Flashes send seven qualifiers to national wrestling tournament

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Freshman Ian Miller wrestles down Central Michigan’s Joey Kielbasa during the Jan. 29 meet at the M.A.C. Center. Miller won the match by major decision. Kent State beat Central Michigan 22-13. Photo by Anthony Vence.

Tim Dorst

The road to nationals

Daily Kent Stater photographers followed KSU wrestlers as they prepared for nationals.

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How to follow the match

Ty Linder will provide live audio from St. Louis. Live audio for every Kent State match can be heard on KentStateSports.com with Ty Linder.

ESPN3.com will provide a four-screen, four-mat video stream throughout the tournament.

On Friday, two of the four quarterfinals and the semifinals will be televised on ESPNU in a revised side-by-side format. Viewers will be able to watch two matches at the same time.

ESPNU will also televise Saturday’s medal round, while the championship finals can be seen on ESPN.

The Daily Kent Stater’s wrestling reporter Tim Dorst will also give a daily recap of the tournament until its Saturday conclusion. His recaps and updates can be found over spring break on KentWired.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimmyD_DKS for updates.

The NCAA wrestling championships begin Thursday night in St. Louis, Mo., and Kent State will be represented more this year than ever before.

Seven Flashes earned spots in the three-day national tournament, setting a school record for NCAA qualifiers. The tournament will start Thursday and continue into Friday with the finals being held Saturday.

Kent State has had recent success in the national tournament, with the Flashes’ Dustin Kilgore winning a national championship in the 197-pound weight class last year. Coach Jim Andrassy said he is excited about what this tournament will mean for the wrestlers and for the program.

“It shows that our program is doing the right thing and wrestling the right teams,” Andrassy said. “It’s important for our guys, and it’s important for recruits to know they’re going to get the opportunities to get to the national tournament.”

Andrassy said he feels that any or all of the qualifying grapplers could be All-Americans.

“I think if they believe in themselves and believe in what they do, they all have a chance,” Andrassy said. “Anything could happen down there. I’ve seen kids with .500 records win All-American and go all the way to the finals. So, it’s just believing in what you do.”

Senior Nic Bedelyon certainly believes in what he can do as he prepares to compete in his fourth NCAA tournament. Bedelyon suffered only his fourth loss of the season at the MAC tournament, but he said he has put that loss behind him.

“I had a little setback at the MAC tournament, but it doesn’t mean anything right now,” Bedelyon said. “Right now, it’s all about believing, and I believed five years ago when I got here that I could be a national champ. That’s my number one goal right now, so I’m just going to give it all I’ve got and hope it goes well.”

Bedelyon, who wrestles in the 125-pound weight class, will have the No. 5 seed in the tournament. He said he thinks becoming national champion would be the icing on the cake.

“It would be the best feeling in the world,” Bedelyon said. “Just for everything that I’ve worked for for 19 years to come to an end and to be standing on top. Who gets to say they did that?”

Three of the Flashes’ seven qualifiers are heading to the tournament for the first time. Senior Casey Newburg, who had a regular season record of 29-11 at the 184-pound class, received a last-minute at-large bid after his solid performance at the MAC tournament.

“I’m just relieved that I’m able to get the chance to go there and compete,” Newburg said. “I definitely have my sights set on becoming an All-American. That’s been my goal since the beginning of the year and even since I first came to Kent State.”

Newburg said winning a national championship would mean everything to him.

“That’s every little kid’s dream in wrestling,” Newburg said. “It would mean the world to me.”

Senior Mallie Shuster also received an at-large bid after placing third in the MAC tournament at the 157-pound weight class. Shuster said he feels like he’s living on borrowed time, but said he is going to make the most of it.

“Those sports are spread out across the conferences, so your goal is to go into the conference tournament and try to win one of those spots,” Shuster said. “When I found out I got one of the bids, I was just really relieved. It’s a huge opportunity.”

Shuster, who compiled a record of 26-15 this season, said there weren’t any word that could describe what a national championship would mean to him.

“That would just be huge,” Shuster said. “When I won a state championship in high school, that was just the pinnacle of everything I’d worked to achieve since I was eight years old. To do the same thing at this level, that would be insanely amazing.”

True freshman Ian Miller, who has had an outstanding year for the Flashes, will also have the No. 5 seed in the 149-pound class. Miller said he’s very excited about the opportunity to win a national title so early in his career.

“To win one as young as I am, a lot of kids don’t get a chance to do that as a freshman,” Miller said. “I’m just going to make the most of it, believe in my training and go out there and do it.”

Seniors Brendan Barlow and Keith Witt also earned qualifying spots in the tournament. Barlow, wrestling in the heavyweight division, will receive the No. 10 seed, while Witt, competing in the 197-pound class, will have a first-round bye.

Sophomore Tyler Small qualified for his second NCAA tournament, claiming the No. 12 seed in the 141-pound class bracket.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected] or @TimmyD_DKS