Ashland University's wrestling team began its NCAA Division II nationals action on Friday (March 8) in Cleveland, Ohio.
Redshirt sophomore Tristen Weirich was the star of the day, clinching All-American status and advancing to Day 2 of competition.
"That's great obviously. It was a really disappointing loss on the hands to the face penalty that put him into overtime in the quarterfinal loss," said Ashland head wrestling coach Josh Hutchens. "It's hard to come back from that because you're thinking, I should be in the semifinals, I should already be an All-American and you've got to come back and wrestle a match."
Weirich won his opening match of the day at 285 pounds. He topped Simon Fraser's Ciaran Ball by 5-2 decision. Weirich lost in overtime in the quarterfinal match against Jarrod Hinrichs of Nebraska-Kearney. He took a two-point deficit early but was able to fight back. The match was tied at 3 after a hands to the face call on Weirich, when Hinrichs won by sudden victory over Weirich just seconds into the overtime period.
"Sometimes you go out there and there are a lot of nerves, and you're against a really tough opponent and he's strong and shutting you down," said Hutchens. "You just don't want to risk anything, and you tend to get hesitant and let that fear hold you back a bit."
In the blood round, Weirich came out aggressive and pinned Shippensburg's Derek Berberick in 1:35 to clinch his All-American status.
"To come back and come back the way he did, just like regionals, to come back with your back against the wall and go out there and just pin the guy, just shows Weirich what he's capable of," said Hutchens. "It's a great sign for him, but also a great experience for him in his sophomore year being able to say you're on the podium, now I can just go out and let it fly the rest of the tournament. When he's angry, he's pretty tough."
On Saturday (March 9), Weirich will have an opportunity to fight for a third-place finish in the national tournament.
"He's gotta wrestle angry," said Hutchens. "He has to wrestle without fear, and he has to understand that he is better than everybody and just go with it."
Redshirt junior and defending national champion at 165 pounds, Bret Romanzak, lost his opening match 5-2 to Pitt-Johnstown's Devin Austin. Romanzak suffered an injury late in the match and retired for the remainder of the tournament.
Redshirt junior Christian Price lost both of his matches at 174 pounds. He dropped the first match against East Stroudsburg's Michael Raccioppi by tech fall, and the second against Matt Pratt of Maryville, a 1-0 decision.
Day 2 of competition at the NCAA Division II nationals, hosted by AU, will begin at 10 a.m.