Youth starting to shine

Caleb Raubenolt

Young Flashes earn recognition among national powerhouses

In just a few brief sentences, sophomore Dustin Kilgore touched on all the conversation buzzing about Kent State’s nationally ranked wrestling team.


That’s right, there is conversation about a Kent State winter sports team that doesn’t wear basketball shorts, and Kilgore said it like this:


“We’re a young team. We’re all working really hard. We have the same goals in mind. We want to be able to compete with the best to become the best, and it’s going pretty well so far.”


Earlier this month, the Flashes were ranked 13th in the country — the highest ranking in program history. However, after shutting out Wendy’s Duals host Ashland University 47-0, Kent State suffered single-digit losses to Purdue and No. 8 Maryland on Sunday and nearly dropped out of the top 20.


“Going into this season, I knew there’d be points when our young kids would just be tired and wouldn’t wrestle up to what we consider their potential,” said coach Jim Andrassy.


“This last weekend was a total example of that.”


The No. 17 Flashes (11-3), led by dominant efforts by Kilgore, senior Danny Mitcheff and sophomore Brendan Barlow (combined 23-2 in last 25 matches) look to begin Mid-American Conference action this Friday against Northern Illinois.


At 25-1, Kilgore is ranked fourth in the nation at 184 pounds and leads the Flashes with 11 pins. In five matchups against nationally ranked opponents this season, Kilgore is 4-1, including a 5-2 victory against 2008 national champion Mike Pucillo of Ohio State. “To tell you the truth, I don’t really keep track of stuff like that,” he said. “I just go out and think of everyone as being the same. Wrestling is one of those sports where you can have good days and bad days and anyone can beat you. I just go in there with the right mindset, knowing that I can win any match.”


Mitcheff (24-2) is ranked 10th in the nation at 133 pounds and leads the team with 10 major decisions. When Mitcheff performs up to his potential, Andrassy said he is nearly unbeatable.


“This is the best that he’s ever wrestled,” Andrassy said. “With Danny, he finally believes in everything that he’s been doing through working out with his club coaches, and also he just believes in what we’ve been doing with him and he believes in himself. The combination of the three have all come together, and he’s in a pretty good position right now.”


After defeating Maryland’s No. 11 Steve Bell with an 11-3 major decision, Mitcheff recorded his 121st career victory, tying 2003 graduate Nick Nemeth for secondmost all-time victories at Kent State. Mitcheff is just six wins away from becoming the winningest wrestler in program history.


At 26-6, Barlow is the No. 23 heavyweight in the country and joins Kilgore as one of 22 underclassmen with two or more years left of eligibility. Mitcheff, along with senior Obie Simpson, are the only Flashes not returning to a promising squad next season.


For now, Andrassy said the team’s focus is capturing another regular season MAC Championship in the remainder of the season.


“All we have are five conference matches left,” he said. “We just have to get our guys to wrestle good for five matches. For a young team, we’re in a pretty good position right now as far as ending our season on a strong note.”


Contact assistant sports editor Caleb Raubenolt at [email protected].