Wrestlers come up short at MAC Championships

DKS Editors

Team sweeps conference awards, but finishes second behind CMU

YPSILANTI, Mich. – With the last whistle of the Mid-American Conference Championships already blown, the voice of the announcer gathered the audience’s attention for the awards ceremony of the tournament.

Dimly lit on the projection screen inside the Convocation Center, Central Michigan’s 111.5 points sat atop the five other teams in the MAC. Just beneath that was Kent State’s score of 82.5, indicating the Flashes would be finishing runner-up for a fourth consecutive year.

Kent State coach Jim Andrassy couldn’t help but smile, watching his team collect three MAC awards then hearing his own name echo from the speakers for Coach of the Year, amid chants of “Jimmy” coming from the Flashes’ faithful.

Andrassy is the first Kent State coach to bring home the award since 1989 – the same year when many of his wrestlers were born.

“It’s one of those things where it’s nice to win, and hopefully I can come back next year and win because we’ll win the dual meet and also the tournament – that’s our goal,” Andrassy said.

Honored first for the Flashes, senior Jermail Porter (28-1) won MAC Wrestler of the Year, an award that hadn’t been won for Kent State since 1985. Porter’s 6-2 victory over Central Michigan’s Jarod Trice in the heavyweight finals ended a three-year streak of second-place finishes at the MAC Championships.

“It feels good after three times being runner-up, finally getting it,” Porter said. “That was one of my goals this year.

“But this is just the beginning though. It feels good to get a little confidence booster going in (to the NCAA Championships) and wrestling pretty convincingly.”

Porter, junior Danny Mitcheff, senior Drew Lashaway and redshirt freshman Dustin Kilgore all received automatic bids to the NCAA Championships for winning their respective weight classes. Sophomore Nic Bedelyon qualified for the national tournament as well, receiving an at-large bid for his second-place finish at 125 pounds.

Mitcheff’s wins over Ohio University’s Quentin Keyes and Central Michigan’s Conor Beebe at 133 pounds earned him the MAC Tournament Outstanding Wrestler award.

“I’m excited that I got that Most Outstanding (Wrestler), but this is just the beginning,” Mitcheff said. “Now we start nationals in two weeks, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

With a 31-3 record, Kilgore earned the last piece of hardware for the Flashes, receiving the MAC Freshman of the Year award. In three matches, Kilgore outscored his opponents 30-4, including a 12-1 victory in the finals against Central Michigan’s Vince DiDona.

“It’s a great honor,” Kilgore said. “I mean, most importantly I wanted to win the MAC overall, and I was able to achieve that.”

Like Bedelyon, junior Obie Simpson won second place at 165 pounds, but he did not receive an at-large bid to qualify for the national tournament. Junior Chris Estep finished in third at 174 pounds, while redshirt freshman Ross Tice (157) and senior Eric Chine (197) placed fourth.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Andrassy said of his team’s performance. “We had a good year. We did something that no one’s done in a long time as far as (beating) Central in the dual (Feb. 19).

“We were hoping to come here and win the tournament. It didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean our kids didn’t wrestle hard, it just means that (Central Michigan) had the better team.”

Contact sports reporter Caleb Raubenolt at [email protected].