Grapplers grab gold


By Dan Shade

If you just walked into the Wendy’s Mid-Atlantic Duals at Kates Gymnasium Sunday, it would have seemed as if Ashland’s wrestling team was the clear-cut favorite. Wrestling at home in a dual meet that featured seven teams from around the region, the Eagles recorded a match record of 34-4 on the way to the title.

Someone must have forgot to tell the Eagles that they were, in fact, not the favorites coming into the day. Ashland came into the meet ranked no. 18 in the country, four spots behind West Liberty and seven spots behind 11th ranked King. The Eagles defeated both of those teams Sunday.

“We’ve been kind of up and down,” Ashland head coach Tim Dernlan said. “We’re starting to solidify our lineup, and I think it’s giving the whole team more confidence knowing that it’s second semester and knowing that we’re building toward the Regional championship now and NCAAs.”

The Duals win came on the heels of a 22-18 loss to Gannon Jan. 6, a loss that dropped the Eagles eight spots in the rankings and became a source of motivation. The improvement was such that Dernlan had a hard time choosing who stood out Sunday.

“It’s hard to pick,” he said. “Everybody looked great. The biggest change was probably Jake Southwick. He wrestled a lot more confident. He wasn’t worried about his knee or his conditioning, and to get two pins and beat a guy ranked sixth in the nation by a wide margin was a nice improvement.”

Southwick, a returning All-American, is currently ranked third in Division II at 285 pounds and is finally returning to his potential after suffering a knee injury at the start of the season. After losing a match at Gannon, he focused this past week on getting back into shape.

“This entire week I’ve been getting in an extra two hours every single day, pushing my lungs past the point where they’re supposed to go, and it really helped me out in the long run today,” Southwick said.

Ashland’s day started off with a 49 to negative one thumping of Belmont Abbey. The Eagles won every single match without giving up a point to Belmont Abbey, which got a point deducted for unsportsmanlike conduct.

From there, AU defeated King 35-4, winning its first eight matches and losing just one in an impressive performance against the top-ranked team at the meet. Highlighting the match was a pin by Southwick just 1:15 into his match against King’s heavyweight.

In the finals, the Eagles raced past West Liberty, winning 34-7 to claim the tournament crown. At 133 pounds, Adli Edwards pinned his opponent in just 34 seconds and Bryson Hall got a last-second pin at 174 pounds to seal the victory. Southwick finished things off with a 7-0 decision against J.D. Ramsey, who is ranked sixth in the nation.

“The biggest key for us was going out and attacking right off the whistle,” Southwick said. “The way we wrestled today was the way that we should have wrestled last week and every single match. We went out there and attacked and wrestled the way that we wanted to wrestle.”

The win was big for Ashland’s confidence, but the season is far from over and the Eagles are far from satisfied.

“Right now what matters is getting ourselves ready, getting our conditioning up and getting ourselves to the point of taking ten guys to nationals and winning a National Championship,” Southwick said.

Ashland travels to the Wisconsin-Parkside Duals Saturday (Wisconsin-Parkside is currently ranked ninth nationally) before returning home to take on Pitt-Johnstown Jan. 27 and hosting the 12th Annual Simonson Open Jan. 28.