Ashland University singlets are purple and gold. West Liberty is clad in black and gold. East Stroudsburg goes with red and black.
By the end of Sunday afternoon, the wrestling teams from those three schools, plus teams from five other schools, could all be black and blue. That's the kind of tournament it's expected to be this Sunday (Jan. 15, 10 a.m.) when the Ashland University Eagles host the Second Annual Wendy's Mid-Atlantic Duals. This is an eight-team event that includes three teams that are ranked in the nation's Top 20. Two other teams in this Sunday's field are listed among, "Others Receiving Votes," this week.
In addition to Ashland, this year's lineup includes Belmont Abbey, East Stroudsburg, Gannon, Indianapolis, King, Seton Hill and West Liberty. The day begins at 10 a .m., with Ashland facing Belmont Abbey, West Liberty opposing East Stroudsburg, Indianapolis wrestling against Gannon and Seton Hill matched up against King. Matches are also scheduled for noon and 2 p.m.
"I think this is a strong field," noted AU head coach Tim Dernlan. "It will be nice to have King up here this year because they're in the region. The idea when we put this together was to get the best Division II teams in the region together. We wanted to get the best teams in the area who were within a one-day drive. The premise was to get the best teams we could who are not going to the National Duals."
A year ago, the Eagles went 3-0 at the Mid-Atlantic Duals and won the championship with a 24-16 verdict over Adams State. That was just about the time the Eagles went on a run that carried them through the end of the season and resulted in a 15-2-1 record. That gave AU the distinction of being one of the most improved teams in the country.
The Eagles enter this Sunday's Duals ranked 18th in the nation. That's a drop from two weeks ago when Ashland was ranked 10th. The Eagles are still trying to construct their lineup. Last Friday (Jan. 6) at Kates Gymnasium the Eagles lost to Gannon, 22-18.
Here's a quick look at the teams at the Duals.
Ashland – The Eagles are 1-1 in dual meet action. This is the start of a busy and challenging stretch of the schedule. Next week, AU competes at the Wisconsin-Parkside Duals. W-P is ranked ninth in the nation. That's followed on Jan. 27 with a home match with 13th-ranked Pitt-Johnstown. After the Simonson Invitational on Jan. 28, AU travels to eighth-ranked Mercyhurst on Feb. 3. Then comes the first-ever GLIAC Championships, which will be staged at Kates Gymnasium on Feb. 5.
"We set it up that way," emphasized Dernlan. "I want our guys to have seen the best guys in the country by the time the regional tournament comes around."
Senior Jacob Southwick (Bowling Green, Ohio/Otsego) is ranked third in the country at 285 pounds. Senior Brandon Davis (Greensboro, N.C./Page) is fourth at 125 pounds and senior Marc Hoff (Libery Center, Ohio) is seventh at 149. Davis is 14-7. He leads the Eagles in victories. Dernlan also had words of praise for senior Tommie Graszl (Mansfield, Ohio/Madison), wrestling at 165 pounds and true freshman Bryson Hall (Doylestown, Ohio/Chippewa) wrestling at 174 pounds. Graszl is 9-7 and Hall is 13-5. Hall is one of four true freshmen who will be in the lineup on Sunday.
"The season gets long and every match is tough," reminded Dernlan. "You never know with freshmen. Sometimes they do great. Remember, Corey Kline won a national championship as a freshman. Sometimes, they take time to develop."
Upperclassmen or underclassmen, Dernlan has the same game plan come Sunday.
"I just want to see us wrestle for all seven minutes as hard as we can and the results will take care of themselves," Dernlan said. "I'm comfortable with this team's ability if it will permit itself to wrestle."
Belmont Abbey – The Crusaders competed at last year's Mid-Atlantic Duals. This year's team is 3-6 and has won its last two duals. Senior Shane Summerlin, wrestling at 125 pounds, was ranked eighth in the country in the preseason. A year ago, Belmont Abbey had three national qualifiers. Head coach Kenn Caudell started the Belmont Abbey program in 2005. He was an assistant coach at Mount Union and wrestled at Slippery Rock. Belmont Abbey meets Ashland in the first round of the Duals. A year ago, the Eagles defeated Belmont Abbey, 35-8.
East Stroudsburg – The Warriors can be found among, "Others Receiving Votes," in this week's national poll. They are 3-4 and host Navy on Friday night. Redshirt senior Ed Ebewo is 9-3 at 197 pounds. He's 4-0 against Division II competition. Ebewo was a national qualifier last year and is ranked seventh in the country. Redshirt senior Thad Frick can be a handful at 165 pounds. He's 16-4 (5-1 against Division II wrestlers) and ranked fifth in the East Region. A year ago, Frick was the lone Division II wrestler to reach the Pennsylvania Conference finals. At last year's Duals, the Warriors placed eighth.
Gannon – No need for introductions here, the Golden Knights were in Ashland last Friday night and came away with a win. That was the 150th victory of head coach Don Henry's career. Ethan Swope, wrestling at 149 pounds, is ranked fifth in the nation. He's ranked first in the East Region. He was 26-13 last season and was fifth at nationals. Chaz Lear is this week's Pennsylvania Conference wrestler of the week. Last Friday night, he earned a 4-3 decision over AU's Southwick to wrap up a 22-18 win. Gannon can be found among, "Others Receiving Votes in this week's national poll.
Indianapolis – The Greyhounds have not wrestled since finishing 16th at the Midwest Classic on Dec. 18-19. The Eagles will see Indy again next week at Wisconsin-Parkside. Josh Kieffer finished third at 125 pounds at the Midwest Classic. The Greyhounds were fifth at last year's Duals.
King – The Tornado, which is tied for 11th in this week's national poll, is led by 197-pound Frank Morgan. He's ranked fifth in the nation and his only loss this year is to top-ranked Dan Scanlan of Limestone. Dernlan likens him to former AU All-American Josh Ohl. Tywan Claxton, wrestling at 141 pounds, is seventh in the nation. Two years ago King was an NAIA institution. This is the program's first trip into the NCAA Top 20. King is located in Bristol, Tenn.
Seton Hill – The Pennsylvania school was 6-4 entering Thursday night's match with Shippensburg. The anchor of this lineup is senior Kenny Trumbetta, who wrestles at 125 pounds. Seton Hill was seventh at last year's Duals.
West Liberty – This is the first of two trips to Ashland for the Hilltoppers, who are ranked 14th in the nation. They will return to town on Feb. 14 when it is Senior Night at Kates Gymnasium. West Liberty is 6-1 and fresh off a 32-15 win over Ohio Valley on Tuesday. The Hilltoppers were fourth at the Midwest Classic. J.D. Ramsey, West Liberty's 285-pounder, was a national qualifier last year and is ranked sixth in the country. Nick Wykoff is off to a strong start, he's ranked third in the nation at 141 pounds. Jarrod Shaw, who wrestles at 157 pounds, was a national qualifier last year. West Liberty placed fourth at last year's Duals and lost to the Eagles, 26-10 during the event. Later in the season, Ashland stopped West Liberty, 22-15.