Wrestlers believe they can win MAC Tournament
Senior 133 weight class Stevie Mitcheff wrestles against Buffalo on Feb. 3. Kent won 25-9. Photo by Phil Botta.Step one for the Kent State wrestlers was to secure the Mid-American Conference regular-season title. They accomplished this with a decisive win over Eastern Michigan Feb. 5 and then immediately shifted their focus to step two.
The Flashes will travel to Ohio University for the MAC Championship tournament Sunday afternoon. Kent State (14-5, 5-0 MAC) has wrestlers in the top four in every weight class in the MAC rankings, including four grapplers ranked No. 1.
Freshman Ian Miller, who is ranked No. 1 in the 149-pound weight class, said he is excited about competing in what will be his first MAC tournament. He also said there will be some nerves, but he won’t let that bother him.
“I’m just going to treat it like any other tournament,” Miller said. “You can’t get nervous in a tournament like that because it could throw you off a little bit. So I’m just going into it excited.”
Miller said he is looking forward to matching up with wrestlers he hasn’t faced, such as Jaylyn Bohl from EMU. He said he will follow the advice from his coaches and “wrestle like I’ve been wrestling all year.”
The Flashes have finished second in the tournament for six straight years. After winning their first outright regular season title since 2009, they’ll look to dethrone the Central Michigan Chippewas, who have won the last 10 MAC tournaments.
Coach Jim Andrassy said his team has gotten through the toughest part of the schedule, and now it’s about staying prepared and healthy.
“We’re in great shape as a team,” Andrassy said. “We know how to wrestle. We’re not going to change the way we wrestle other than some small adjustments.”
Andrassy likes to say that believing is a powerful tool. That if a wrestler believes in himself and his team, he can beat just about anyone. That sentiment has been passed along to the Flashes, who will look to capture their first conference tournament title since 1990.
“We just got to believe in the system and believe in the coaches,” senior Nic Bedelyon said. “I think the biggest thing right now is believing in the training system the coaches put us through and knowing that it’s all for a purpose.”
Bedelyon, who is ranked No. 1 in the MAC rankings at 125 pounds, said he feels he is at the peak of his performance and is excited and ready to go. He will attempt to win his third individual MAC championship.
Fifth-year senior Brendan Barlow said he also feels prepared and that his only focus right now is winning.
“My goal is to win the whole thing,” Barlow said. “Anything less would be a disappointment.”
Barlow, who wrestles as a heavyweight, is ranked No. 2 in the MAC rankings. Ohio’s Jeremy Johnson, the No. 1-ranked heavyweight, is the only MAC wrestler Barlow hasn’t beaten this season.
Barlow and Bedelyon have both received automatic bids to the NCAA Championships, and Bedelyon said he can’t help but to think about what he could accomplish there in two weeks.
“I figured out that I can go 8-0, get my hand raised eight times and be a national champ,” Bedelyon said. “It sounds easy, but you’ve just got to believe in yourself.”
However, Bedelyon said he’s not going to get too far ahead of himself.
“I’m just taking it one match at a time,” Bedeylon said. “When I step on the mat, I’m going to go 120 percent and get my hand raised. That’s my goal right now.”
A strong belief and confidence resonates throughout the wrestling team, and Andrassy possesses that same level of confidence as his team prepares for its biggest event of the year so far.
“We’re picked to win it,” Andrassy said. “If we go out there and wrestle like we should, we should bring home the championship. It’s in our hands. We just got to take it.”