Miller advances to quarterfinals of NCAA Wrestling Championships

Dan Armelli

It was just another eventful day for Kent State’s fifth-year senior Ian Miller at the NCAA Wrestling Championships.

March Madness isn’t just for basketball. For Miller, the postseason madness seems to be par for the course at this point.

Miller will make his return to the NCAA Championships quarterfinals, where he lost last year because of an escape point not being put up.

History would have repeated itself, and head coach Jim Andrassy did not appreciate it.

“If you’re going to take us back to last year, it’s all about the (scoring) table,” Andrassy said. “The table has to get the calls, and they have to put it into the computer. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t show up. I’m glad two of the refs remembered it, but one didn’t. That’s why it became an issue.”

After The Citadel’s Aaron Walker was hit with a stalling, there was confusion of whether or not to give Miller a point. After the referees talked it over, they awarded Miller the point.

Miller ended up winning 9-4, so the point didn’t make a huge difference in the match, but Andrassy isn’t taking any chance after what happened last year.

“I hate to yell at people in the first match where it really didn’t matter, it didn’t matter in the big scheme of things, but at some point it’s going to matter,” Andrassy said. “Last year it mattered.”

Nonetheless, Miller came back in his second round match to face Iowa’s No. 13 seed Edwin Cooper Jr. The match didn’t last long.

“I wanted to ride him as long as I could,” Miller said. “When I felt him standing up, I knew I could go to my claw, and I turned him.”

Miller’s first period pin in the second round was the complete opposite way he got his victory in the first round. Both opponents were different, but both Miller didn’t even know he was wrestling until he stepped on the mat.

“I haven’t seen a bracket once,” Miller said. “I didn’t even know I was the No. 4 seed coming into today. (Associate head coach Matt Hill) just told me the name of the guy that I had. I still didn’t know who he was.”

Miller refuses to look at his opponent beforehand, and it’s been a successful formula.

“They watch tape, and they change the way they wrestle,” he said. “I don’t want to change the way I wrestle… I think you should go out there and wrestle the same style every match. If you’re going to change your style, I don’t see the point in wrestling.”

Three of Miller’s teammates advanced with him to the second round: senior 133-pounder Mack McGuire, fifth-year senior 149-pounder MAC champion Mike DePalma and redshirt freshman 197-pounder Kyle Conel in his nationals debut.

McGuire beat Michigan’s Rosario Bruno, who reached All-American status last year.

“It was a tough draw,” Andrassy said. “(McGuire) won. That’s all that matters. With this tournament, it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as your name advances.”

DePalma and Conel advanced over unseeded opponents, DePalma via major decision with riding time.

“(Purdue’s Alex Griffin) made some decent shots, and (DePalma) reacted the right way,” Andrassy said. “Sometimes you can tell by his reaction how he’s going to do, and he’s doing a lot of the right things right now. He got one of his tilts, which he hasn’t gotten in a while. He’s just wrestling real well right now.”

However, DePalma’s hot streak ended against Nebraska’s No. 7 seed Jake Sueflohn, dropping him to the consolation bracket.

McGuire and Conel also dropped to the consolation bracket after second round losses.

At one point Conel had a 4-1 lead over Penn State’s No. 1 seed Morgan McIntosh. However, McIntosh showed why he came into the tournament 29-0, pinning Conel in the third period.

Fifth-year senior Tyler Buckwalter was the only Kent State wrestler to lose his first round match, but he had the monumental task of facing Ohio State’s No. 3 seed Bo Jordan.

“‘Just go out and wrestle your hardest,’” on what he told Buckwalter before the match. “’Have fun. Enjoy the experience. Try to make something happen. Try to figure out a way to get him on his back and pin him.’”

Jordan pinned Buckwalter in the third period.

Buckwalter’s nationals debut didn’t end on a sour note, however, as he beat two-time MAC champion Northern Iowa’s Cooper Moore in the first consolation round.

All five Flashes are still alive in the tournament and will wrestle Friday. Miller is the last one left in the Championship bracket.

“I’m getting there,” Miller said. “The first match I had to get my legs under me. I wasn’t really feeling the greatest. I went back and slept a bunch, got some more food in me. I came back and I was ready to wrestle the next round.”

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