Baxter looks to continue Kilgore’s success



Ben Woolf, an international ambassador for Alpha Epsilon Pi from England (left), and Kent State senior physical education major Matthew Weaver (right) participate in a latke eating contest at AEPi’s annual LatkeFest at Hillel on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. Woolf defeated Weaver with a tie breaker, consuming a total of nine latke cakes. All of the fifth annual festival’s funds will go to Save a Child’s Heart, a cause that benefits children in need of transplants. Photo by Jenna Watson.

Richie Mulhall

Last season, the Kent State wrestling team had arguably the best pound-for-pound wrestler in all of collegiate wrestling.

Dustin Kilgore was a 2011 NCAA champion, three-time All-American and all-around wrestling phenomenon. A fifth-year senior at the time, Kilgore wrestled his way into the program’s history books, becoming Kent State wrestling’s all-time victories leader (178) and finished his season with a near-perfect record of 43-1. His 43-win 2012-2013 season also broke the program’s single season record for wins, which was set by the man himself back in 2011.

Kilgore was never a stranger to breaking records during his illustrious collegiate career.

Last season, Kilgore broke Kent State’s single-season record for pins (18) and career pins (50). During his time as a student-athlete, he maintained a 61-match NCAA winning streak and a 65-dual-match winning streak as well.

Some collegiate athletes are really hard to replace when they graduate from a university, but Kent State senior wrestler Cole Baxter is definitely going to give it a shot.

This season, Baxter will be taking on the role of starting 197-pounder for the Flashes, the position that was occupied last season by Kilgore.

Needless to say, Baxter has some pretty big shoes to fill, but he is more than up to the task at hand.

“I’m excited for it,” Baxter said about getting the starting nod at 197 this season. “I’ve been waiting to be a starter for two years, so I just hope I can stay healthy and get things rolling.”

Now that Kilgore is gone, the torch has been passed to Baxter, the future of Kent State wrestling at the 197 position.

Flashes Coach Jim Andrassy said Baxter is not necessarily “replacing” Kilgore, but he will become a crucial member of the 10-man starting lineup this 2013-2014 season as Kent State pursues a Mid-American Conference championship in March.

“I don’t know if anyone will ever replace Dustin, but maybe if he’ll do well enough he’ll make us forget about Dustin for a little bit,” Andrassy said. “I think that’s the hope for him in that position.

“I don’t think he’s letting the pressure of Dustin get to him; I just think he wants to be good and do the best he can.”

Taking over for Kilgore might seem like a tall order for any man to undertake, but Baxter said after being behind Kilgore and learning from him for two seasons, he is ready to take up the mantle his predecessor left for him.

“I am looking forward to getting back into the grind of wrestling,” Baxter said. “I had the whole year off because of my knee, so I miss competing. I am looking forward to getting back on the wrestling schedule, competing and winning.”

Baxter is finally getting his window of opportunity this season after he was sidelined with an injury last season. He tore his lateral meniscus at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season against Ohio State and was unable to perform.

“It was real devastating and I was out the whole year,” Baxter said. “I was out the whole year, couldn’t wrestle, couldn’t do much and didn’t really get back into it until the summer.”

Baxter underwent surgery in late November of 2012 and has been on the long road to recovery ever since. It was difficult and frustrating for Baxter to watch his teammates achieve success as he looked on from the bench.

“It’s tough just sitting on a(n) (exercise) bike all day and watching people wrestle,” Baxter said. “It’s easy, but it’s boring.”

Baxter was eager to jump back into the action.

After many months of waiting, training and getting back into wrestling shape, Baxter is back on the mat and ready to take the 197-pound division by storm.

Andrassy said the coaching staff is trying to get Baxter an Olympic redshirt to get back the year of eligibility he lost due to his injury, which will take time to pass through the NCAA.

Even though Baxter is still getting the feel for wrestling again, at 6-3 so far this season, he is right in the mix. On Saturday at the Eastern Michigan Duals, he went undefeated in three matches, one of which included a 17-0 technical fall against Gardner-Webb.

“Hopefully by the end of the year he’ll get into prime shape,” Andrassy said. “He’s probably about a few months behind because of the injury, so hopefully by February he’ll be wrestling on all cylinders and be as good as we think he can be.”

Baxter said his knee does not hurt at all and is 100 percent healed, but he still has to train hard make up the time he lost last season.

“I think I am a little bit rusty, but every day I shake some of it off,” Baxter said. “It’s just a growing process, I guess.”

Hoping to achieve great things in his comeback season, Baxter said he still wants to win the MAC and become an All-American, even this season coming back from injury.

Injury damaged Baxter’s body, but it didn’t wound his drive to succeed. That’s for certain.

“I don’t wrestle to lose. Hopefully, I can pick things up a little bit and get to where I want to be by the end of the season.”

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected] .