are feeling good, so I'm ready to get it done in two weeks."
Romanzak won his first round by fall at 4:17. He was able to fend off a shifty Anthony Daily of Notre Dame in the quarterfinal, a 3-1 decision. In the semifinal, Romanzak put on a defensive masterclass display, winning 1-0, scoring on an escape in the third period to secure a spot at nationals, and in the regional final.
In the finals, Romanzak took on the No. 1 seed in the region, and a grappler that had topped him once this year, University of Indianapolis' Sheldon Struble.
"I knew he was a strong, stingy guy, and liked to tie me up," said Romanzak. "He's a good wrestler on the mat, so I knew I had to get to my shots and keep the movement up which I was able to do. Had to do a good job executing that plan and finding ways to score."
"We expected him to do it," said Hutchens. "He was ranked and seeded second in the region, so it wasn't what everyone else was expecting him to do, but we were. He pulled it out, and this is the time of year when you see that out of these guys that are champions."
The match went to overtime after Struble was granted a late point. Romanzak earned a quick takedown in the overtime period to clinch his second straight regional title.
Athletes are always told it's important to learn from their mistakes, and Weirich and Price took that advice and ran with it. The two national qualifiers had to top opponents who had previously beaten them to move onto nationals.
Price won his quarterfinal in a high scoring display, 13-8. He lost in the semifinal to fall to the consolation bracket. From there, Price fought back winning his consolation semifinal, 7-3.
"You have nothing to lose here, just keep grinding and just go, go, go," said Price. "Coach (Austin) Trott told me to wrestle seven minutes, just wrestle seven minutes."
In the third-place match, he had to take on University of Indianapolis' Gleason Mappes, who had previously topped him. In the final, Price was able to outlast his opponent, winning a 5-3 decision and punching his ticket to nationals.
"Honestly, this one might mean a little more to me than the last one," Price said. "It was a tougher season that I went through and had to overcome a lot of adversities along the way. I knew my offense was a lot better than his, and his defense was fairly tough, so I decided to go back to what I succeeded with early on this tournament. It feels amazing going back to nationals."
"Price has some specific moves he does really well, and he can score a lot of points with them," said Hutchens. "When he got to nationals last year, teams started scouting him a lot and realty shutting those moves down, so he's had some trouble scoring points."
"His confidence has to be high, because he was able to adapt in that match. You could see he kept hitting the same moves and they didn't work. Then, he went to a different move and it worked, and being able to do that in the match is the difference between getting on the podiuim and not," said Hutchens.
Weirich took the unlikely path to nationals, losing his opening match of the day by fall. He had to win four straight matches to advance to nationals.
"His first match, he got caught and pinned and that's just devastating. It's easy to throw in the towel then and just give up, but he came back and fought hard," said Hutchens.
Weirich bounced back quickly, winning his first match in the consolation draw by fall at 1:00. He didn't take much longer in his next round, winning by fall in 1:16. The consolation semi provided possibly the match of the day for Ashland, as Weirich bested Dylan Faulkenberg of UIndy. He pinned his opponent at 6:27 to win the match. Faulkenberg was the two-year reigning regional champ.
In the third-place match, Weirich beat Lake Erie's Evan Loughman, who he lost to in the opening round of the regional. Weirich won by a 7-2 decision.
"I knew he was gonna throw me because that's his move," said Weirich. "That's how I got pinned in the first one. I'm used to having to wrestle back, so I try to keep the same mindset the entire time."
"His second-to-last match was definitely the hardest, where you've got a guy from Indianapolis who is ranked third in the country and had already beaten you once and he's a senior and a regional champion two years in a row," said Hutchens. "That match was one of his top two matches of the year."
After securing a place in the national tournament, it's important for Weirich to keep his goals in line.
"I'm gonna be on the AU posters now, so I'm pretty jacked," he said.
The Eagles finished the regional placed fourth as a team.
Romanzak, Price, and Weirich will wrestle in Cleveland, Ohio, at the NCAA Division II national tournament, hosted by AU, starting on March 8.