Ushering in the spring semester, Ashland’s wrestling team participated in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference and brought home the GMAC title after ten months since their last competition because of the pandemic.
Ashland athletics as a whole will be joining the GMAC conference formally this upcoming year. The conference consists of 13 schools with six of them fielding wrestling teams. The wrestling team is also the first AU athletic team to compete in a GMAC championship and take first place.
“I think winning the GMAC title set the tone for the rest of the season for the team,” head wrestling coach Colton Sponseller said.
“It showed that we are a talented team that can compete with some of the better teams in the country. It has also helped reinforce the confidence that we are training hard and making gains in the right direction. I am super proud of the way the men competed and represented Ashland University.”
Sponseller became head coach only two months ago.
Because of Coronavirus concerns, the wrestling season was pushed back from Nov. 1 to Jan. 1, so essentially their season dropped from being four months to two months, which dimmed the teams’ spirit for this season.
“The season so far has been unlike any other I think I’ve ever had for a sport,” Junior Daniel Beemer said. “Combating Covid and following guidelines while competing at a high level can be extremely challenging and stressful for any athlete. Even with these conditions Coach Sponseller and the rest of our staff have done a great job in getting our team ready to compete this year and help address any concerns or problems we had throughout the year.”
When adding in COVID-19’s regulations, the team is now limited to competing in duals, preparing for meets in different ways, and getting tested weekly. Wearing masks during training for a sport like wrestling has made some of the practices and lifts difficult, but the team has done a great job in adapting to the situation they are in according to Beemer.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s not the worst thing that could result from everything.,” graduate assistant coach Brett Romanzak said. “We’re happy to be able to be in the room each day no matter how we have to do it. Masks are worn by the team any time they are not on the mat getting ready for practice. Luckily, our wrestling room is very large, so that makes it easy to keep guys spread out and try to distance ourselves the best we can.”
Despite the pandemic, the GMAC title sets an early example of their expectations for the team this year and how the rest of Ashland University sports will compete in the new conference. Setting the tone right away for their team and university in the new conference is something that the team takes pride in this season and future seasons to come.