Eagles Look To Quench Competitive Appetite at Harris Open

A week from today, much of the nation will stuff themselves with turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

This Saturday, much of the wrestling nation in these parts will stuff themselves with the opening of the college mat season at AU's Conard Fieldhouse.

Saturday (Nov. 20), Ashland will host the 16th annual Harris Open.  This year's field is expected to be filled with approximately 210 wrestlers. AU head coach Tim Dernlan is starting his third season at the helm and he's taking a little different approach to this year's Open.

"I want to see which of our guys are willing to go all out for seven minutes," said Dernlan.  "We've been training to do well at the end of the year.  In years past, sometimes we trained through it (Open).  This year, we're tapering for it. Our guys are getting antsy."

The Eagles will go into the Harris Open with 36 wrestlers.  Nine grapplers have have been ruled out for Saturday, meaning that Dernlan will be attempting to get mat time for 27 wrestlers.

"This will really help to define our lineup," promised Dernlan.  "We didn't have a true wrestle-off.  Guys are excited about earning spots.  Between this and the Ohio Northern Invitational (Dec. 4), it will determine our lineup for the Newberry Duals."

This AU team is dominated by underclassmen. The good news is that Ashland's last two recruiting classes have been ranked first and fifth in the country on the Division II level.  The concern with that is that youngsters have to learn their way around college wrestling. The Harris Open is a great help in that regard.  This isn't a dual meet, everyone on the roster gets a chance to compete in live wrestling.

"I can't imagine having the number of guys we have and not having two open tournaments," said Dernlan.  "The good thing is that great wrestling comes to us.  We don't have to go anywhere."

In addition to hosting the Harris Open, the Eagles will stage the 12th Annual Simonson Open on Jan. 22.

Saturday's Harris Open will start at 9 a.m.