The Ashland University wrestling team got off to a good start on Friday (Feb. 28) at the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Tournament in Tiffin.
Five AU wrestlers - Michael Labry at 133 pounds, Brent Fickel at 149 pounds, Bryson Hall at 184 pounds, Joe Brandt at 197 pounds and Tyler Houska at 285 pounds went 2-0 on Friday and advanced into the tournament semifinals.
The final day of action at the regional will take place on Saturday (Mar. 1). The top five finishers in each weight class move on to the national meet, which will be held in Cleveland, Mar. 14-15. AU and the Cleveland Sports Commission will host that event.
In the team standings, the Eagles are fifth with 54.5 points. The top five teams in the region were closely bunched after the first two rounds. Newberry led the field with 62.5 points. Indianapolis (58) was second, McKendree (57) was third and Maryville (54.5) was fourth. Seventeen teams are competing in the regional.
Brandt barely worked up a sweat in his first match of the day, pinning Nick Nester of Alderson-Broaddus in 23 seconds. He followed that up with a 7-0 triumph over Justin Tribble of Limestone. Brandt is a two-time All-American and is 24-3.
Labry is a sophomore looking for a second consecutive trip to nationals. He got his day started withh a pin of Tiffin's Adam Green. He recorded the fall in 3:50. In his second match, he was a 6-1 winner over Lake Erie's Austin Gillihan. Labry was the regional runner-up last season and went on to claim All-America honors in Birmingham, Ala.
Labry is 31-4. His next foe is McKendree's Bendan Murphy, who is 39-8.
Fickel's day started with a major decision, 8-0 over Findlay's Dalton Nicely. His next match resulted in a 3-1 win over Limestone's Mel Levergne. Fickel is 29-5 and will oppose Kyle Williams of McKendree in the semifinals. Williams is 34-9.
Hall is ranked first in the country and is 22-1. In his first match he pinned Anderson's Taylor Dorsett in 4:50. He was also an 8-2 winner over George Lopez of Indianapolis. Up next for Hall is Jon Vogt of McKendree. He's 28-12.
Houska pinned Glenn Cothren of Belmont Abbey in 2:05. In his next match, he stopped Matt Wade of Newberry, 2-1. Houska is 28-8 and has a date with Chris Giddens of North Carolina-Pembroke in the semifinals. Giddens is 25-5.
AU also has one wrestler alive in the consolation bracket. At 141 pounds, Bobby Mason lost his first match and regrouped to win his next two.