Preview: Eagles wrestling set to sore

Erich Metze

The Ashland University wrestling team has big plans for the 2016-17 season as Head Coach Josh Hutchins brings back a squad that experienced a large amount of success on the national level one year ago. Coach Hutchins has his sights set on returning to the program back its days of glory.

In his fourth season leading the AU wrestling squad, coach Hutchins has high expectations for his Eagles, squad who finished last year ranked 14th overall in Division II and enters the 2016-17 season ranked 11th overall in the Division II preseason rankings.  Hutchins strongly believes that this current Eagles team can be one of the best in the nation.

“We have a lot of those (national qualifiers) back so those expectations are high.  We really feel as a team that we should be in the top 10, but we know it’s easier said than done,” Hutchins said.

The return of national qualifiers redshirt seniors Michael Labry and Brent Fickle along with sophomore Chandler Minnard, gives coach Hutchins a trio of grapplers who are attracting national attention. 

Three-time All American Michael Labry comes into the season ranked second in the nation at the 133 pound division and the three-time national qualifier looks to make a strong charge to the top of the podium by the end of the season.  

The senior from Twinsburg, Ohio looks to become the fourth Eagle wrestler to become a four-time All American joining last year’s 197 pound third place finisher Joe Brandt for the distinguished honor.

“It would be pretty impressive to have two guys back to back years being four time All-Americans,” Hutchins said. “We had two in the history of the program before that, and that would be doubling that in two years, so that would be impressive.” 

Labry is joined by three-time national qualifier Brent Fickle who is ranked fourth in the nation at 149 pounds as the redshirt senior out of Strongsville, Ohio is looking for his second All American honor as an Eagle.

Sophomore Chandler Minnard comes into the 2016-17 season ranked ninth in the nation at 141 pounds after having a successful freshman season in which he also qualified for nationals.

Other national qualifiers returning from last year that look to challenge for spots on top of the podium are junior Luke Cramer at 197-pounds and senior Jordan Murphy at 184-pounds.  

According to coach Hutchins, if it were not for unfortunate calls and circumstances in last year’s nationals, Cramer and Murphy would have also placed nationally in their respective weight divisions, and this year they have their sights set on a run at national titles.

Sophomore Christian Price returns from a freshman season in which he was one match shy of qualifying for nationals and is poised to make a run towards the top of the 174 pound weight class.  

Upcoming wrestlers that are expected to make an impact this season are redshirt freshman Bret Romanzak at 165 pounds, redshirt junior J.J. Diven at 157 pounds, and redshirt sophomore Sebastian Vidika at 125 pounds.

The Eagles wrestling team will start off their season when they travel to Eastern Michigan Open on Nov. 5.  

The Eagles will also host several home duels starting after the New Year when they host Notre Dame College Jan. 13, Lourdes University Jan. 18, and Davenport University Jan. 20 to start off their season.