Seniors bid farewell to M.A.C. Center

Caleb Raubenolt

Wrestling team says goodbye to six who helped turn program around

Prior to being named Kent State wrestling coach in 2003, Jim Andrassy was an assistant coach to the team and could describe his 30-man roster in one word: soft.

“We were a very, very soft team,” Andrassy remembers. “They cared about drinking and partying and everything but wrestling.”

Andrassy is now in his sixth year as coach, and Flashes (10-4, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) are currently ranked 14th in the country and feature five wrestlers in the nation’s top 25 – two who are likely All-Americans. He tabs his team’s success as “just a start” to the program’s direction.

“I think where our program is right now, compared to where it was when I first started, is a completely different place,” he said. “I’m hoping that in five years, our program is in a different place than (now), and hopefully we’ll be able to maintain that.”

That direction might not have been altered without the recruiting class Andrassy brought in after his first year as coach. Seniors Jermail Porter, Eric Chine, Clayton Stark and Michael Blackwell have led the team to a 60-31-1 record since first coming to the program in 2004.

Those four, plus fellow seniors Drew Lashaway and Clint Sponseller, will be honored at the intermission of the Flashes’ dual meet with Ohio (8-6-1, 2-0) at 7:05 p.m. tonight at the M.A.C. Center.

Although tonight’s meet will be the last time the seniors will wrestle in the M.A.C. Center, Lashaway said he wouldn’t be approaching his match any differently.

“I’m going to go into the match just like any other match,” said Lashaway, the 11th-ranked 141-pounder in the country. “I’m going to push the tempo, and hopefully it comes out in my favor.”

Porter agreed with Lashaway.

“I’m going to handle my business as usual,” Porter said. “But maybe afterwards, I’ll take it all in: All the nostalgia of it.”

But Porter, the nation’s No. 3 heavyweight, did say the M.A.C. Center holds many special memories.

“I came in as a teenager, an 18-year-old kid, wrestling 22-year-old men,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of special matches there wrestling in front of the home crowd.”

Sponseller has been out of action because of an MCL injury, and he said although he wasn’t quite feeling 100 percent healthy, he felt well enough to wrestle this week and hopes to end his final home appearance with a victory.

“I’m going to wrestle as well as I can,” he said. “It means a little more, being the last home meet and the last time I’ll probably wrestle in Ohio.”

Urging fans to attend the seniors’ final home meet, Porter said all the upperclassmen will have their “A-game” ready, looking to show the amount of “hard work, determination and skill” they’ve put into their careers.

“Wrestling is one of the greatest shows on Earth,” Porter said. “You’ll be entertained with nonstop action for 60 minutes.”

Contact sports reporter

Caleb Raubenolt at [email protected].