ADRIAN — In the spring of 2016 Bill Schindel was named the head coach of the Adrian College men’s wrestling program.
Recruiting was tough as the program was coming off its first year of action since 1984.
“When we first started recruiting, kids would ask, ‘Where is Adrian College’?,” Schindel said. “And those were kids from Michigan.”
This weekend Adrian College will be the place to be for Division III wrestlers as the Bulldogs will be hosting the NCAA Central Regional Friday and Saturday at the Merillat Sports and Fitness Center.
Wrestlers from Adrian, Alma College, Baldwin Wallace, Case Western Reserve, Defiance College, Heidelberg, John Carroll, Manchester, Mount St. Joseph, Mount Union, Muskingum, Ohio Northern, Ohio Wesleyan, Olivet College, Otterbein University, Trine, Wabash College and Wilmington College will meet for a spot in the national championships at U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Out of the three divisions of NCAA wrestling, Division III has the most wrestling schools and least amount spots available at nationals with only 18 individuals, top three from each regional, advancing.
“It’s a competitive weekend,” Schindel said. “At the Division III level, it’s very difficult to advance.”
This weekend, 15 of the wrestlers will be ranked in the top-10 of their weight class according InterMat Wrestling and of those 17, four are No. 1 and two others are raked No. 2.
Wabash 125-pounder Carlos Champagne and 165-pounder Kyle Hatch are both ranked No. 1 in the nation, as is Mount St. Joseph’s Cornell Beachem at 174 pounds and Otterbein’s Drew Kasper at heavyweight.
Mount Union 141-pounder Jordin James and Alma College 149-pounder Zachary Cooper are both ranked No. 2.
There is at least one nationally ranked wrestler in each division and at 149, there are three.
Up for the challenge at 149 will be Blissfield graduate and Adrian College junior, Noah Nieman.
“We are hopefully Noah will be a high seed,” Schindel said. “Once you get to this point, everyone is 0-0. Being at home will help the local guys. Home field advantage is a real thing.”
Adrian High School graduate Isaiah Espinoza will have a tough bracket as well to battle through at the heavyweight division with Kasper as well as No. 7 Grant Martin of Mount Union.
“He’s right there,” Schindel said. “Espinoza is going to feel comfortable at home and that will help. Plus he likes to put on a show at home.”
Devon Pingel will look to advance to nationals for the second-straight season at 197 pounds and he expects to be one of the top seeds in his bracket.
Some others Schindel is hopeful will still be alive come Day 2 of the tournament are Sand Creek graduate Bryant Moore at 174, who is in a tough bracket with Beachem and Wabash’s Darden Schurg, who is ranked No. 3, Zach Altman at 157, Derick Duvall at 165 and Kyle Emery at 184.
While hosting the regional is not only big for the Bulldogs’ wrestlers this season, it’s good for the team’s future.
“This puts us on the national map,” Schindel said. “It’s going to get our name out there.”
It’s big for the community, which is already on the map at the high school wrestling level.
“It’s huge for our program, but bigger for the community,” Schindel said. “Lenawee County has such a great wrestling history.”