Wrestling picked to finish first in MAC

Doug Gulasy

Mid-American Conference wrestling coaches picked the Kent State wrestling team to win this season’s Mid-American Conference championship in the 2008-09 MAC Preseason Poll released yesterday.

After finishing second behind Central Michigan at the MAC Championships the past three seasons, the Flashes were tabbed to beat out the 10-time defending MAC champion Chippewas this year.

“It just shows how far the program has come,” Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said.

The predicted team finishes were compiled by adding the number of points garnered by individual wrestlers in the preseason individual rankings. Four Kent State wrestlers were picked first in their weight classes – sophomore Nic Bedelyon (125 pounds), junior Danny Mitcheff (133), senior Michael Blackwell (197) and senior Jermail Porter (285).

Under Andrassy, the Flashes have improved from a tie for fifth at the MAC Championships in his first season, 2003-04, to third in 2004-05, to their three straight runner-up finishes. Andrassy said if the progress continues, his team could win the MAC championship this season.

“We just have to keep improving at the rate we have been,” Andrassy said. “(Being picked first) just gives our guys the sense they belong.”

Despite Central Michigan being picked to finish second, Andrassy said the Chippewas still will pose a threat in the conference this season. Central Michigan graduated five of 10 players from last season’s MAC championship team but is ranked 14th in the Wrestling International Newsmagazine preseason poll, ahead of the No. 23 Flashes.

“They have a much better team than what they show,” Andrassy said.

Besides Kent State’s four predicted individual winners, senior Drew Lashaway (141 pounds), senior Clint Sponseller (149) and redshirt freshman Dustin Kilgore were picked to finish second in their weight classes.

Bedelyon, Mitcheff and Lashaway are the Flashes’ first three wrestlers in meets, while Kilgore, Blackwell and Porter are the last three. Andrassy said having several good wrestlers in a row makes the team dangerous.

“I don’t think you’ll find a better combination in our conference of three guys back-to-back (than Bedelyon, Mitcheff and Lashaway),” Andrassy said. ” … We’ve got the best three guys in the beginning and, I think, the best three guys at the bottom.”

Contact assistant sports editor Douglas Gulasy at [email protected].