It took a heavyweight to bring down a heavyweight.
Friday night (Jan. 28) at Pitt-Johnstown, Ashland University's Jacob Southwick (Bowling Green, OH/Otsego) pinned Chris Dempsey in the final bout of the night, the matchup at 285 pounds, to send the Eagles past the Mountain Cats, 18-15 in a battle of nationally-ranked wrestling teams.
Entering the 285-pound match, the Eagles, ranked 17th nationally, trailed the 12th-ranked Mountain Cats, 15-12. Dempsey is a two-time national qualifier who placed eighth in the nation a year ago. But Southwick, who is sixth in the nation this season, has had a flair for the dramatic all season. He's made no secret of his quest to set the school single-season record for pins. Whether he reaches that goal or not, he'll remember this pin, his 13th of the year (the school record is 17) for a long time.
Southwick pinned Dempsey in 4:16 and that wrapped up the biggest win of third-year head coach Tim Dernlan's AU tenure. This came at UPJ, a place where the Eagles have experienced very little success. This was Ashland's first win ever at UPJ and it was the first home loss for the 'Cats since 2001. This win came against one of the class programs in the country, a program that is annually one of the best in NCAA Division II. Finally, this was Alumni Night at UPJ.
While Southwick's victory, which makes him 23-2, will dominate the headlines, this was really a gut-check from start to finish for the Eagles. Ashland fell behind, 6-0. One of those early losses, at 133 pounds, came when UPJ's Ryan Link, ranked third in the country, blanked junior Scott Meyer (Ravenna, Ohio), 5-0. AU got on the scoreboard at 141 pounds when senior Kyle Kanaga (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) picked up a 3-2 win over Jack Bachman. After a Nathan Link decision at 149 put UPJ up, 9-3, the Eagles got a pair of wins to tie the match, 9-9. Those victories, both via decision, came from junior Marc Hoff (Liberty Center, Ohio) at 157 and senior Brandon Kelly (Fort Myers, Fla./Newberry) at 165. Hoff is 12-5 and Kelly is 12-1.
The Eagles took the first lead of the evening, 12-9, when sophomore Ryan Thatcher (Loudonville, Ohio) earned a 2-1 decision over Steve Makin at 174. Thatcher is 19-8. The Mountain Cats won the next two weight classes to set the stage for Southwick's dramatic pin.
The Eagles did not make any major mistakes on this night. They did not give a pin or any bonus points. As Dernlan has pointed out in recent weeks, those statistics indicate how much this team has grown up this season.
The win gives the Eagles a 9-2-1 record. UPJ is 11-2.
The Eagles face another ranked foe Saturday night (Jan. 29) when they visit Findlay. UF is ranked 15th in Division II.
Ashland 18, Pitt-Johnstown 15
125 – Fogle (UPJ) dec. Mandara (AU), 9-2 3-0, UPJ
133 – R. Link (UPJ) dec. Meyer (AU), 5-0 6-0, UPJ
141 – Kanaga (AU) dec. Bachman (UPJ), 3-2 6-3, UPJ
149 – N. Link (UPJ) dec. Genetin (AU), 6-5 9-3, UPJ
157 – Hoff (AU) dec. Harper (UPJ), 5-2 9-6, UPJ
165 – Kelly (AU) dec. Lantz (UPJ), 10-5 9-9
174 – Thatcher (AU) dec. Makin (UPJ), 2-1 12-9, AU
184 – Brentzel (UPJ) dec. Beam, 5-1 12-12
197 – Moore (UPJ) dec. Running (AU), 6-2 15-12, UPJ
285 – Southwick (AU) pins Dempsey (UPJ), 4:16 18-15, AU