Tough decisions to be made as wrestling winds down its season


The Kent State wrestling team jogs at the start of practice in the M.A.C. Annex on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. The Flashes will take on Central Michigan University on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016.

Dan Armelli

With the help of a seven-match winning streak, the Kent State wrestling team is ahead of where it was last year after a 4-4 Mid-American Conference record. 

This year they’ve bounced back with a 6-1 MAC record as they get set to face Central Michigan, who is just below the Flashes at 5-1.

As Kent State looks to finish up its dual schedule with two duals on Sunday, they’ll still be sorting out at least two weight classes that have been fluid throughout the year: 174 pounds and heavyweight.

Fifth-year senior Mike Vollant has held down the starting position at 174 pounds, but sophomore Jairod James has gotten a couple starts the past few weeks and has won both of them.

“We know (Vollant) is really consistent,” head coach Jim Andrassy said. “We know that regardless of what (situation) we throw him in, we know what we’re going to get from him.”

“On the complete opposite you have Jairod, who hasn’t been consistent this whole year. These last two matches he’s wrestled really well.”

James won his first two career conference starts against Old Dominion and Northern Iowa. Even with these two wins under his belt, his bold expectation that he made at a team meeting hasn’t changed.

“I said I wanted to be a national champion,” James said. “Now that I’m starting, it just pushes me to want it even more. I want to go after it now that I’ve got these wins at a higher weight class. I know I can wrestle these guys, and I can beat them.”

James was bumped up from 165 pounds but has been able to adapt quicker than other wrestles whose adjustment period understandably takes more time.

“I really feel like it’s my style,” James said. “I think I do well against heavier guys. I like to just wrestle in any situation. Guys are a little bit stronger, but that’s college wrestling. Everybody’s going to be strong. You just wrestle.”

Andrassy said it will be a difficult decision who to start at the MAC Tournament, but that it’s a great position to be in since he feels both Vollant and James can make him happy.

“You’ve got a guy that’s been Mr. Faithful the whole year (in Vollant),” Andrassy said. “He’s been around for five years. You’ve got a new guy who wants to get in the starting lineup, which is what you want.”

In the heavyweight class, sophomore Stephen Suglio began the year as the starter after moving up from 197 pounds. In recent weeks, Andrassy has been trying to find the right matchups, between Suglio and redshirt freshman Devin Nye, which best suits the Flashes.

“Typically how it’s been going, they usually put Devin in against the bigger guys so I’m not giving up so much weight,” Suglio said. “I typically do better against the faster, more mobile guys. As far as the MAC Tournament goes, we will have a wrestle-off in order to determine who’s going to (start).”

Suglio lost to redshirt freshman Kyle Conel at Kent State’s wrestle-off before the regular season for the starting 197-pound position. However, Suglio said he feels like he’s beginning to settle into this weight division. It showed on Saturday when he took a 3-3 tie into the third period with Northern Iowa’s No. 16 Blaize Cabell.

“I think these past couple of weeks have actually been really good for my mentality because I feel like I’m right there,” he said. “I’m hanging with ranked guys. I just have got to tweak a couple things. But I feel that next year I will be steps ahead of where I am now. 

The Flashes will wrestle Central Michigan and Edinboro in their last duals of the season at 1 p.m. Sunday at the M.A.C. Center.