McNally, Rooney punch ticket to NCAA wrestling tournament


Junior Tim Rooney wrestles against Central Michigan at the Beauty and the Beast match on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019.

Brandon Lewis

Last year at the Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships, Andrew McNally and Tim Rooney finished fifth.

A year later, they’re both headed to the NCAA Championships.

McNally advanced to the finals at 184 pounds before being eliminated by No. 1 Dylan Wiseman from Missouri. McNally scored two takedowns in the second period to take a 4-2 lead, but Wiseman roared back, scoring three takedowns in the final period to win the match 9-4. Coach Jim Andrassy said McNally overall had a great tournament.

“(Wiseman) was better than he was,” Andrassy said. “McNally was the three seed entering the tournament, so for him to be able to finish in second place is a good thing. I always tell my guys in these tournaments that if they place above their seed, they did their job.”

With his second place finish at 184, McNally qualified for the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh. Andrassy said McNally has put himself in a good position to do well in the tournament.

“At this point in the season it’s all about health, and McNally has been healthy all season,” Andrassy said. “With how well he did in this tournament, he should get a good draw in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He’s best our best wrestler all year, and now it’s time for him to show it on a national level where the lights are the brightest.”

Rooney also earned a NCAA Tournament spot after he won three out of his four matches. On Friday, he pinned Northern Illinois’ Alijah Jeffery with one minute left in the third period, avenging his loss to Jeffery earlier in the season. In his final match Friday, Rooney was pinned in the third period by Missouri’s John Erneste with less than 30 seconds left. Erneste blocked Rooney’s attempt at a throw and was able to reverse the attempt and pin Rooney’s shoulders to the mat. Andrassy did not mind the throw attempt by Rooney even though it cost him the match.

“He was the underdog in the match,” Andrassy said. “The fact he was within striking distance at the end is a positive. He went for a move to try to win the match which is what you want your kid to do.”

Saturday Rooney topped Central Michigan’s Devin Perez 3-2 in the consolation semi-finals, then defeated Ohio’s Mario Guillen 4-2 n the second sudden victory period, of the consolation finals. He scored a takedown with less than a minute remaining in the period to avenge another loss from earlier in the season.

Andrassy said Rooney’s confidence grew a ton during the tournament.

“Rooney learned how to win this weekend,” Andrassy said. “He did not make any mistakes on Saturday, and he showed how good of a wrestler he can be if he trusts himself and stays aggressive for the whole match. I was excited for him because he beat a guy he lost to earlier in the year to steal a spot in the national tournament as a five seed at 133.”

In total, the Flashes Kent State finished last at the Championships at Old Dominion this weekend with a team score 66 points.

Corey Simpson entered the tournament as No. 7 in the 141 pound weight class, but he might have pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament by pinning No. 2 Cameron Kelly of Ohio 25 seconds into the match. Andrassy said Simpson took advantage of an opening Kelly gave him.

“He whacked him with a headlock and was able to roll him up right off the bat,” Andrassy said. “He caught (Kelly) leaning.”

Even though Simpson did not win another match, Andrassy said he can use the experience to help him get better next year.

“With Simpson, he’s not consistent,” Andrassy said. “He has to learn how to win more matches at a constant rate, but every match he participated in this weekend helped him get better no matter the result because he’s so young.”

Kent State had five wrestlers go down with season ending injuries, so younger team members who were not supposed to be in the lineup at all were forced to compete in the MAC tournament. Andrassy said for them he’s just happy they got to experience a tournament atmosphere.

“It’s a learning experience,” Andrassy said. “It’s a long two-day tournament. There’s a lot of emotion out there, so the fact they tried their best makes me happy.”

McNally and Rooney have two weeks to prepare for the NCAA Tournament, which will take place March 21-23 at PPG Paint Arena in Pittsburgh.

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