Filling the shoes and wearing them, too

Rachel Jones

Timeout with Brendan Barlow

Six members of Kent State’s nationally ranked wrestling team graduated last spring, giving several underclassmen the opportunity to shine this season.

One of these wrestlers is sophomore Brendan Barlow, who saw limited action as the team’s heavyweight last season behind All-American Jermail Porter. Boasting a 27-6 record, Barlow is the No. 23 heavyweight in the nation.

Sports reporter Rachel Jones talked with Barlow about his experiences on the team last year compared to this season, as well as his personal goals for his collegiate career.

RJ: How did you get started in wrestling?

BB: I started in second grade because my brother’s football coach in middle school told my dad it’d be a good idea. (My brother) is 14 years older than me, so they got me started really early.

RJ: Did anyone else in your family wrestle?

BB: Yeah, just my brother.

RJ: Would you consider yourselves a “wrestling” family?

BB: A little bit, yeah — but not hardcore. My nephew just started, and he’s like 8 or 7.

RJ: What was it like being teammates with Jermail Porter?

BB: It was nice. When I came, it was a little awkward at first because I wanted to start right away. I had to redshirt, and I figured I’d wrestle him off and see how I did against him. I ended up losing, and then he became an All-American. Hopefully, I’d like to say that I helped him. He helped me and I helped him. We’re friends and stuff so it didn’t hinder us.

RJ: How did he help you?

BB: Well, I’m ranked second in the (Mid-American Conference) and the guy who is ranked first, I wrestled him in high school when we were at nationals. (Porter) wrestled him at the MAC tournament and at the dual, so he told me all about him and how to try and beat him.

RJ: Do you feel like you have to “fill his shoes?”

BB: No, not at all. I don’t think of it that way. I have my own goals.

RJ: Were you ever worried when the team had six seniors graduate last year?

BB: A little bit. It was nice having Jermail to work out with. He was a big dude, and now I’m the biggest one on the team, so it’s rough finding drilling partners. I want him around but then I don’t, so I get a shot.

RJ: How would you compare the team last year and the team this year?

BB: It’s a lot different, especially on bus rides and stuff. We’re just more immature this year, which isn’t a bad thing because it doesn’t affect our wrestling. It just seems like these guys aren’t really tired of the whole thing yet. We have a ton of young guys this year, and we goof around a lot. It’s a good time, but it’s a lot different.

RJ: Is there a difference during competition?

BB: There is a little bit. We have some guys that need to get experience, myself included, to be able to beat tough guys in tough matches without slowing down and getting tired. It’s a totally different thing from high school to college, and we have guys who are still getting used to it. But they have four years to do that, so it’s not that big of a concern.

RJ: Is the team where you wanted to see it now?

BB: Yeah, it is. We were doing really well in the beginning, winning a lot of dual meets. Then, we started dropping off a little bit. It’s showing a little bit in dual meets, but we’re getting close. Like (coach Jim Andrassy) always says, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Maybe that will give people some drive to get through this.

RJ: Do you feel like you have to step up and motivate the guys who are slowing down?

BB: I am a little bit older than some of the guys, so I feel like I have to take on a little bit of a leadership role, but not really. I never really say anything, but hopefully I can lead by example on the mat.

RJ: Right now, you are ranked second in the Mid-American Conference. How do you feel about this season so far?

BB: I feel good about it. There are a couple spots I’m not very happy about. There are a couple people that I lost to that I definitely shouldn’t have lost to. I have six losses, and they’re all against nationally ranked people. A lot of them were very close matches, like within a point. I’m building on it and hopefully getting to the point where I can get to the MAC tournament and hopefully nationals. Maybe I can surprise some people there.

RJ: Is that your goal for this season?

BB: Yes. I want to get to nationals, and I want to be an All-American.

RJ: Are you doing anything specific to achieve those goals?

BB: Not really, just working as hard as I possibly can. In the mornings, I get extra workouts in with a guy who was an All-American. Other than that, it’s just living the right lifestyle. I’m eating well, and I’m not out partying or anything. It’s definitely a commitment.

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Rachel Jones

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