Kent State wrestling prepares for MAC tournament success

Senior+Stephen+Suglio+takes+a+breath+of+celebration+after+winning+by+pin+in+his+match+against+Central+Michigan+Sunday%2C+Feb.+11%2C+2018.+%5BFILE%5D

Senior Stephen Suglio takes a breath of celebration after winning by pin in his match against Central Michigan Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. [FILE]

Kayla Proctor

Five Kent State wrestlers are seeded No. 4 or better in their weight classes for this weekend’s Mid-American Conference tournament, led by 157-pounder Casey Sparkman, who is seeded No. 3.

In dual meets, Kent State finished fourth in the conference with a 3-4 record. Last season, the Flashes didn’t win a dual meet and finished last in the tournament.

Besides determining the conference champion, the tournament will determine most of the league’s qualifiers for the NCAA meet in March in Cleveland.

Assistant coach Matt Hill said he thinks five Flashes wrestlers have a good chance of placing high in the tournament and qualifying for nationals.

“On paper, people are probably saying only two (wrestlers) will qualify, but I see five national qualifiers on our team,” Hill said. “We have a strong group of guys to get experience and qualify.”

The top-ranked Kent State wrestlers going into the meet are Anthony Tutolo, Kyle Conel and Sparkman.

Tutolo has a 25-10 record this season, including 4-3 in the MAC. During last season’s conference tournament, Tutolo went to the finals, but lost in the first round of the match.

“I feel pretty confident this year,” Tutolo said. “Everything else is good.”

Conel, who has a 20-9 record on the year, including 4-2 in conference meets, is participating in his first MAC tournament as a member of the Kent State wrestling team.

Sparkman started his season strong and has a record of 21-15, including 0-6 in the MAC. Sparkman made it to day two of the NCAA tournament last season, losing his final match, 9-1.

Hill also said Dylan Barreiro and Jake Ferri have a high chance of making it to the finals in their weight classes.

Tutolo and Conel were allocated as three of the top 25 qualifiers for the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships.

Conel has the No. 4 seed for his weight class, but his strategy is to ignore the brackets and wrestle what he knows.

“I’m just going to wrestle hard,” Conel said. “I’m not going to look at the brackets or anything. I’m just going to go after it, and I totally believe I can beat anyone. That’s what I’m going to go out and do.”

Conel said the biggest improvements he needs to make consist of tiring his opponent out and being quick on his feet.

“I can’t wait around for my attacks,” Conel said. “I just want to go after the guy, score early and fight hard.”

Tutolo’s goal for the MAC championships is to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

“I’m just excited to go out and compete this weekend, but I definitely want to try to end on top, to be on top of the podium at the end so I get to Cleveland,” Tutolo said. “That’s the ultimate goal. So whatever happens happens, but as long as I leave it all out there on the mat, that’s all I can ask for.”

Tutolo’s plan of attack to get him to the top is to not worry about anyone but himself.

“I just need to focus on what I can do and not worry about my opponents,” Tutolo said. “When you sit there and worry about what could be an outcome, those are external factors that you can’t control, so there’s no point to worry over those.”

Hill thinks all 10 Kent State wrestlers have a chance of winning some matches at the tournament.

“Some guys are young and don’t know any better,” Hill said. “So they’re going to go out there and fight hard. The major goal is seven minutes strong, and if you have to go longer than that, go longer.”

Hill said the team has made strong improvements this week in practice, but the main focus is on conditioning.

“We need to focus on exhausting the opponent and making them tired so we can win,” Hill said. “We’ve been working on conditioning so we can wrestle like that on the mat.”

Tutolo will compete at the tournament with his head held high in an effort to make a splash at the NCAA championships.

“I’m not nervous,” Tutolo said. “I don’t let anybody stress me out. I’ve got to go out there and beat the best to be the best.”

Seedings for the tournament were released earlier this week, Kent State’s are listed below:

  • Jake Ferri (125) seeded No. 7

  • Anthony Tutolo (133) seeded No. 4

  • Tim Rooney (141) seeded No. 4

  • Nick Monico (149) seeded No. 7

  • Casey Sparkman (157) seeded No. 3

  • Isaac Bast (165) seeded No. 4

  • Dylan Barreiro (174) seeded No. 5

  • Colin McCracken (184) seeded No. 8

  • Kyle Conel (197) seeded No. 5

  • Stephen Suglio (HWT) seeded No. 4

The Flashes will compete at the MAC championships Saturday and Sunday in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, in hopes of securing a spot to the NCAA tournament.

Kayla Proctor is a sports reporter. Contact her at [email protected]