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One-point decisions prove costly as wrestling falls in season finale

Sara House
AJ Burkhart, Kent State graduate student, faces his opponent in the wrestling meet against Central Michigan University on Feb. 16, 2024.

The Kent State wrestling team came out on the losing side of three one-point decisions — a critical nine-point scoring swing — in matches that could have told a completely different story.

With the key victories, the Cleveland State Vikings defeated KSU 27-6 Thursday at the M.A.C. Center.

“We need to get stronger,” coach Jim Andrassy said. “We have to get mentally tougher. We’re not a very mentally tough team right now.”

Cleveland State improved to 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and 8-7 overall. The team is second in the East Division.

The Flashes stumbled to the finish line, ending with a 5-16 record in the regular season — 1-8 against the MAC. Kent State is 0-5 on the home mats.

Closing out the regular season

Junior 149 lbs. Matthew Ryan came away on the right end of a close match after taking two losses, 6-3 and 12-9, each of the last two weeks. Ryan had a takedown in the final period to pull away in his 4-1 victory.

“It’s just about recentering myself throughout the weeks in practice and not getting too discouraged about the losses that I’ve taken,” Ryan said. “They were both pretty close losses so I knew I wasn’t too far off.” 

Graduate student 174 lbs. AJ Burkhart wrestled the No. 4 wrestler in the MAC and got a hard-fought 6-4 decision victory. He used an early takedown and survived a tough third period to seal the win.

“AJ’s a beast, he’s been great for us,” Ryan said. “He’s a guy who’s older in the room and good to look up to. He’s been doing his thing.”

Burkhart came into the match riding a victory by fall last week against Central Michigan. Thursday he moved over .500 and is 7-6 individually this season.

“AJ does a great job,” Andrassy said. “He’s doing everything he’s supposed to be doing, and he’s starting to get matches under his legs.”

The four-year graduate from Lehigh will use his experience in a few weeks at the MAC Championships.

“He wouldn’t want to be a guy I’d want to wrestle at the MAC Tournament,” Andrassy said.

Sophomore 157 lbs. Keegan Knapp started strong and got out to a 6-2 lead before losing by decision 11-7.

“Keegan’s a beast too, he didn’t back down at all,” Ryan said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t get the result he wanted, but I think he wrestled super hard.”

Sophomore 133 lbs. Pablo Castro IV struggled in his 7-0 loss, something that has been uncommon as he hasn’t suffered a loss since Jan. 14.

“He had the guy’s legs up in the air three times and didn’t score,” Andrassy said. “He’s got to want to score worse than the guy that’s trying to defend him.”

Sophomore 141 lbs. Billy Meiszner, junior 157 lbs. Aaron Ferguson and freshman 197 lbs. Kyle Snider fell 4-3, 2-1 and 2-1 in their respective matches.

“We have to learn to get tougher in situations,” Andrassy said. “This isn’t about skill, it’s about learning how to go out and be tough and finding ways to win.”

There is still confidence the team can get it together before the end of the season.

“Those little adjustments that we’re going to be making these next two weeks for the MAC tournament, you’re going to see them,” Ryan said.

The show goes on

The MAC Championships will be the next focus of attention for the Flashes. The tournaments will take place at the M.A.C. Center March 8-9.

“I expect a fight every single match,” Ryan said. “We’re going to have to be the ones that come out on top this time.”

Ryan, being an upperclassman, is excited for the following weeks and what is to come for KSU.

“I think the sky’s the limit for this team — we’re a super young team,” Ryan said. “I know the potential that these guys have and they’re just going to keep getting better.”

Kent State will have two weeks before competing on MAC wrestling’s biggest stage.

“We have about nine practices, and five of those will be really hard,” Andrassy said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make them tougher.”

Andrew Gold is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

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