Release courtesy of Al King, Ashland University Sport Information Department
ASHLAND, Ohio - Up until this season, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools with wrestling programs were searching for a home. The GLIAC didn't sponsor a championship on the mat and the teams, as much as they looked through what passes for the college athletics classifieds, couldn't find another place to go and competed as independents.
That changes this Sunday (Feb. 5, 10 a.m.), when Ashland University hosts the inaugural GLIAC wrestling championships. Ashland, the University of Findlay, Lake Erie College and Tiffin University make up the field in this initial league tournament. A year from now, Notre Dame College will join the fray as an associate GLIAC member.
"There has been interest for a few years now so the conference membership decided to step up and do it," said GLIAC commissioner Dell Robinson, who will be in Ashland for the championships. "The sport is strong at the high school level in Ohio as well as Michigan, so we have a great feeder."
"I've always been very supportive of wrestling at the intercollegiate level," said Goldring. "It's very important to our institution and to our alums. I've always advocated that if there was an opportunity to have a conference tournament it would be a great showcase for the sport and Ashland University. I'm extremely pleased with the addition of the new conference members and that we can do this under the umbrella of the GLIAC."
Sunday's schedule appears below. At the end of the day, a league champion will be crowned and the GLIAC first and second teams will be announced. The conference will also present an award for the outstanding wrestler of the tournament.
10 a.m. #10 Ashland vs. Tiffin Lake Erie vs. #17 Findlay
12 p.m. #10 Ashland vs. Lake Erie Tiffin vs. #17 Findlay
2 p.m. #10 Ashland vs. #17Findlay Lake Erie vs. Tiffin
Ashland is the tournament's top seed and is ranked 12th in the nation. Findlay is the second seed and ranked 19th in the country. Lake Erie is the third seed and Tiffin is seeded fourth.
Recent expansion in the GLIAC helped make this wrestling tournament a reality. The addition of Lake Erie and Tiffin in recent years gave the conference four institutions with wrestling. Notre Dame will be the fifth
"The interest had been there and we did not have enough schools," explained Robinson. "With the additions of Lake Erie and Notre Dame it gives the sport a solid foundation. Notre Dame is a program that is rich in tradition and has been extremely successful as an NAIA member."
This tournament will benefit the teams in several ways. It gives them a high-quality event approximately three weeks out from the regional tournament. This will provide the coaching staffs with another look at their teams in a championship environment.
"The schools that offer wrestling were very supportive," replied Ashland Athletic Director Bill Goldring when asked about how difficult it was to pull everything together and put a tournament in place. "The rest of the GLIAC understood why it was important to the schools in wrestling. The GLIAC is very supportive of adding championships for its member institutions."
Sunday will be the only time this season Lake Erie will engage Ashland, Findlay and Tiffin in a dual. The Eagles have watched the Storm several times this season and have been impressed with the way LEC wrestlers have gone about their business.
"They built that program in two years to the point that they're in the hunt to win the GLIAC," Ashland head coach Tim Dernlan said. "They should expect to win. They've beaten a couple of our guys throughout the year."
LEC's top wrestler is Matt Vandermeer, who's ranked seventh in the country at 165 pounds. He's 23-8. The architect of this LEC program is head coach Kevin Hoogenboom. The 2010-11 season was the first year Lake Erie offered wrestling. LEC is 6-7 in dual meet action and will compete at the Baldwin-Wallace Suma Invitational on Saturday (Feb. 4) before heading to Ashland.
Like Lake Erie, Tiffin has a young program. Findlay, a traditionally strong program, has Michael Lybarger ranked second in the country at 174 pounds. At 184 pounds, Adam Walters is sixth in the country. Ben Sergent is ranked eighth in the nation at 125 pounds. The GLIAC Tournament will be Findlay's first competition since an 18-16 victory over 14th-ranked West Liberty on Jan. 27. The Storm defeated West Liberty 25-12 back on Dec. 14.
Ashland has two wrestlers who are in the national rankings. Senior Jacob Southwick is third at 285 pounds and senior Marc Hoff is seventh at 149 pounds. Southwick is 17-2 and Hoff is 10-2. AU has two wrestlers who have reached the 20-win plateau. Senior Brandon Davis is 20-7 at 125 pounds and freshman Bryson Hall is 20-6 at 174 pounds. The Eagles are coming off a 29-6 win over 8th-ranked University of Pittsburgh Johnstown and are at Mercyhurst University on Friday (Feb. 3).