Banged-up Flashes look forward to MAC Tournament

Kent+State+sophomore+Isaac+Bast+fights+against+Northern+Illinois+sophomore+Bryce+Steiert+at+the+M.A.C.+Center+on+Jan.+29%2C+2017.+Kent+State+lost+16-31.

Kent State sophomore Isaac Bast fights against Northern Illinois sophomore Bryce Steiert at the M.A.C. Center on Jan. 29, 2017. Kent State lost 16-31.

Brandon Lewis

Before the 2018-2019 season, the Kent State wrestling team thought they had a chance in the Mid-American Conference.

Then, injuries and academic issues plagued the team.

Heading into the MAC Championship at Old Dominion University this weekend, KSU has seven wrestlers who will not be able to compete:

• Senior Anthony Tutolo: transferred to Michigan State to complete his master’s degree.

• Senior Casey Sparkman: isn’t eligible to wrestle due to having an insufficient number of credit hours.

• Sophomore Nick Monico: had shoulder surgery at the beginning of the season.

• Freshman Leno Ciotti: tore his meniscus at the beginning of the season.

• Redshirt sophomore Dylan Barreiro: had shoulder surgery in January.

• Senior Kyle Conel: had shoulder surgery in December.

• Sophomore Billy Bolia: had knee surgery at the beginning of the season.

With all of the injuries sustained, coach Jim Andrassy said this season has not been easy.

“I’ve never experienced something like this before in my 15 years as head coach,” Andrassy said. “We’ve had five surgeries in one season. There’s not much I can do with that.”

Andrassy has had to insert wrestlers into the lineup who were not expected to wrestle this year at all. However, he said that is not a bad thing.

“These guys weren’t expected to be in the lineup either,” Andrassy said. “They are working hard and getting better, and the hope is next year, with more experience, they can improve a lot more on everything because they are so young.”

One of the unexpected wrestlers to compete this season is redshirt freshman Spencer Berthold. Berthold said this season has been a learning experience for him.

“It’s amazing to me how far I have come since the beginning of the season,” he said. “The experience has taught me that anything can happen, and that I have to be ready for any opportunity that is given to me.”

One of the wrestlers who stayed healthy all season has been fifth-year senior Isaac Bast, who could potentially be wrestling in his last matches for Kent State this weekend. Despite this, Bast’s main focus is on the MAC tournament.

Junior Tim Rooney is participating in his third MAC tournament. After struggling in the tournament in his first two appearances, Rooney said this is his year.

“This year I am going in with the mindset that I do not have much time left,” he said. “My freshman year I knew I had a bad record. Last year I thought I could make it, but in the back of my head, I knew I had two more years, so I had no urgency. This year the urgency is real.”

Rooney knows he has the ability to go toe-to-toe with some of the nation’s best on the mat.

“I already have beat 10 to 15 guys that have participated in a national tournament, so I am very sick of being the guy whose beaten everybody that’s been there, and then lose when I’m there,” Rooney said. “I feel like a bridesmaid. I’m the bridesmaid and never the bride. I’m not the bride there.”

Rooney said he prefers tournaments over single duals because once he gets his first match in, he can get in a rhythm.

As the team heads into Old Dominion for the MAC tournament, Andrassy’s message for the team is to try their best.

“I always tell my guys look where your seeded and try to place above your seed,” Andrassy said. “Sometimes guys are just better than you, and that’s just the way it works out.”

The MAC Championship begins at 3 p.m. Friday at Old Dominon.

Brandon Lewis is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]