Wrestling sends five to NCAA Championships

Rachel Jones

Wrestling sends five to NCAA Championships

Wrestlers advance after conference championships

Heading into day two of the Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships with four wrestlers in title matches, the Kent State wrestling team had a series of upsets and emerged with five wrestlers advancing to the NCAA Championships.

The No. 16 Flashes placed second in the tournament this weekend with 73 points behind Central Michigan’s 94 points.

Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said he had mixed emotions about the tournament.

“We had five national qualifiers, so I’m pretty happy about that,” Andrassy said. “Overall, we were expected to get second, but it would have been nice to upset (Central Michigan).”

Senior Danny Mitcheff (30-3) dominated Central Michigan’s Scotti Sentes, ranked first in the MAC, winning 8-2. After Sentes beat him at the home match Feb. 21, Mitcheff said he was excited to win the rematch.

“I knew it was going to be tough just because he’s beaten me earlier,” Mitcheff said. “Losing’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes you learn from it, and I did and got the win because of it.”

Mitcheff, ranked eighth in the nation, took the 133-pound championship title, which advances him to the NCAA Championships.

“The biggest part was definitely winning against the guy I lost to before,” Mitcheff said. “I feel good about the win. It gave me more confidence.“

The upset set a new Kent State record for most career wins (127). For the second year in a row, the senior took home the award for the Most Outstanding MAC Wrestler. Andrassy said all of those accomplishments in just two days are minor to Mitcheff.

“This is just one step for Danny,” Andrassy said. “He’s wrestled about as well as I’ve ever seen him wrestle before. If he wrestles like he did in that last match, he could be a national champ, and that’s what he’s looking to do.”

In one of the closest matches of the tournament, sophomore Brendan Barlow, ranked 15th in the nation, upset Central Michigan’s Jarod Trice for the MAC title at 285 pounds. Barlow had only one word to describe the match: long.

“I was hurting,” Barlow said. “I went into it knowing I could win, but I didn’t really expect it to come down that far.”

The Central Michigan crowd roared through the nine overtime periods while the heavyweights battled for the MAC Championship title and a ticket to nationals.

Andrassy and Central Michigan coach Tom Borrelli argued over almost every call the referees made, but Barlow said he did not mind.

“I was getting really tired, so it was nice when the coaches would argue, and I caught my breath.”

In tiebreaker three, Barlow ended the 4-4 match by earning riding time advantage by three seconds.

“I was happy Barlow could hold off the way he did and stay calm,” Andrassy said. “(Trice) gets a little bit out of control sometimes.”

After defeating Trice, ranked third in the nation, Barlow expects a high seeding in the NCAA Championships. While his ultimate goal is to be an All-American, Barlow is currently focusing on getting healthy again.

“I was healthy all year until a week before this,” Barlow said. “I got sick right before this, and I pulled a muscle in my rib. Adrenaline is a pain killer, I guess.”

Sophomore Dustin Kilgore (33-1), ranked first in the nation, continued his winning streak at the tournament by defeating Ohio’s Nick Purdue by major decision, 13-5.

“I’m excited,” Kilgore said. “I was able to get a major (decision) in each of my matches. I came in here and wasn’t really expecting that.”

Ranked first in the MAC, Kilgore said he did not know what to expect at this tournament.

“I use the same strategy for each match, but (this weekend) I wasn’t going out like I usually do,” Kilgore said. “I was just going crazy. I actually had to step back a little bit. Just because you’re seeded first, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I went out there and got the job done.”

As the 184-pound champion, Kilgore automatically advances to nationals.

“I’ve been sick lately, but once I get past that, I’ll be 100 percent,” Kilgore said. “I’m going in there looking to be an All-American and win it.”

Sophomore Ross Tice (25-12) placed second in the 165-pound weight class. The runner-up title advances him to the NCAA Championships. Tice wrestled five matches total, which is more than any Kent State wrestler competed in this weekend.

Freshman Keith Witt, ranked third in the MAC, placed second in the 174-weight class. With an upset Saturday and a loss Sunday, Witt still qualified for nationals.

The fourth-place finishers for Kent State were sophomore Troy Opfer (17-19) at 125 pounds and freshman Chase Skonieczny (21-17) at 141 pounds.

While there are a set number of wrestlers per weight class who will advance to nationals after this weekend, the NCAA will announce the 33 at-large qualifiers Wednesday. The NCAA Championships will take place March 16-18 in Omaha, Neb.

“We’re going to give the guys a few days off to rest,” Andrassy said, “to get their bodies back and let them feel good about everything.”

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].