Three of Ashland University's five wrestlers at the NCAA Division II National Championships won enough matches on Friday (March 9) to advance to Day 2 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Redshirt sophomore Bret Romanzak, ranked No. 1 at 165 pounds, won 5-1 and 6-1. In the second match, he beat No. 7 senior Blake Perryman of Northern State. In Romanzak's first career national semifinal appearance, he's set to face Ouchita Baptist's No. 3 junior Tyler Mann at 10 a.m. on Saturday (March 10).
As a redshirt freshman, Romanzak lost both of the two matches he competed in at nationals.
"It's definitely a testament to how hard I've worked," Romanzak said. "I hated the way last year went. It was just a feeling I didn't want to feel again, so I took it upon myself through the spring and summer to put work the work in."
No. 2 redshirt senior Luke Cramer is on to the national semifinals for the second year in a row. Returning from a third-place All-American finish in 2017, the 197-pound Cramer won his matches, 3-1 and 5-0. His second win came against No. 9 sophomore Nick Baulmer from host-school Upper Iowa. He'll take on No. 4 redshirt sophomore Konnor Schmidt of Western State in the semifinals.
Jordan Murphy, a redshirt senior ranked second at 184 pounds, won his first match, 20-3, by technical fall in 6:59. He then lost to Cal Baptist's No. 3 redshirt junior Nick Fiegner in a 7-5 decision. Not long after, Murphy pinned Lake Erie's No. 11 senior Tyler Hughes in 2:48, solidifying a spot for himself on the podium for the second year in a row. He earned sixth last year.
"We're a team. We're all brothers," Romanzak said. "We share the thrill of victory and the heartbreak of defeat. It's a blast warming up with them, getting prepared with them and getting off the mat to immediately watch them go."
Last season, 2017 senior Michael Labry became the first Eagle to win a national title in 21 years. AU wrestling has never had two national champions in one season. Romanzak and Cramer can change that. On top of that, Romanzak would be the first underclassman to win a title since Corey Kline won as a freshman in 1996.