Wrestlers clinch championship

Caleb Raubenolt

Flashes’ victory over CMU gives them first MAC title since 1990

With a one-point lead over Central Michigan, the Kent State wrestling team was one match away from its first Mid-American Conference title since 1990.

Senior heavyweight Jermail Porter, ranked third in the country entering the match, stepped to the center of the mat with the fate of his team on his shoulders.

“Just win it,” he told himself.

But it wouldn’t be that simple. Central Michigan’s Jarod Trice wrestled Porter to a 3-3 deadlock in the third period, sending the match to a one-minute sudden-death overtime period.

As he prepared for the overtime, Porter told himself to stay focused and beat his opponent, just as he had successfully done in his last 23 matches.

“I had to keep going, keep shooting and get a takedown,” Porter said about his overtime strategy.

Shortly after the opening whistle blew, Porter did just that, achieving a two-point takedown to give him and his team the victory over the Chippewas. The loss ended seventh-ranked Central Michigan’s streak of 10 consecutive MAC titles and marked the Flashes’ first victory over the Chippewas in 11 years.

“It’s a big upset,” Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said. “We knew we’d win, we believed in ourselves and we took care of it.”

With the nine matches in the dual meet featuring nationally ranked wrestlers, Andrassy said his team was favored to win certain matches, but he was hoping to pull an upset against one of the higher-ranked Chippewas.

In the meet’s opening match, sophomore Nic Bedelyon did just that, defeating ninth-ranked Scotti Sentes 9-3.

“I think he set us up on the right motion,” Andrassy said. “We knew as a team that we had to get six wins, and we felt we could either get it at 125 or 157 (pounds) by an upset in either of those weight classes. It just so happened that Nic went out there and did his thing.”

After wins in the next two matches by junior Danny Mitcheff and senior Drew Lashaway, the Flashes held a 9-0 lead, silencing the fans in attendance at Rose Arena.

But the Chippewas overcame the early deficit by sweeping the meet’s next four matches.

With the Flashes trailing 14-9 with only three weight classes remaining, fifth-ranked Dustin Kilgore earned a 6-1 victory over Vince DiDona to bring the momentum back to Kent State.

Senior Eric Chine then edged Eric Simaz 3-1 with a takedown in the match’s final seconds, putting the Flashes up 15-14 and setting up Porter’s fateful match.

“I’m real excited,” Andrassy said about the victory. “It’s good for our program, (and) it’s good for our guys. Our guys worked real hard. These are the kids that I first brought in and, five years later, they’ve done a pretty damn good job, and it showed tonight.”

Contact sports reporter Caleb Raubenolt at [email protected].