Simpson’s pin sparks team

Rachel Jones

Wrestling opens MAC season with win over NIU

After struggling early, the Kent State wrestling team was able to overcome a nine-point deficit to win on the road in its Mid-American Conference regular season opener against Northern Illinois on Friday.]

In one of the earlier matches, freshman Tommy Sasfy (149) possibly broke his left ankle during competition. Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said Sasfy was pulling his opponent back when his ankle got trapped underneath.

“It happened in the very beginning of the match, but he finished,” Andrassy said. “He just sucked it up and finished.”

Andrassy said they would not know the extent of Sasfy’s injury until today.

After the early setbacks, the team turned around when senior Obie Simpson (165) pinned the Huskies’ John Oden.

“I was expecting him to win,” Andrassy said. “Was I expecting him to pin? No.”

Hailing from the Chicago area, Simpson had a lot of fans in the stands that night. Andrassy was just as excited as they were, especially because the pin helped motivate the team.

“We could have definitely used a spark, and Obie was that spark,” he said.

Simpson’s spark ignited something in his teammates, as the Flashes scored 29 straight points following his pin after being down 9-0.

“The seven guys who did win looked pretty well,” Andrassy said. “I’m proud of that.”

One of those wrestlers was redshirt sophomore Dustin Kilgore. At 184 pounds, Kilgore (26-1) scored a major decision win over Zach Benzio.

“He was just dominating these guys,” Andrassy said. “That’s why they call him ‘The Killer.’”

The match ended in a 22-8 major decision, keeping Kilgore ranked fifth nationally.

“This was just another match for Dustin,” Andrassy said. “It was just another guy he got to beat up on.”

The closest match of the night was between sophomore Troy Opfer and Izzy Montemayor.

“It was a close match, but he won,” Andrassy said. “He’s been struggling to get wins lately, so I’m glad he won.”

Opfer won with a 2-1 decision in his first MAC dual match.

Redshirt sophomore Brendan Barlow (27-6) also stood out. Wrestling at 285 pounds, Barlow defeated Dakota Greenhaw with a 5-1 decision.

Even though it was the team’s first MAC match, the Huskies are not Kent State’s toughest competition.

“It was just another match,” Andrassy said. “We just had to do what we had to do.”

The outcome, however, was significant.

“It puts us in a pretty good position,” he said. “Now, we have to continue winning until we get to Central (Michigan) because they’re going to be our toughest match.”

Andrassy said he is going to use the team’s two-week break with a different practice schedule. He plans on having the wrestlers train as hard as they can for four days, and then he will give them three days off to recover.

“At this point, training becomes a little different,” he said. “It’s not about making weight. We’re not worried about preparing for competition. We’re just worried about training hard.”

By next week, Andrassy says the team will start preparing for its match against Buffalo, which is Feb. 7.

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].