Tuesday night (Feb. 15) at West Liberty, the Ashland University wrestling team ended the regular season.
The good news is that this could be just the start of something big.
The Eagles stopped the Hilltoppers, 22-15. AU's record is 15-2-1. That winning percentage of .861 is AU's best since the program became a Division II institution in 1984. The win total ties the 1999-2000 team for the most wins since joining the Division II ranks. In 1999-2000, AU went 15-5.
Here's what's even more amazing about this 2010-2011 record? Very few outside of the AU wrestling room anticipated it. A year ago, the Eagles were 4-12.
Now, as head coach Tim Dernlan has pointed out, the second season begins and that's the next step for this group. What can it do at the regional tournament on Feb. 26 at Findlay? How many wrestlers can advance to the national championships, Mar. 11-12 at Nebraska-Kearney?
Those tournaments are down the line a bit, however. This team deserves the chance to celebrate and regroup. Against West Liberty, the 12th-ranked Eagles won the first four bouts of the night to take a commanding lead. While WL rallied to get within shouting distance, the Eagles didn't fall apart on the road against a strong foe. AU had a four-point lead entering the bout at 285. At that point, the Eagles needed to avoid a pin or a major decision. Junior Jacob Southwick (Bowling Green, Ohio/Otsego) did better than that, winning a 2-1 decision over J.D. Ramsey.
The night began with junior Dan Mandara (Canandaigua, N.Y.) defeating Preston Foster, 6-2 at 125 pounds. At 133, junior Scott Meyer (Ravenna, Ohio) raised his record to 20-11 with a 13-1 major decision over Pete McAtee. That was Meyer's fourth major decision of the season.
At 141, senior Kyle Kanaga (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) got his third pin of the season, stopping Aaron Majetich in 2:13. AU's fourth consecutive win came at 149 where sophomore Dan Genetin (Navarre, Ohio/Massillon Perry) won by decision, 11-7 over Brian Leggett. Genetin is 21-10.
WL's first victory came at 157 where Seth Phalen, ranked fourth in the country, pinned Marc Hoff (Liberty Center, Ohio) in 2:52.
AU has five wrestlers with 20 or more wins – Meyer (20), Genetin (21), Kanaga (22), sophomore Ryan Thatcher (23) and Southwick (29). Thatcher won by decision on Tuesday.
Ashland 22, West Liberty 15
125 – Mandara (AU) dec. Foster (WL), 6-2 3-0, AU
133 – Meyer (AU) maj. dec. McAtee (WL), 13-1 7-0, AU
141 – Kanaga (AU) pins Majetich (WL), 2:13 13-0, AU
149 – Genetin (AU) dec. Leggett (WL), 11-7 16-0, AU
157 – Phalen (WL) pins Hoff (AU), 2:52 16-6, AU
165 – Shaw (WL) dec. Kelly (AU), 9-5 16-9, AU
174 – Thatcher (AU) dec. Littleton (WL), 3-1 19-9, AU
184 – Williams (WL) dec. Marsh (AU), 7-5 19-12, AU
197 – Knapp (WL) dec. Running (AU), 7-3 19-15, AU
285 – Southwick (AU) dec. Ramsey (WL), 2-1 22-15, AU