Versailles alumnus Joe Brandt, a college wrestler for Ashland, is projected to be the national champion in the 197-pound class by D2wrestle.com.
ASHLAND – Joe Brandt, a 2011 Versailles graduate, had his share of success while wrestling in high school.
He made the state tournament his junior and senior year. During his senior year, he suffered his first loss of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament to the eventual state champion, Chris Phillips. Phillips was a four-time state champion at Monroeville.
While Phillips got a lot of attention and went to N.C. State before leaving the team and is supposed to join his three former high school teammates at Ohio State, Brandt took his talent to Division II Ashland.
Last year as a freshman, Brandt finished the season with a 28-15 record overall and placed seventh in the nation at 197 pounds. He finished 3-2 at the national tournament to secure a seventh place finish. He had two pins in the tournament. Brandt accomplished this while being underweight compared to some of the wrestlers he faced.
Brandt started out his 2012 season with a fifth place finish at Eastern Michigan on Nov. 3. He lost his opening match to the eventual champion 2-1 in four overtimes before winning five straight matches. During the tournament, Brandt defeated wrestlers from Campbellsville, Indiana Tech, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
D2wrestle.com has projected Brandt to be the national champion at 197 this upcoming year He knows that he will be the hunted instead of the hunter this season.
“In the opponent’s mind it’s going to be OK, I’m wrestling the best guy in the nation, if I beat him I will be No. 1,” Brandt said. “The way I view it, I’m just another wrestler. I’m going to go out there and work to get better.”
Brandt has worked hard in the offseason to not only improve his wrestling skills but also has improved in the weight room. He gained muscle mass while also improving his explosiveness and feels he is bigger, faster and stronger than last year.
“My expectations this year, definitely improve from last year,” Brandt said. “I wasn’t where I needed to be mentally. I felt like I was the best wrestler, but I did not believe in myself enough.”
As a team Ashland is still a young squad that looks to make some waves during the season and move up in the rankings.
“The next two years we are only graduating like seven guys,” Brandt said “We got the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation. Our goal is to surprise everyone.”
The team is ranked just outside the top 20 to start the season.
Last year Ashland went 12-3 in dual meets and finished 13th at the national meet. Ashland qualified four wrestlers to nationals and were ranked sixth in the country by team GPA. The Eagles will be at Ohio Northern for an invitational on Dec. 1. The meet starts at 9 a.m.