Ashland University wrestling coach Tim Dernlan is a small man who takes choppy steps.
For the past week, however, he's been insisting that his team had a golden opportunity to take some major strides.
Is this a case of the "Little Man's Syndrome?" Hardly. On Saturday night (Jan. 29) at Findlay, the Eagles defeated their second ranked foe in as many nights, knocking out the Roughnecks, 19-15.
All week, when asked about what was in store for the weekend, Dernlan talked about two wins. He frowned when asked about a split, or if he would be happy with the progress the Eagles had shown since October even with a winless Friday and Saturday. Dernlan, in his third year at AU, saw this weekend as an opportunity to make a statement and no excuses would be forthcoming.
AU, now 10-2-1, downed the 15th- ranked Roughnecks, 19-15. This comes 24 hours after the program's first-ever win at 12th ranked Pitt-Johnstown. The Eagles arrived back in Ashland at 2:30 Saturday morning and loaded up and trekked to Findlay at 3 p.m. Saturday. Seeing as how this is going, maybe they should see about scheduling top-ranked Nebraska-Omaha for Sunday.
Against Findlay, the Eagles lost at 125 and 133 pounds. That also happened at UPJ and a year ago, that might have guaranteed the Eagles lapsing into a tailspin. But this is a new year and an older, wiser AU lineup. Saturday's turnaround began at 141 where senior Kyle Kanaga (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) defeated Jan Ulinski, 6-3.
Sophomore Dan Genetin (Navarre, Ohio/Massillon Perry) followed Kanaga with a 10-2 major decision against Jeremy Espinoza at 149 and the Eagles were in front of Findlay, 7-6. At 157, junior Marc Hoff (Liberty Center, Ohio) continued his silent but solid campaign with a 7-4 conquest of Adam Walter. Hoff is 13-5 and his victory gave the Eagles a 10-6 advantage.
The next two bouts featured some interesting subplots. At 165, Findlay's Michael Lybarger, ranked third in the nation, handed senior Brandon Kelly (Fort Myers, Fla./Newberry) his second loss of the season. Kelly is 12-2. At 174, AU sophomore Ryan Thatcher (Loudonville, Ohio) was a 6-1 winner over Mason True. Thatcher began his college career at Findlay.
Thatcher's win gave the Eagles a 13-9 lead. UF rallied to win the next two weight classes by decision. The second win in that stretch was a 5-2 triumph by UF's Dan Stevenson over AU freshman Corby Running (Wilmington, Ohio/Clinton Massie) at 197. Stevenson is ranked seventh in NCAA Division II.
Stevenson's win put Findlay in front, 15-13 entering the evening's final bout, the battle at 285. That featured Ashland's Jacob Southwick (Bowling Green, Ohio/Otsego), ranked sixth in the nation and UF's Matt Clum, who is ranked seventh.
At UPJ, the Eagles won the match when Southwick won by pin. It's gotten to the point that fans hang around until the end of each match to see what Southwick does. Earlier this season against Purdue, the Eagles had no chance for a team victory, yet a healthy contingent at Kates Gymnasium roared when Southwick pinned his opponent.
Southwick got another win at Findlay, defeating Clum by medical defeat. The Ashland junior is 24-2.
The victory has the Eagles off and running like Edwin Moses in his prime. Hurdles? The Eagles take them in stride. Consider that a year ago, the Eagles fell to Findlay by a 34-3 margin. Now, AU is 3-0-1 (the tie came against 14th ranked Gannon) since losing to Purdue at the Wendy's Big Classic Duals on Jan. 15.
AU will put that streak on the line this coming Friday (Feb. 4) when it hosts Mercyhurst. That will be Senior Night at Kates Gymnasium.
Ashland 19, Findlay 15
125 – Sargent (UF) dec. Mandara (AU), 5-2 3-0, UF
133 – Wiesjahn (UF) dec. Meyer (AU), 5-3 6-0, UF
141 – Kanaga (AU) dec. Ulinski (UF), 6-3 6-3, UF
149 – Genetin (AU) maj. dec. Espinoza (UF), 10-2 7-6, AU
157 – Hoff (AU) dec. Walter (UF), 7-4 10-6, AU
165 – Lybarger (UF) dec. Kelly (AU), 5-4 10-9, AU
174 – Thatcher (AU) dec. True (UF), 6-1 13-9, AU
184 – Brown (UF) dec. Beam (AU), 4-3 13-12, AU
197 – Stevenson (UF) dec. Running (AU), 5-2 15-13, UF
285 – Southwick (AU) win med. Forfeit Clum 19-15, AU