Wrestlers earning their stripes

Caleb Raubenolt

The names of Horning and the 15 other former Flashes who earned the award are painted along a wall dedicated to the program’s history in the team’s practice room. With this year’s NCAA Championships said and done, two more names will be added to that honorable list for the first time in 23 years.

With a sixth-place finish at the national tournament, Porter capped off his career by becoming an All-American. He was joined by sophomore Nic Bedelyon, who finished eighth at 125 pounds, marking the third time Kent State had two All-American wrestlers in the same year.

Porter, who came within seconds of accomplishing the feat last year at the tournament, said he couldn’t have found a more appropriate way to end his senior season.

“I saw how close I was to having it last year, and that was what everyone had talked about since I’ve been here,” he said. “That’s what you wanted to do – be an All-American. And I was looking at (that opportunity) again, so I had the mentality that I wasn’t going to let it slip from my hands again. I had to win, no matter what.”

Entering the tournament as the No. 3 seed, Porter wrestled to victory in his first four matches, including a 4-2 overtime victory against Lehigh’s No. 11 Zachery Rey that guaranteed him at least sixth place.

Bedelyon’s run through the bracket wouldn’t be as easy.

After losing a 4-3 decision to Virginia Tech’s Jarrod Garnett in the opening round, Bedelyon needed to put a streak of four consecutive wins in the consolation bracket to have a shot at reaching All-American status.

For the young 125-pounder, the scene was too familiar to the year before, when he went on to lose his first two matches and exit the tournament as a freshman.

“When I lost that first match, a lot of thoughts ran in my head, like maybe the national tournament isn’t the tournament for me,” Bedelyon said. “But then other coaches came up to me (and) guys I knew from nationals, saying: ‘You’ve got to get out of that mindset. You’ve just got to go in there and wrestle how you know how to wrestle.'”

Refocused after receiving the advice, Bedelyon won his next four matches, including upsets of the tournament’s No. 7 and No. 9 seeds, qualifying for the top-eight finish needed to become an All-American.

“I never thought of giving up at all,” Bedelyon said. “I had it in my mind: ‘I’m coming back. I don’t care who’s in front of me, who I had to wrestle.’ I just believed in myself the whole time.”

Building a powerhouse

Although Bedelyon and Porter went on to lose their remaining matches, both said earning All-American honors, as well as the team’s 18th-place finish, solidified the direction of the program.

“I think this is just one of first steps in the ladder,” Bedelyon said, reflecting on the Flashes’ standings among the historically dominant teams at the tournament. “I know Friday, I think we were in ninth place of the national tournament and people were like, ‘Who’s Kent State?'”

Porter, who leaves the Flashes ranked third all-time in program history in career victories, agreed.

“I think the NCAA tournament definitely put us on the radar and showed that we’re a force to be reckoned with,” Porter said. “One of our goals was to set ourselves away from the pack of other MAC schools, and I think we were able to do that this year.

“We’re trying to break out of the mold that Kent State is just a team in the MAC. We don’t want to be that anymore, and I think we’ve shown that we’re turning into a powerhouse; when you think of Kent State, you’re thinking wrestling.”

Contact sports reporter Caleb Raubenolt at [email protected].