Wrestling coming off productive bye week


Members of the Kent State wrestling team run drills during practice in the M.A.C. Annex on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. The team will take on Northern Illinois University on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016.

Dan Armelli

The Kent State wrestling team took some time off last week while also focusing on areas that they normally wouldn’t be able to.

“The one thing that’s different is you don’t have to worry about your weight,” said Tyler Buckwalter, fifth-year senior and 165-pounder. “You can get in (the wrestling room) and work really hard all week. You don’t have to worry about wearing sweat clothes and stuff like that. You just get in there and get after it. It’s a good week to recoup on your body.”

Buckwalter, who is 17-9 on the year, was able to crack the first NCAA coaches’ poll two weeks ago at No. 31. He’s also won multiple academic awards the past two years and has worked as treasurer on Kent State’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

As for how he’s able to balance both sports and academics, he said the key is having good time management skills and consistent priorities.  

“This semester I’m student teaching so I’m at school every day until (2 p.m.),” Buckwalter said. “Then I come here and go to practice. Then I have to go home and do my lesson plan. I don’t have a lot of free time to myself. But that’s fine… You just have to get your priorities how you want them.”

Even still, Buckwalter deferred the “smartest guy on the team” label to his teammates.

“I think (fifth-year senior, 174-pounder) Mike Vollant is probably the smartest kid on the team,” Buckwalter said. “(Sophomore heavyweight) Stephen Suglio is really smart, too … I’m kind of a nerd. I just work hard and try to get the best grades.”

Fellow fifth-year senior and 149-pounder Mike DePalma said he spent the bye week trying to improve the little areas.

“(I worked on) trying to bring out the best in me,” he said. “The improvement time of the year is over. It’s just kind of putting your best performance together.”

Coach Jim Andrassy said DePalma “is as hot and as cold a wrestler you’ll ever find.”

DePalma said the key to staying consistent is to take the pressure out of the situation, so his wrestling can take over instead of his mind.

“I think there’s more discipline in my lifestyle this year compared to other years,” DePalma said. “And I think there’s just so much more realization that this is our last run.”

DePalma is one of six current starters who will graduate after this season. Fortunately, he said, this year the team is really enjoying wrestling and being around each other. He credits multiple things to the team being able to gel so well in his last year. 

“We play dodgeball before almost every workout this year,” DePalma said. “That alone lightens up the mood going into practice. They brought Drew Lashaway (former two-time NCAA qualifier with Kent State) in, who is an amazing coach… It’s our senior year, too. We’re just having fun with each other and enjoying our last run because we’re almost done with college.”

 Redshirt freshman heavyweight, 285-pounder Devin Nye spent the bye week trying to improve two areas.

 “I was trying to work on my technique a little bit,” he said. “I thought my shots were getting a little sloppy. Conditioning was also a big issue.”

Nye replaced Suglio, who was bumped up from 197 pounds to replace an injured Mimmo Lytle. Nye was able to get his first MAC dual win against rival Ohio University and came away with a pin against Old Dominion University.

Nye said his confidence is better now than at the beginning of the year with the lineup change.

“It’s a little confidence booster,” Nye said. “Now it’s like, ‘I’m the starter. Let’s go,’ instead of ‘Am I actually going to start this week? Do they have confidence in me this week?’ It’s nice having the confidence.”

The Flashes will be on the road Feb. 5 and 6 against MAC opponents Northern Illinois University (on ESPN3) and University of Northern Iowa.