ASHLAND, OHIO – Four Lake Erie College wrestlers advanced to the semifinals of the championship bracket, but a total of seven Storm grapplers will ultimately have to battle their way through the wrestleback bracket to earn a spot at the NCAA Division II Championships next month after the first day of competition at the Super Regional 2 at Ashland University Saturday (Feb. 23).
As a team the Storm is sixth in the standings but has the third most wrestlers remaining in the competition.
Sophomores Ian Ross (Newark, N.Y./Newark), Matt Vandermeer (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston) and Dylan Zivcic (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor), along with junior Zev Green (Marysville, Ohio/Marysville) reached the final four of the championship bracket only to be stopped one match short of the finals.
Ross easily won his first two matches at 125 pounds before falling 7-1 to top-seeded Max Byrd of Ashland. Green picked up a pin in his first match and then earned a 3-2 overtime victory against Charles Mason of Notre Dame College before an 8-0 loss to Ouachita Baptist University's Dallas Smith, the number-two seed at 184 pounds.
Vandermeer, ranked second both regionally and nationally, won his first two matches before another showdown with the University of Findlay's Mason True, the defending regional champ and national runner-up. True defeated Vandermeer in last year's regional final, 3-2, and again got the better of the Storm's All-American, picking up a 3-0 win.
Zivcic, the sixth seed at 174 pounds, won his first match 9-4 before nearly upsetting Kelly Henderson from the University of Central Oklahoma before the second-seed escaped with a 2-1 win.
Three other Storm wrestlers lost early but have battled their way back into contention. Sophomore Zak Vargo (Stow, Ohio/Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy) lost his first match but came back with back-to-back wins to advance into the 157-pound consolation semifinals where he will face second-seeded Bobby Williams of Ouachita Baptist.
Redshirt sophomore Mikey Samijlenko (Parma, Ohio/Normandy) , the fourth seed at 197 pounds, lost a close quarterfinal battle to Justin Tribble of Limestone College, 6-5, but came back for two straight decision wins. He had three wins on the day, as did freshman heavyweight Almonte Patrick (Maple Heights, Ohio/Maple Heights) who picked up two pins and a technical fall on day one and will face fourth-seeded Kevin Christmas of Tiffin University in the consolation semifinals.
Each weight class has five matches remaining to determine the top four place-winners who will automatically receive berths to the NCAA Championships March 8-9 in Birmingham, Ala. Action continues Sunday, Feb. 24, beginning at 11 a.m. in Ashland's Kates Gymnasium.