Men’s wrestling prepares for MAC tournament

A..J. Atkinson

Central Michigan has claimed the Mid-American Conference Tournament title the past nine years.

Jim Andrassy, Kent State wrestling head coach, said the Chippewas would not win a tenth.

“It hasn’t been won by a team other than Central in 12 (of the past 13) years,” Andrassy said. “We have the ability to break that.”

Andrassy said Kent State is going to win the title this year because the team has a more active coaching staff than in the past, and the Flashes sit well based on the coaches’ poll.

According to the most recent MAC rankings for each weight class, Kent State wrestlers are ranked first in four of the ten weight classes. Only three Central Michigan wrestlers are ranked first.

If the Flashes win the four matches they are predicted to win, Kent State will win the tournament.

“If everyone can place to where they’re seeded, we’re probably going to have six to seven national qualifiers and we’ll win the tournament,” Andrassy said.

Andrassy acknowledged upsets always happen in tournaments — it just depends who and when. If one of Kent State’s wrestlers is upset, Andrassy expects a lower-ranked wrestler, or a wrestler unranked altogether, such as sophomore Chase Skonieczny, to step up and pull off an upset.

“It’s going to come down to a guy taking third instead of fourth — a guy taking second instead of third,” Andrassy said. “A guy like (Brendan) Barlow might have to go in and upset (Jared) Trice again to win the tournament like he did last year.”

The wrestlers do not know whom they will face until late Friday night based on the way the tournament is organized. Yet they have wrestled each possible opponent at some point this season during conference play, so they have an idea of who they need to beat to win their weight class.

Andrassy said No. 1 junior Nic Bedelyon just needs to wrestle his style.

“If Bedelyon wrestles his style, he should roll through this tournament as far as bonus points,” Andrassy said. “We expect a lot of bonus points from him.”

At 133, Andrassy said the Flashes’ No. 3 freshman Tyler Small needs to return to the wrestling dominance he had earlier in the season, when he beat current No. 2 Kevin Smith from Buffalo, 15-8. Small also has the pressure of knowing if he wins the tournament, he will qualify for the national tournament.

The 141 lb-class is the only weight class that does not contain a ranked Kent State wrestler.

Junior Marcel Clopton is ranked fourth in the 149 lb-class. He did not wrestle the No. 3 Brad Squire this year, but lost 4-2 to No. 1 Desi Green and 4-1 to No. 2 Donnie Corby in the regular season.

Clopton said he is prepared for this weekend.

“I’ve wrestled my best these last few weeks, so I just need to get it done,” Clopton said.

Senior Matt Cathell sits at No. 1 of the 157 lb-class. Andrassy said he cannot offer anything about Cathell other than “hopefully his funk will work the second time around.”

Cathell said he is most worried about No. 4 Casey Gordon from Ohio University.

“He kept it close with me,” Cathell said of their earlier matchup. “I didn’t get a takedown until late in the match. I’m going to try and get the takedown earlier this time, so I can get a good lead and not have to worry about him getting a takedown at the end.”

Junior Ross Tice is ranked second in the tournament behind Central Michigan’s Mike Miller. In order to win the tournament, Tice will most likely have to beat Miller, who defeated him 8-2 two weekends ago.

Tice said he has practiced new techniques solely for facing Miller.

“He did a lot of things that I fixed throughout this week,” Tice said. “He grabs my wrists and likes to pull them a lot. I need to not just pull straight back and make it look like I’m stalling. I need to pull it across my body and then take shots.”

Freshman Brandonn Johnson will have to get by Ohio’s No. 1 Nick Purdue in order to win the tournament.

“BJ is going to have to upset over the OU guy,” Andrassy said. “If he upsets him, he’ll go to the national tournament. He’s capable. The way the bracket should work, he’ll get in at a good timeline for an upset.”

Andrassy said No. 1 sophomore Casey Newburg should be fine as long as he stays aggressive and does not play too much defense.

“Newburg has to have a lot more intensity and offense,” Andrassy said. “He needs to attack more and score more points. He has great defense. Sometimes he just doesn’t go enough offensively to score many points.”

At 197, Andrassy said he is expecting junior No. 1 Dustin Kilgore to pin the three wrestlers he will face.

“We’re hoping he wrestles three guys and gets three pins, because that right there could be the tournament,” Andrassy said. “Sometimes he doesn’t like it we pressure him a bit, but if he wants to get a ring or a team championship, he’s got to go out and get six points.”

Kilgore said he ignores Andrassy’s comment to pin each opponent.

“Every match I go out there, he tells me I should get a pin,” Kilgore said. “A win’s a win. That’s what I’m going for. Looking to dominate and looking for a win, but not looking for that pin every time.”

Barlow said he feels ready for a rematch against Trice and No. 3 Jeremy Johnson from Ohio. Barlow said he was sick both times he matched Johnson and Trice.

“The two toughest guys there are athletic and move around just like I do, so I just need to limit my errors and should be fine,” Barlow said.

The MAC Tournament begins at 1 p.m. Saturday in DeKalb, Illinois.

Contact A.J. Atkinson at [email protected].