Wrestler Matt Cathell overcome previous year struggles to top MAC standings

Matt Cathell in his pajamas. Photo by Dana Beveridge.

Matt Cathell in his pajamas. Photo by Dana Beveridge.

Alex Atkinson

Senior Matt Cathell put Northern Illinois’ Bryan Deutsch on his back three different times for a 12-4 major decision, his third in just as many weeks. By upsetting the No. 1 wrestler in the Mid-American Conference at 157, Cathell finds himself atop the list for next weekend.

Things were not always this easy for Cathell. Kent State coach Jim Andrassy nearly cut him from the team last year.

Cathell transferred from Delaware State to Kent State two years ago after the Hornets cut their wrestling program. The transition to Kent State nearly wiped Cathell out of school. Miserable trying to make weight, frustrated watching his grade point average drop and tired of arguing with Andrassy, Cathell was ready to retire from wrestling and transfer back to Delaware State.

“A lot of stuff went bad, like my weight and my grades,” Cathell said. “I pretty much dropped everything. I had a 3.6 (grade point average) at Delaware State and I came here and it went to a 1.9. Coach and I had a lot of arguments and a lot of fights. We just butted heads a lot.”

Andrassy said he was not ready to watch one of his top recruits walk out the door just yet. He met with Cathell one last time.

“I felt that it was our job to get him to graduate,” Andrassy said. “If I kicked him off the team, took his scholarship money, he wouldn’t have graduated from Kent State. Ultimately when he said he wanted to come back, I had to figure out what I should do as a coach. What was my purpose of bringing him here? Was it to wrestle for me or to get a degree? So, we gave him another chance, told him he could go up another weight class, and he’s closer to how we do things as a team.”

Cathell said the second chance sparked his motivation not to give up.


“Pajama Pant Man” got his nickname from Flowrestling.org last season when the organization came to Kent State three different times. Each time, Cathell was wearing his pajama pants. The next Flashes’ match streamed on Flowrestling.org, Cathell was introduced as Pajama Pant Man.

“I just always wear (pajama pants),” Cathell said. “I used to always wear them to practice. Coaches are trying to do this thing where you can’t wear sweats and stuff because we’re trying to cut weight, but I think they’re a lot more comfortable than sweatpants. They slide when you go on the mat, so it helps scrambling. When the people from Flo came and they took videos and stuff, everyone was like, ‘Oh, he’s wearing pajama pants.’ And that’s where it started. I think they came three times and every time I was wearing different ones. I had Xbox ones and Superman ones, a different one every time.”

Pajama Pant Man is back in action Sunday, Feb. 6, at 1 p.m. in Buffalo against the Bulls’ No. 28 Mark Lewandowski.

“When coach met with me and gave me a second chance, it kind of made me a little more, ‘I better not mess it up this time,’” Cathell said.

Andrassy said he knew he needed Cathell and his unconventional wrestling style.

“We both needed each other – we just needed to figure out how to do it together instead of his idea and my idea and not seeing eye to eye on some things,” Andrassy said. “If we wanted to beat Central Michigan and some other teams, we needed (Cathell).”

Andrassy compared Cathell’s style of wrestling to a sidearm pitcher in baseball. Few can do it well.

“There’s other people that use it, but I’m not sure if there’s anyone that uses it like he does,” Andrassy said. “He doesn’t hit the traditional moves that you teach. He turns people into different positions. He puts himself in bad positions. He lets guys get in position and control him, then all of a sudden he’ll hip out of it.”

With this style, Cathell has the ability to go out and surprise his opponents.

“I think I’ve beaten a lot of guys that are better than me just for the fact that it’s different and they’re not sure what to do,” Cathell said. “I wrestled a guy who came off the mat — and the guy was really good — but I beat him like 16-3. I just think a lot of super good guys aren’t prepared for it.”

Cathell said he sees his role and importance to this team.

“It’s my top goal to help the team win a MAC Championship and then make it to the NCAAs and hopefully All-American.”

Contact Alex Atkinson at [email protected].