Miller loses in semis; DePalma named All-American

Dan Armelli

There were no controversies this time. No trips to the table or refs conferring. Fifth-year senior 157-pounder Ian Miller, for the first time in a long time, lost fair and square.

But that didn’t make it any less heartbreaking.

Miller was as aggressive as one should be against the defending national champion in the semifinals.

“I thought he wrestled hard,” head coach Jim Andrassy said. “I thought he put himself in a position to win. In regulation he had more takedowns than (Isaiah Martinez).

Down 4-3, Miller took down Illinois’s No. 1 seed Martinez with one minute left.

Martinez escaped to tie it back up at five. Then Miller came as close as he will ever get to the finals.

Miller went for an inside trip, causing Martinez to fall off balance. But Martinez was able to recover, sending it into sudden victory.

“(Miller) got right up (after his failed takedown),” Andrassy said. “It was a great match. I haven’t seen many of the matches, but I know a lot of the people that have watched have said that was the best match of the night so far. He went out there, fought his ass off and ended up on the other side of it. That’s all you can ask for.”

Martinez was able to get Miller on one leg and got the takedown. Miller’s career-long quest for a national title was over.

“I don’t think (Miller) regrets anything,” Andrassy said. “I think as coaches we did everything we could to put him in a good position. I actually thought he was the better wrestler. He lost, and now is the hard part. Life doesn’t always give you cherries. If you get lemons, you have to make lemonade.”

Miller’s tournament and career will still go on Saturday morning, as he will wrestle in the consolation semifinals.

“Now the hard stuff comes,” Andrassy said. “Now you have to wrestle after you lost. You have to represent yourself to come back and take a third. He’s already taken a fourth and a fifth (in past tournaments). Why not take a third? I know that’s what Mikey DePalma wants right now.”

Depalma, the fifth-year senior and 149-pounder, went 2-0 on the day, giving him All-American status. It was the first time Kent State got two All-American’s (DePalma and Miller) since 2010 (Dustin Kilgore and Danny Mitcheff).

DePalma is now 5-1 in the tournament.

DePalma became an All-American for the first time after his 7-4 win over Drexel’s No. 4 seed Matthew Cimato.

“It hasn’t really hit me yet, none of it really has,” DePalma said. “I’m kind of just still a little out of it. I’m thinking about just getting ready for this next one.”

DePalma’s next one turned into a victory in his rubber match with Central Michigan’s No. 9 seed Justin Oliver, who DePalma beat in the MAC Championship.

“When Mikey’s on, he’s on, and he’s been on,” Andrassy said. “I could see him taking a third, and I wouldn’t be surprised by it. At this point if he loses and takes a fifth or a sixth, I think we’re all happy. Like I always tell people, ten years from now, no one’s going to ask you what place you took, and you can say, ‘I was an All-American.’”

DePalma, who said after college he will go overseas to preach the Gospel to those who otherwise wouldn’t hear it, gives all the credit to God.

“I’m wrestling hard, giving it up to God and just using my ability out there,” DePalma said. “I’ve been praying for the past three days just to let me us my ability to the fullest to glorify God. God has provided.”

Andrassy and DePalma talked all year long about the latter’s need to be mentally consistent to be successful. Whether it’s dancing to “Boogie Shoes” before sessions or hugging opponents after matches, DePalma is mentally at ease.

“That’s just faith in Jesus Christ and trusting God through all my situations,” he said. “My faith in Jesus is the biggest part of it. That’s what allows me to relax and dance and just enjoy life. It gives me peace in my heart.”

Miller and DePalma are the only Flashes left, three of their teammate’s journeys ended on day two: senior 133-pounder Mack McGuire, fifth-year senior 165-pounder Tyler Buckwalter and redshirt freshman 197-pounder Kyle Conel.

McGuire lost his second match of the day to Utah Valley’s Jade Rauser.

“The first match he wrestled his match,” Andrassy said. “The second match, he let the kid dictated the pace. I don’t think the kid was better than him. He caught him in a bad position, and Mack didn’t do enough to win the match. I feel bad for him. He had a great career here.”

McGuire ends his Kent State career with the 13th most wins in program history with 109.

Buckwalter’s Kent State career ended in crushing fashion.

With a one-point lead on Stanford’s No. 13 Jim Wilson, Buckwalter was taken down with two seconds left.

“(Buckwalter) turned into being a three or four year starter, and he just devolved,” Andrassy said. “He got to nationals, and won a match here. He’s been a great kid. He’s a 3.94 student. He’s got the world right where he wants it to be. Even though this didn’t end up where he wanted, he’s going to be really successful in life with whatever he’s going to decide to do.”

Conel lost his rubber match against Northern Illinois’s Shawn Scott 5-1.

“It was totally Scott’s match again,” Andrassy said. “He dictated how to wrestle. He made one shot attempt at the end just like last time, and got a takedown.”

Conel is the only non-senior Kent State wrestler to make it to nationals, and Andrassy sees an All-American in Conel’s future.

‘I think he’ll probably be a top-10 guy coming back next year,” Andrassy said. “I think with him it’s just about believing in himself and learning. He’s a smart kid in just making the steps necessary to get on top of the podium in the future.”

DePalma and Miller will wrestle in the third and final day of the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Each can finish as high as third and now lower than sixth.

“I think (DePalma’s) going to try to do the best he can, and we’re rooting for him,” Andrassy said. “I’m pretty proud of him.”

Dan Armelli is a sports reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].