The Ashland University wrestling team has been focused on building momentum throughout the 2015-16 season, and is trying to peak going into the NCAA Division II Super Regional tournament.
The Eagles plan appears to be on the right track, as the Josh Hutchens-led squad took down the 15th-ranked Tiffin Dragons on Senior Night.
The Eagles head to the regional tournament on Friday (Feb. 26) and Saturday (Feb. 27) in Indianapolis, Ind., hosted at the University of Indianapolis.
Ashland has nine regionally-ranked wrestlers going into the weekend.
"We go through the whole season, we put them in tough situations and get them out there and battle, not just against tough competition," said Hutchens. "We train through their competitions."
At 125 pounds, No.2-regionally ranked redshirt freshman Sebastian Vidika goes to the mat battle-tested this season. Vidika, a first-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection, has an 11-7 overall record but is 9-3 in his last 12 decisions.
Freshman Chandler Minnard is ranked fourth at 133 in Super Region II. He and fellow freshman Jerry Fenner III have battled all season at 133. Minnard has a record of 12-7 and Fenner 11-6. Fenner was named the GLIAC Freshman of the Year on Wednesday (Feb. 24).
At 197, Joe Brandt returns for his final postseason appearance. Brandt, the No. 3-ranked wrestler in the country at his weight class, looks to be the top seed in the region.
"Joe Brandt should be the No. 1 seed. I don't think there is any way he won't be the No. 1 seed in the tournament," said Hutchens. "He's undefeated in Division II and 9-0 in regional competition."
Brandt, a three-time All-American, has advanced through the regional tournament each of his three years of competition. In his freshman and sophomore years, Brandt finished seventh at the national tournament, and his junior year, he placed fifth. Brandt has a current record of 20-2.
Fickel, a returning All-American, placed eighth at nationals a year ago and has made it in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Fickel goes into the Super Region ranked third in his weight class this season.
Beam finished second at the regional tournament last year, and is ranked fourth at 157 and has a record of 12-10.
The Eagles also have experience at this regional site. Earlier this season, AU competed in the Midwest Classic at UIndy and placed eighth out of the 31-team field.
"I think that bodes well for us," said Hutchens. "We're at the same gym, we're staying at the same hotel, keeping everything the same as we did for the Midwest Classic."
The top four wrestlers at each weight class will advance to the NCAA Division II National Championships in Sioux Falls, S.D., on March 11-12.
The Super Region tournament begins Friday (Feb. 26) at 10 a.m.