Miller wins wrestling championship at Navy Classic

Richie Mulhall

Sophomore Ian Miller was crowned champion in the 157-lb. division as the Kent State wrestling team placed fourth out of 14 schools at the 36th annual Navy Classic in Annapolis, Md., on Saturday.

Miller went 5-0 on the day with three first-period pins in his first three matches inside Wesley Brown Field House. He won his semifinal bout via major decision (14-7) and closed out his day by defeating top-seeded Isaac Jordan.

Jordan was ranked No. 6 according to InterMat’s college rankings in the 157-lb. division, while Miller was only ranked No. 12.

“His final match was the best I’ve ever seen him wrestle,” Kent State Coach Jim Andrassy said of Miller’s hard-fought victory. “In that match, he gave up a 4-point takedown and he made a mistake, and he still came back and ended up winning.

“That’s what I’m happiest about, that something bad happened to him in the match and he went on and won anyways.”

Andrassy said some of the wrestlers on this young team are still slowly learning “the difference between youth and doing the right thing.” He explained this notion when he contrasted Miller’s grinding, come-from-behind win to sophomore Cole Baxter’s loss in the 197-lb. bracket.

In his quarterfinal match, Baxter was winning with 20 seconds left but was called with stalling three times. He ended up losing that match, and his opponent reached the finals.

“We did alright,” Andrassy said about his team’s overall performance. “(But) decision-making isn’t where I want it to be as far as within a match.”

Andrassy said the squad needs to improve its “common-sense wrestling.”

Even though Kent State finished the Navy Classic in fourth place with 95.5 points, Andrassy said some of the younger guys still need to work on their fundamentals, including securing takedowns, performing one-leg takedowns, relaxing on the edge of the mat.

“There are certain things in wrestling you just can’t teach, and some of our guys still don’t know how to do those things yet, and that’s kind of frustrating because most of these kids have been wrestling a long time,” Andrassy said. “It makes the (teaching) process a little longer, but, in the same sense, they are all younger kids, so it’s just part of what we have to do.”

Along with Miller, four other Flashes had standout showings at the Navy Classic. Sophomores Mack McGuire (133 lbs.), Michael DePalma (157) and Sam Wheeler (184) and junior Tyler Small (149) all seized third place in their respective weight divisions.

McGuire and DePalma each went 5-1 on the day. In the 133-lb. consolation final, which determines which wrestlers will take home third, fourth and fifth places, McGuire earned a 12-0 major decision to claim third place. His only loss of the tournament was against No. 2 Tyler Graff of Wisconsin.

In the 149-lb. bracket, DePalma kicked off his day strongly with a 20-12 first-round shellacking and major-decision victory. He failed to get to the finals when he got pinned by Navy’s Alex Johnson just 2:13 into his semifinal match.

“He got in a scramble and held onto a position too long when he should have released it, and he ended up getting pinned,” Andrassy said. “Those are the common-sense things we’re talking about.”

After a first-round bye and a second-round 14-6 major-decision win, Small’s only loss of the day in the 149-lb. bracket came in the semifinals against top-seeded Richard Durso of Franklin & Marshall.

Small fell to Durso 5-2 but bounced back in his consolation bout and won the third-place match by a narrow 7-6.

Switching gears to the heavier 184-lb. weight class, Wheeler only lost once and went 14-4 in his consolation final to pick up the major-decision win and third-place victory.

Andrassy said Wheeler suffered from a head cold, congestion and an injured knee but fought hard through the illness and injury and “still had a pretty good tournament.”

At 125 lbs., sophomore Alfredo Grey picked up some points for his team, going 5-3 with three major decisions en route to a sixth-place finish.

Kent State will wrestle its home opener inside the M.A.C. Center on Saturday, Dec. 7 at noon, to take on Mid-American Conference opponent Buffalo. Andrassy said he expects to see all 10 starters on the mat for this dual, including sophomore 165-pounder Tyler Buckwalter, who recently had surgery on his knee, and junior 174-pounder Caleb Marsh, who did not compete at Navy because of an injury.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].