MAC Wrestling Tournament day two: Mike DePalma wins MAC Title


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

One day after upsetting University of Missouri’s top-seed No. 4 Lavion Mayes, Kent State’s fifth-year senior Mike DePalma did it again, this time to extend the Flashes’ streak to 11-straight years with at least one Mid-American Conference champion.

DePalma beat Central Michigan University’s two seed No. 7 Justin Oliver to win the 149-pound MAC title.

“This is what we came here to do,” DePalma said. “We came here with the mentality to win this tournament. Regardless of winning it or taking fifth place, it was just a stepping-stone to get to nationals.”

Although DePalma was the sole title winner for Kent State, it’s not something he will spend much time thinking about.

“This tournament is in the past already,” he said. “It’s nothing now. As soon as my hand got raised, it’s already forgotten about.”

All season-long DePalma and coach Jim Andrassy have brought up the need for DePalma to stay consistent and get hot at the right moment. DePalma, beating the top two seeds in the tournament, did both this weekend.

“I think he wrestled two perfect matches; semifinals and the finals – to get him in that position,” Andrassy said. “It’s the best he’s ever looked. It’s the right time to look that way.”

DePalma credited his on-the-mat consistency to his consistency in preparation.

“I’ve been dieting right,” he said. “We’ve been training right, sleeping right and eating right.”

DePalma picked up the slack after fifth-year senior Ian Miller, who suffered his first loss of the season via medical default, didn’t wrestle in day two, putting him in sixth place.

“We’re a team here, but we still have got to worry about our own matches,” DePalma said. “It sucks to see your teammate lose or somebody go down. But you’ve got to get refocused and ready to roll the same round or the next round or whenever it is so that it doesn’t affect you.”

Kent State finished in fourth place after a pin bye redshirt freshman heavyweight Devin Nye put the team ahead of the University of Northern Iowa by two points. The Flashes finished a half point behind arch-rival Ohio University for third place. 

Nye was able pin Eastern Michigan University’s Gage Hutchison twice in the tournament, the second time in the match for third place.

Also earning third place was senior 133-pounder Mack McGuire, bouncing back after his quarterfinal loss.

“Before, I don’t think he believed he could wrestle hurt until somewhere in the middle of that Northern Iowa match,” Andrassy said. “(McGuire) said, ‘I can do this. I can make this happen.’ It was just about believing in himself.”

McGuire and DePalma earned automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. Joining them is redshirt freshman 197-pounder Kyle Conel, who needed to win his final match to earn a trip to Madison Square Garden.

Conel lost his first match of day two to Northern Illinois University’s Shawn Scott in overtime, but bounced back to outscore University at Buffalo’s James Benjamin, whom he beat in the quarterfinals.

“His match against Scott, it was the worst match I’ve seen him wrestle all year,” Andrassy said. “It went into overtime and he didn’t do anything, and he let them control the mat… The Buffalo one, he didn’t wrestle his match, but he ended up winning it.”

Sophomore 165-pounder Jairod James took fourth place after being pinned by Ohio’s Cody Walters. James went 2-2 after winning Kent State’s wrestle-off last weekend.

Fifth-year senior Tyler Buckwalter finished in fifth place, also going 2-2 in the tournament.

Buckwalter and Miller will wait to find out if they receive an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

“We had a great final round. Our young guys have got to learn and our older guys are done at this point,” Andrassy. “The Miller thing stings us all… We’ll have to see what he wants to do at the national tournament. He could go there and if he has the same type of demeanor attitude, he’s going to end up going 0-2. If he goes out there and does what we all know what he’s capable of and gets his mind right, I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

DePalma will still be going home with some impressive hardware, though it’s not the one he wants.

“The national title is the trophy I want,” DePalma said. “We’re going to take it day-by-day. I’m not focused on nationals yet. I’m focused on tomorrow; recovering and training.”

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