Grappler looks to make their mark in postseason

Samantha Didion

The Ashland University wrestling team is winding down their season and have their sights set on the bigger meets to make the most of their 2018-2019 year.

The eagles had a successful finish last year, placing fifth as a team at the Division II National Championships. They ended with two national champions, current alumni Luke Cramer in the 197-pound weight class and current redshirt junior Bret Romanzak in the 165-pound weight class.

“We had a lot of upperclassmen on that team,” head wrestling coach Josh Hutchens said. “Coming back this year we only had three of our starters, so we have a few new guys in the line up.”

After having time to reflect on their success of last season and putting in work on their own time this summer, the eagles geared up to have another great season.

AU grappler Bret Romanzak wrestles in a math against Notre Dame College in January.

Seven eagles are now ranked regionally, including redshirt freshman Bryce Davis, freshman Luke Wymer, redshirt junior Chandler Minnard, sophomore Carson Speelman, redshirt junior Bret Romanzak, redshirt junior Christian Price and redshirt sophomore Tristen Weirich.

Three of those men including, Romanzak, Minnard and Weirich are now also ranked in the nation. Among all of the wrestler for AU, Weirich is the highest ranked at number seven at 285.

“We’ve had a couple of true freshmen step in,” Hutchens said as he acknowledges Wymer at 133 and Daniel Beemer at 184 who have started out strong and are looking for strong finishes at regionals.

“These guys wrestle every day with those guys [who were national qualifiers], they know ‘wow that guy can do it,’” Hutchens said. “‘If I keep working that could be an achievable goal for me,’ whether that be short term like this year or whether that be long term, they can do it.”

While Hutchens realizes that he has had a young team this year, but he and the upperclassman have realized that the freshman have done well in filling their roles.

“As a team, I have been fairly impressed with our freshmen and the way they have stepped into their role and filled missing spots in our line up,” Price said. “Especially from our younger guys and first year guys, they’re going out there and working their butts off.”

Hutchens explains that the team is lacking the consistency of last year but they are still working hard and striving for that key factor as they get closer to regionals.

“All of us have targets on our back, guys go into the matches really prepared for us and know what we do, they know how to stop certain things and that makes it fairly difficult,” one of the team captains Price said. “I believe the majority of our team realizes that but we all expect to go out there and do our best and give it 100 percent.”

AU finished up their last dual of the season on Feb. 8 against nationally ranked (No. 21) Lake Erie College with a decision of 28-13.

The Eagles wrestled for the last time before regionals at the John Carroll Open in Cleveland, Ohio on Feb. 10 where AU’s redshirt sophomore Eric Fasnacht won at 165 pounds.

“These men really have helped me try and achieve my best and we push each other,” Price said. “We all know each other’s goals and we keep those in mind and we just try to go out there and be great every day.”

With only big meets left, the men are narrowing in to make it to the next level.

“The big thing for us is that we have a really tough regional this year being a young team,” Hutchens said. “They take three out of regionals to nationals and most of our team is ranked outside of our top three so it will be exceeding those expectations and making it to nationals.”

Next up for the eagles will be the NCAA Division II Super Regional, taking place at 10 a.m. on Feb. 23 at West Liberty, W.Va.