McNally, Rooney head to Pittsburgh for NCAA wrestling championship

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Junior Tim Rooney takes down a Central Michigan wrestler during the Beauty and the Beast match on February 10, 2019. The Flashes wrestlers lost 12-23.

Brandon Lewis

Growing up both Andrew McNally and Tim Rooney watched the NCAA wrestling championship on TV, dreaming that one day they would participate in the tournament.

This weekend their dreams become a reality.

McNally and Rooney are headed to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania to represent Kent State wrestling at the 2019 NCAA championship. The three day tournament showcases the best college wrestlers in the United States.

Rooney scored a takedown in sudden victory 2 over Ohio’s Mario Guillen in the consolation finals of the MAC Tournament to steal a bid at 133. He entered the MAC Championship as a five seed, and he said he felt like he wrestled the best he could at Old Dominion two weeks ago.

“Going into MAC championship weekend, I was motivated to wrestle extremely hard because I wanted to make sure my resume was good enough to be a national qualifier,” Rooney said. “Now that I’m there, I just want to show off all my skills in front of a big crowd and show people why I am one of the best wrestlers in the country.”

Rooney said he’s lost sleep over the thought of participating in the NCAA tournament.

“I have not slept since the MAC tournament ended,” Rooney said. “I have not stopped thinking about wrestling.”

Rooney drew the 25 seed in the tournament with a regular season record of 23-13, and he will be taking on the fifth seed Luke Pletcher from Ohio State in the first round. Pletcher finished the regular season 21-5, and he won three out of his four Big 10 championship matches.

Rooney credits assistant coach Danny Mitcheff for helping him with his conditioning this season.

“Coach Mitcheff never lets me take the third period off,” Rooney said. “He’ll keep attacking, and I have to keep fighting, or he’s going to bury me into the ground, so the way he and I have worked together has helped me stay fit during matches. Because of him, I feel like I have more endurance than anybody I wrestle because of how long and hard we train.”

Coach Jim Andrassy thought Rooney’s confidence grew immensely during the MAC tournament.

“Rooney learned how to win at the MAC tournament,” Andrassy said. “He showed how good of a wrestler he can be if he trusts himself and stays aggressive for the whole match.”

McNally entered Old Dominion as a three seed, losing in the finals to the No. 1 seed Dylan Wiseman from Missouri. He earned a 184-pound bid in the tournament by pinning Central Michigan’s Jordan Atienza in the consolation finals. McNally said he feels he is in great shape to do well in the tournament as a 17 seed.

“I feel fresh,” McNally said. “Nothing has changed when it comes to the way I am approaching practice. My goal entering this season was to become an All-American, and I have the opportunity to achieve my goal, so that’s special.”

McNally said he wishes the season did not end after the NCAA tournament.

“I love wrestling,” McNally said. “Over these past few months, I’ve been in such a grove that it’s going to be sad when it’s over, but my hope is that I end it on a good note.”

McNally’s finished the regular season with a 29-7 record. His opponent in the first round of the tournament will be the 16 seed Corey Hazel from Lock Haven. Hazel finished with a record of 15-3 during the regular season.

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. “He’s been 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.”

The first session of the tournament is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Thursday while the last session is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. on Saturday. All matches can be seen online through ESPN and TrackWrestling.

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