The Road to 126

Rachel Jones

Mitcheff looks to tie wins record

Just outside the wrestling locker room, sophomore Dustin Kilgore yelled, “Danny Mitcheff, national champ! Danny Mitcheff, best wrestler in the world!”

While that may be the opinion of many members of the Kent State wrestling team, Mitcheff himself would never admit it. Even with a record of 28-3 this season, the soft-spoken senior lets his dominance on the mat speak for itself.

“I’m not a very vocal person, so I think I lead more by example,” Mitcheff said. “I just try to do all the right things.”

Laing Kennedy, the athletic director for Kent State, said Mitcheff politely greets him every morning on his way to practice.

“In my opinion, he just does about his business,” Kennedy said. “He’s not pizazzy like, ‘Hey, look at me.’ He wrestles for the team.”

The road to 126

With 125 wins in his collegiate career, Mitcheff, ranked 10th in the nation at 133 pounds, needs just one more victory to tie Alex Camargo’s record for the most in the program’s history.

“It wasn’t really a big goal, but I’m happy I have a chance to break it,” Mitcheff said. “I’m proud of myself (for putting) a lot of hard work into wrestling.”

For Kennedy, any Kent State athlete who sets a new record reflects on the athletic program as a whole.

“You say to yourself, ‘This is why we do this,’” Kennedy said. “I’m proud of Danny, who has a chance to break the all-time school record, which is very unusual because of the history and traditions of Kent State wrestling. He’d be one of our really outstanding student-athletes, at least in my time here.”

With the Mid-American Conference Championships this weekend, Mitcheff will have a chance to tie and even break the record. But this is not Mitcheff’s first attempt at getting his name in the record books.

Last Sunday, Mitcheff lost 3-2 to Central Michigan’s seventh-ranked Scotti Sentes (17-5).

Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said Mitcheff has been working all week in practice to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistakes again.

“Against Central Michigan, he didn’t wrestle his style; he didn’t wrestle his pace,” Andrassy said. “The other kid set the pace and in return, he didn’t have the best match.”

Mitcheff said he has been watching the video of the match to prepare for a rematch with Sentes if the two wrestlers meet again.

“I know I didn’t win, but I think losing kind of helped me figure out a better gameplan for wrestling against (Sentes),” he said. “I’ll definitely try to get more offense going in the first period. Every time I lose, I think I learn something different.”

How it all started

Mitcheff started wrestling when he was 5 years old and the rest is history.

“My dad got me started when I was really young,” Mitcheff said. “I played other sports, but I just felt like I was the best at wrestling and stuck with that.”

Danny grew up wrestling with his brother, Steve, who is also a member of Kent State’s wrestling team. Steve said one of the reasons he chose Kent State was to wrestle with his brother.

“(Danny) said he liked it and that it was a good program,” Steve said. “He’s been here for four years, so he showed me the ropes.”

This year the brothers helped each other out, pushing each other during practice.

“We were drill partners this year,” Danny said. “He makes me work hard and it’s fun. We’re always competing against each other and trying to make each other better.”

Danny laughed when he said he could beat Steve in a match, but then gave his brother credit.

“He’s tough,” Danny said. “He has better credentials than me from high school. I think he’ll do really well if he stays focused.”

When Danny wrestled for Elyria High School, he went to state championships his freshman and sophomore years while winning it his senior year. He said he was not heavily recruited out of high school due to an injury he suffered in his junior year.

“A couple of schools wanted me, like Ashland and Ohio University,” Mitcheff said. “But I came on a visit here and liked it a lot. It was close to home, so it was a good fit.”

Andrassy, who recruited Mitcheff, said he chose him because of his strong offensive attack and advice from his previous wrestling coach.

“I knew his high school coach really well, and (he) kept pushing him my way,” Andrassy said. “He told me he was a good kid with a good character and work ethic.”

‘I’m not even sure what all I’ve won’

During his time at Kent State, Mitcheff has won several titles and awards even he could not remember them all. Some standout moments include last year’s MAC Championship and a second-place finish in the conference tournament his sophomore year. He was even named MAC Wrestler of the Tournament last season.

“If my career is half as good as that, I’ll be happy,” Steve said. “I see that, and it makes me want to do good in wrestling, too.”

Mitcheff said he hopes this success continues as he prepares for the MAC Championships this weekend.

“My goal is to win the tournament and if I get the record, then I have the wins,” he said.

After the three-time national qualifier fell one match short of earning All-American last year, he said his ultimate goal this year is to win the NCAA Championship.

Andrassy said Mitcheff’s strong work ethic could help him accomplish that goal.

“I think when Danny wrestles his best, he can beat anyone in the country,” Andrassy said. “I firmly believe that, and Danny believes that.

“Everything he has in life is because he worked hard, not because it was given to him. He’s got a lot of talent, but he works hard. That’s why he’s so successful.”

Contact sports reporter

Rachel Jones at

[email protected].