MAC Wrestling Tournament day one: DePalma makes finals, Miller injured


Fifth-year starter Mike DePalma grapples for position in the clinch against Justin Oliver of Central Michigan University on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016 at the M.A.C. Center.

Dan Armelli

It was the thrill of victory and the agony of medical default Saturday for the Kent State wrestling team. 

Fifth-year senior Mike DePalma needed a one-point escape to send his semifinals match with University of Missouri’s top-seed No. 4 redshirt junior Lavion Mayes into overtime. Mayes tried to turn DePalma on his back, but DePalma was able to use his momentum to get a two-point reversal with one second remaining. 

DePalma rose from his feet and ran into the arms of coach Jim Andrassy to embrace after the thrilling upset that sent the Edinboro transfer to the MAC finals.  

“(Mayes) was just literally riding hips,” Andrassy said. “All (DePalma) did was turn his hips pretty quick and ended up on top. It was actually a really nice move. He waited until right at the end, which was good timing for him. He did a great job.”

But reality was swift and harsh.

The Flashes’ top-seed, No. 3 fifth-year senior Ian Miller wrestled right after DePalma. With a 2-1 lead in the first period, Miller was slammed onto the mat, leading to a delay of more than 10 minutes. 

Trainers from Kent State as well as host Eastern Michigan University checked on Miller, who eventually got up to both feet. 

The trainers then consulted one another, talked to Miller again, which led to another test. It was decided that Miller wouldn’t be able to continue the match, giving the win to Missouri’s five seed redshirt senior Le’Roy Barnes. 

“Any time you get hurt and you act the way (Miller) did, the doctors are going to come over,” Andrassy said. “Once the doctors come over, it’s their decision. It was apparent that Ian wanted to wrestle. At that point, he left it in their hands, and they made the decision.” 

Miller, undefeated in the regular season, and the Kent State coaches were visibly upset after the decision. 

Miller is now prevented from earning his fourth MAC title and the number of team points the fifth-place Flashes are able to accumulate is now limited.

Another disappointment for Kent State was the loss by top-seed senior Mack McGuire, who has been dealing with an injury. 

“People aren’t going to roll over for you,” Andrassy said. “They don’t care if you’re hurt or not. They don’t care if you’ve been injured for a month or not. They’re going to fight. You’ve got to be willing to fight back.” 

McGuire was able to bounce back and win his consolation match after a reversal pin in the second period, keeping his postseason alive.

The younger wrestlers that were able to help the Flashes win regular season matches this year were a mixed bag.  

Redshirt freshmen Kyle Conel and Devin Nye were the only underclassmen to get quarterfinal wins, but neither were able to win in the semifinals.

Conel took a 5-4 lead into the third period against Ohio University’s Phil Wellington, whom he pinned at the Ohio Dual earlier this season. However, he seemed to run out of gas, conceding a 7-0 run to Wellington the rest of the match.  

“Until (Conel) learns to practice like he wrestles, he’s never going to get in the shape he needs to be to beat the high caliber guys, and he has beaten them before,” Andrassy said. “Can he get in better shape between now and the national tournament? Sure he can. But ultimately, he needs to get in better shape.”

Andrassy was proud of the way sophomore Jairod James wrestled after he took a 1-0 deficit into the third period against his quarterfinal opponent, Ohio’s No. 8 Cody Walters. James eventually lost 12-0. 

James won his consolation match, coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the third period. 

Along with DePalma, another last-second win came after fifth-year senior Tyler Buckwalter pinned Old Dominion University freshman Seldon Wright. 

Wright had a four-point lead with under a minute left when Buckwalter was able to get a two-point takedown. The coaches urged him to let Wright go to try to get another takedown, but Buckwalter attempted to turn him to at least get a two-second near fall to send it into overtime.

Instead, Buckwalter pinned Wright, joining Nye as the two Flashes with pins in day one.

“Tyler Buckwalter came back from a situation that wasn’t very good and wrestled hard,” Andrassy said. “He just lost to a guy that’s better than him in the semis.”

Seven Flashes are still alive in the tournament. McGuire, Buckwalter, James, Conel and Nye will compete in the consolation rounds in day two. Miller will be evaluated to see if his quest to get a national title stays alive.

As for DePalma, he’s the sole Kent State wrestler left that can take home a MAC title. 

“He’s had three great weeks of practice,” Andrassy said. “He’s got his weight under control. He’s one of those kids that I would not want to wrestle at the national tournament just because of how he can wrestle and the stuff he’s able to do when he’s on. When he’s on, he’s as good as anyone I’ve ever seen.” 

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