So, you think the real estate market is tough these days? Don't go looking to Bill Goldring and Tim Dernlan for sympathy.
Goldring is Ashland University's director of athletics and Dernlan is AU's fourth-year head wrestling coach. Up until this season, the AU wrestling program was searching for a home. While the rest of AU's 19 varsity sports programs were housed in the GLIAC, wrestling had to compete as an independent. The GLIAC didn't sponsor a championship on the mat and the Eagles, as much as they looked through what passes for the college athletics classifieds, couldn't find another place to go.
That changes this Sunday (Feb. 5, 10 a.m.), when Ashland University hosts the first-ever GLIAC wrestling championships. AU, Findlay, Lake Erie and Tiffin make up the field in this initial league tournament. A year from now, Notre Dame will join the fray as an associate GLIAC member.
"There has been interest for a few years now so the conference membership decided to step up and do it," said GLIAC commissioner Dell Robinson, who will be in Ashland for the championships. "The sport is strong at the high school level in Ohio as well as Michigan, so we have a great feeder."
"I've always been very supportive of wrestling at the intercollegiate level," said Goldring. "It's very important to our institution and to our alums. I've always advocated that if there was an opportunity to have a conference tournament it would be a great showcase for the sport and Ashland University. I'm extremely pleased with the addition of the new conference members and that we can do this under the umbrella of the GLIAC."
Sunday's schedule appears below. At the end of the day, a league champion will be crowned and the GLIAC first and second teams will be announced. The conference will also present an award for the outstanding wrestler of the tournament.
10 a.m. Ashland vs. Tiffin Lake Erie vs. Findlay
12 p.m. Ashland vs. Lake Erie Tiffin vs. Findlay
2 p.m. Ashland vs. Findlay Lake Erie vs. Tiffin
Ashland is the tournament's top seed and is ranked 12th in the nation. Findlay is the second seed and ranked 19th in the country. Lake Erie is the third seed and Tiffin is seeded fourth. AU, which is 8-1 in dual meet action, has a major test before Sunday. On Friday (Feb. 3) the Eagles wrestle at 10th-ranked Mercyhurst.
"Right now we're focusing on Mercyhurst," said Dernlan. "I know as a coaching staff we're excited about the conference tournament. It's a big deal, having a chance to win the GLIAC title. We've set ourselves up well, we're seeded first. Now we have to go out and wrestle to that seed."
Recent expansion in the GLIAC helped make this wrestling tournament a reality. The addition of Lake Erie and Tiffin gave the conference four institutions with wrestling.
"The interest had been there and we did not have enough schools," explained Robinson. "With the additions of Lake Erie and Notre Dame it gives the sport a solid foundation. Notre Dame is a program that is rich in tradition and has been extremely successful as an NAIA member."
This tournament will benefit the Eagles in several ways. It gives the Eagles a high-quality event approximately three weeks out from the regional tournament. This will provide the coaching staff with another look at its team in a championship environment.
"The schools that offer wrestling were very supportive," replied Goldring when asked about how difficult it was to pull everything together and put a tournament in place. "The rest of the GLIAC understood why it was important to the schools in wrestling. The GLIAC is very supportive of adding championships for its member institutions."
The last time the Eagles went to the mat (Jan. 27), they defeated eighth-ranked Pitt-Johnstown at Kates Gymnasium, 29-6. That match was staged at Kates Gymnasium in front of close to 500 fans, which is one of the biggest crowds the Eagles have had at home in years. Sunday's showdown with Findlay could attract a similar amount of interest. Although the Roughnecks and Eagles have competed at several tournaments this year, this is the only time this year they will square off against each other.
"We want to make sure that we meet each other in a dual," said Dernlan. "We want to make sure we meet them every year. There's this great history and rivalry. The fans want to see it, the wrestlers want to compete in it. They have a really strong team, they were third at the Midwest Classic and we were 13th. I hope we're better now."
UF's Michael Lybarger is ranked second in the country at 174 pounds. At 184 pounds, Adam Walters is sixth in the country. Ben Sergent is ranked eighth in the nation at 125 pounds. The GLIAC Tournament will be Findlay's first competition since an 18-16 victory over 14th-ranked West Liberty on Jan. 27.
Sunday will also be the only time this season the Eagles will engage Lake Erie in a dual. The Eagles have watched the Storm several times this season and have been impressed with the way LEC wrestlers have gone about their business.
"They built that program in two years to the point that they're in the hunt to win the GLIAC," Dernlan said. "They should expect to win. They've beaten a couple of our guys throughout the year."
LEC's top wrestler is Matt Vandermeer, who's ranked seventh in the country at 165 pounds. He's 23-8. The architect of this LEC program is head coach Kevin Hoogenboom. The 2010-11 season was the first year Lake Erie offered wrestling. LEC is 6-7 in dual meet action and will compete at the Baldwin-Wallace Suma Invitational on Saturday (Feb. 4) before coming to AU.
Like Lake Erie, Tiffin has a young program. Sunday marks the only time this season the Eagles and Dragons will oppose each other on the mat.
Ashland has two wrestlers who are in the national rankings. Senior Jacob Southwick (Bowling Green, Ohio/Otsego) is third at 285 pounds and senior Marc Hoff (Liberty Center, Ohio) is seventh at 149 pounds. Southwick is 17-2 and Hoff is 10-2. AU has two wrestlers who have reached the 20-win plateau. Senior Brandon Davis (Greensboro, N.C./Page) is 20-7 at 125 pounds and freshman Bryson Hall (Doylestown, Ohio/Chippewa) is 20-6 at 174 pounds.