Ashland University paid homage to the two seniors on the 2010-2011 wrestling team on Friday night (Feb. 4) prior to the start of the Mercyhurst-AU match at Kates Gymnasium. What a study in contrasts this was.
First there was North Carolina native Kyle Kanaga (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale), who's in his fifth year on campus. Some would call him a lifer.
Then there's Brandon Kelly (Fort Myers, Fla./Newberry), a native of Florida, who is in his first season at Ashland. In wrestling terms, he could be described as a "transient."
Two different roads for two seniors. Here's what's important now. They have helped put the Eagles, ranked 12th in the country, back on the road to respectability.
Friday night, Kanaga and Kelly both won by decision and the Eagles rapped Mercyhurst, 27-15. The Eagles are 11-2-1 and will wrestle Heidelberg on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 5, noon). The 'Hurst is 9-8.
"Senior Night is a fun night," exclaimed AU head coach Tim Dernlan. "I can't say enough good things about these two men. Kyle Kanaga has been here five years and Brandon has brought us a breath of fresh air. Both will leave a big hole in the program in more ways than just wrestling."
Kanaga, wrestling at 141 pounds, defeated Nick Hannan, 7-5. That's his 19th win of the year, which is a career, single-season high. Kanaga, who is 19-9, has won 63 matches in his Ashland career.
Kelly stopped Pat Leahy, 11-5 at 165 pounds. That put his record at 13-2. Kelley earned All-America laurels in 2008 while wrestling at Newberry and the way he's going right now, he has a chance to get another citation this season.
Around the two seniors, the Eagles did not have many down spots. AU did, however, surrender two pins. The first came at 133 where sophomore Ryan Marks (Broadview Heights, Ohio/Brecksville) battled throughout the match only to get pinned at 4:59. At 197, Michael Pollard pinned freshman Corby Running (Wilmington, Ohio/Clinton-Massie).
"We wrestled really well," said Dernlan. "We won seven matches and that's good. We needed to fight a little harder at 97."
In what's becoming a familiar and successful pattern, the Eagles were the aggressor for most of the evening and built an early lead. Junior Dan Mandara (Canadaigua, N.Y.) got the Eagles off on the right foot with a 9-4 triumph over Ryan Bohince at 133 and after the Marks setback at 133, the Eagles won the next five bouts, two by major decisions. Those four-point victories came from sophomore Dan Genetin (Navarre, Ohio/Massillon Perry) at 149 and junior Marc Hoff (Liberty Center, Ohio) at 157.
"Dan Mandara started us off well," noted Dernlan. "Scoring early, building your lead, winning the small matches within the bigger match."
In addition to Marks, Ashland also inserted freshman Caleb Marsh (Marysville, Ohio) into the lineup at 184. This was Marsh's first action of the year and he lost, 4-0 to Eric Fulmer.
At 285, junior Jacob Southwick (Bowling Green, Ohio/Otsego) recorded his 14th pin of the season. The school single-season record for pins is 17, accomplished twice by Josh Hendricks. Southwick pinned Fred Hale in 4:41.
"He's a big, athletic guy who beat Jacob last year," reminded Dernlan, when the subject turned to Hale and the matchup at 285.
Ashland 27, Mercyhurst 15
125 – Mandara (AU) dec. Bohince (MC), 9-4 3-0, AU
133 – Baxter (MC) pins Marks (AU), 4:59 6-3, MC
141 – Kanaga (AU) dec. Hannan (MC), 7-5 6-6,
149 – Genetin (AU) maj. dec. D'Urso (MC), 11-1 10-6, AU
157 – Hoff (AU) maj. dec. Foster (MC), 11-2 14-6, AU
165 – Kelly (AU) dec. Leahy (MC), 11-5 17-6, AU
174 – Thatcher (AU) maj. dec. Schaefer (MC), 14-3 21-6, AU
184 – Fulmer (MC) dec. Marsh (AU), 4-0 21-9, AU
197 – Pollard (MC) pins Running (AU), 4:19 21-15, AU
285 – Southwick (AU) pins Hale (MC), 4:41 27-15, AU
Mercyhurst is 9-8. Ashland is 11-2-1.