photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
#13 Ashland University
Head Coach: Josh Hutchens 8th season
The Ashland University Eagles had a disappointing national tournament that ended with just one All-American. A year after a fifth-place finish, expectations were high for the team led by returning national champion Bret Romanzak. Three qualifiers for the 2018-19 season managed just 10 team points and Ashland finished 27th in Cleveland. The Eagles finished 12-4 in their dual slate and managed an eighth-place finish at the very tough Midwest Classic. A Super Region III showing that garnered three national qualifiers and a champion saw them place fourth. It appeared that Romanzak had returned to championship form, Christian Price was ready to compete for a place on the podium, and Tristen Weirich looked headed for an All-American finish as well. Expectations for a return to at the very least the top 10 this coming #D2Wrestle season are warranted.
Their lineup will return 2017 national qualifier Chandler Minnard, 2018 national qualifier Lawrence Dudgeon, and all three 2019 national qualifiers. They have also added an All-American transfer from the failed Wheeling Jesuit team in Aiden Pasiuk. There will be plenty of experience to anchor a team that is going to surprise people as the season goes along. Head coach Josh Hutchens has done an incredible job of bringing together a lineup that could battle for a trophy in his eighth season.
Let’s take a look at the Ashland Eagles lineup in 2019-20
125: Christian Wellman (R-Jr, Apple Creek OH)
Christian Wellman began his career at Division III Baldwin Wallace University in 2016 and won 25 matches during the 2017 season. He had a limited schedule last year finishing 6-5 wrestling in open tournaments. I expect that Christian will have a year similar to his sophomore finish and that means big things for Ashland. He should be a better option at this weight than Bryce Davies who finished below .500 last year. Davis needs another year to get stronger before possibly taking this spot back.
133: Lawrence Dudgeon (Sr, Xenia OH)
Luke Wymer can take a break and spend some time honing his skills by taking a redshirt season. Lawrence Dudgeon will return for his senior season and will be the starter. Dudgeon was a national qualifier in 2018 for the Eagles finishing 24-14 on the season. He has a win over Ana Abduljelil (Indianapolis) on his resume. Lawrence also has close losses to 2018 All-American Kelan McKenna (Notre Dame) and 2019 All-American Tate Barnhardt (Mary). He can wrestle with anyone at this weight and should give Ashland a shot at qualifying this weight for the national tournament.
141: Chandler Minnard (Sr, Carroll OH)
Continuing the trend of national qualifiers returning to the lineup, 2016 and 2017 qualifier Chandler Minnard will man the 141 spot for Ashland. He just missed out on his third trip to the national tournament last season finishing fourth in the Super Regional. It was a disappointing finish after he won the Midwest Classic Tournament in mid-December. I have to wonder if only wrestling five matches after that affected his conditioning heading into the Super Regional after looking so good in Indianapolis. His career record sits 53-21 after his junior season and when he is wrestling his best, he seems unstoppable. This is a wrestler who beat returning finalist Isiah Royal (Newberry) just a year ago. My bold prediction is that he not only becomes a three-time national qualifier this season but punches his first All-American ticket.
149: Carson Speelman (Jr, Ashland OH)
Carson Speelman handed Taylor Misuna a regional loss last season and looked like he might go on a run through the bracket. Three straight losses had him finishing sixth and missing a trip to Cleveland. Speelman was 15-5 heading into his semifinal match against Trey Grine (Tiffin) and it had to sting a little ending his season that way. He has won 29 bouts in his two seasons and has a winning percentage approaching 66%. His season began with a title at the Ohio Intercollegiate Open and nine straight wins overall. If the junior can take another step forward in 2019, I expect him to be wrestling in the consolation finals with a berth at the national tournament on the line.
157 Cody Woods (R-So, West Holmes OH)
Josh Jaeckin (R-Fr, Olmsted Fall OH)
Josh Jaeckin opened his college career with a 4-1 record at the Findlay Open and his redshirt season looked to be going well. It ended 5-3 after a tough Storm Open and that is all we saw of the freshman. Cody Woods made eight dual appearances for the Eagles as a redshirt freshman and finished 6-2 in those matches. These two young men will battle for the spot on the Super Regional squad that was held by Chance Esmont last season. This will be a weight without much experience for coach Hutchens team and I expect we see both of these athletes this season on the mat. It will almost certainly come down to performance, be that a head-to-head wrestle-off or open tournaments.
165 Christian Price (Sr, Granville OH)
Eric Fasnacht (R-Jr, Strongsville OH)
Eric Fasnacht finished his redshirt junior season with five straight wins and a John Carroll Open championship. The University of Buffalo transfer seems to have settled down and made improvements since his arrival. Two years ago as the starter for the Bulls he lost 7 straight matches to end his season on a sour note. Christian Price was your starter at 174 last season and qualified for nationals for the second straight season. His three year total for wins sits at 67, which means the century mark may just be out of reach. The flip-flop in the lineup is so that the 2018 national champion Brett Romanzak can move from 165 to 174 this season. If Price can hold the weight, I am not sure that we see much of Fasnacht, except maybe for spot starts to give Price a break. If he cannot, that puts all the pressure on him to qualify this weight for nationals and stay on pace with last year’s points total.
174: Bret Romanzak (Sr, Forrest VA)
I cannot get over the fact that Bret Romanzak will even be physically able to step on a mat this season after the injury that took him out of the 2019 national tournament. It makes sense that he would go up in the lineup after what will be a shortened offseason due to recovery. His career wins total sits at 79 as he looks to become a four-time national qualifier for Ashland University. For him to return, break the century mark in wins, qualify for the tournament, and possibly secure another All-American status would be the stuff of Disney movies. If it happens, I had better get a producer credit, Bret! It is important to note that Romanzak has never wrestled a match at 174 in his college career, it may take him a few weigh-ins to adjust to the weight.
184: Aiden Pasiuk (Jr, Carrolton OH)
Aiden Pasiuk was part of the 2018-19 NCAA Division II Men’s Wrestling National Championships runner-up team as a member of the Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals. Now he is an Ashland Eagle, and the two-time national qualifier is an immediate upgrade to this lineup. Pasiuk finished fifth in Cleveland and the Ohio state champion returns to closer to his roots to finish his last two seasons. He has won 52 matches in his two seasons and at one point during last season went on an 18-1 run. Daniel Beemer was not terrible for the Eagles at this weight last year, but Pasiuk makes this lineup so much better.
197: Pete Abraham (R-So, Seven Hills OH)
It seems to me like Pete Abraham is still figuring out how to wrestle at the college level. The Padua Franciscan graduate won 161 matches in high school, 86 of them by fall. He has the skills to be a very good wrestler and he has shown it. It seems, though, that he is still trying to build confidence to be successful at this level. Adding a workout partner like Aiden Pasiuk will pay big dividends. He found a groove at one point last season winning five straight matches over the second half of January, but he seemed to stall out after that. Abraham managed just two wins in his final five contests. Coach Hutchens does not need to have him qualify for nationals this year to have a shot at finishing back in the top 10, but it would make things much easier.
Hwt: Tristan Weirich (R-Jr, Ashland OH)
Tristan Weirich will move up the rankings with the absence of Kam Teacher (St Cloud State) from Division II this season. That means he will enter the season ranked third at heavyweight for the Eagles. The junior is 42-20 entering the season and has high expectations on his shoulders. The hometown product has been very good for Ashland and he is one of the wrestlers that could find his way into the national semifinals. If there is anything we learned last year at this weight, it is that if you can make the semifinals, you can win a title. Weirich was a marathon man at last year’s Midwest Classic wrestling eight matches, winning six of them. He was also an overtime takedown away from being a national semifinalist in Cleveland. There is a lot of pressure on him to duplicate that season, but if he can the Eagles will be in great shape in Sioux Falls.