Dustin Kilgore one win away from second NCAA title; becomes Kent State’s first three-time All-American

Richie Mulhall

Kent State wrestling’s fifth-year senior Dustin Kilgore is now one win away from claiming his second NCAA Championship and capping a perfect 44-0 season.

No. 1 seed Kilgore will return to the NCAA finals Saturday evening after securing a narrow 8-6 semifinal victory over Oregon State’s Taylor Meeks Friday night inside Wells Fargo Arena.

In the match, Kilgore took a commanding 4-1 early lead, but Meeks fought back with escapes and a takedown to even the score at five. A clutch reversal from Kilgore in the third period and the addition of riding time turned the tide back in Kilgore’s favor to help him secure the victory.

Kilgore attributed his pivotal third period reversal to his preference of being in the bottom position.

“Even though I was so dead tired, I feel pretty comfortable on the bottom,” Kilgore said in the press conference after his semifinal match. “I like to catch people, maybe turn them, get the reversal, but I have fun with it, I’m not always looking for that one-point escape. I like to go for the two[-point reversal], I get a little greedy sometimes so I just got after it.”

Earlier in the day, Kilgore became Kent State’s first three-time All-American when he shut out No. 8 seeded Micah Burak of Penn 7-0. Burak, the last person to defeat Kilgore back in 2010, was thrown to the mat early in the opening minute, allowed Kilgore a second-period escape and never posed a threat to Kilgore for the remainder of the match.

Now 43-0, the top-seeded Flash will face No. 2 seed Quentin Wright of Penn State in the championship round. Wright also seeks to preserve a perfect record, currently standing at 31-0.

Kilgore said he plans on approaching his match with Wright the same way he approached his match with Burak.

“I’m gonna try to stick with the same game plan and stay low and try not to reach too much,” Kilgore said. “And just stay aggressive and in the space and keep attacking.”

Fellow fifth-year senior Stevie Mitcheff won Friday’s opener in dramatic fashion before falling to No. 5 seeded Jarod Garnett of Virginia Tech.

Mitcheff’s gripping 7-5 overtime win in a second victory over North Carolina State’s Joe DeAngelo allowed Mitcheff to live to wrestle another match Friday. Unfortunately in Mitcheff’s second match against Garnett, a pair of earlier first-period takedowns proved too difficult for Mitcheff to surmount, resulting in an 8-4 loss. Mitcheff closed his final Kent State season with a 30-13 record.

True freshman Mack McGuire’s first NCAA Championships run ended Friday with a rough 7-2 loss to No. 9 seed Levi Wolfensperger of Northern Iowa.

Saturday’s final championship begins at 8 p.m. on ESPN beginning with the 174-pound bout. Kilgore and Wright’s match will be the third match of the night.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].