Wrestlers prepare for their biggest conference battle this season

Chris Gates

Nationally-ranked Flashes put undefeated MAC record won the line tonight against top five ranked Central Michigan

Junior 197-pound wrestler Michael Blackwell attempts to turn his opponent during the team’s dual meet against Buffalo. Tonight the wrestling team takes on Central Michigan, the team’s last dual match before the MAC Championships. ELIZABETH MYERS | DAILY K

Credit: DKS Editors

When Central Michigan comes to the M.A.C. Center tonight, fans will witness a model of where Kent State’s program hopes to soon be.

For the better part of a decade, the Chippewas have been the premier wrestling team in the Mid-American Conference. Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said since he arrived at Kent State as a wrestler 18 years ago, he has tried to model his program after Central Michigan and its coach, Tom Borrelli.

“I’ve seen his progression, what he’s done and how he’s done it,” Andrassy said. “I try to do the same types of things he does. When my day is over in coaching, I’d love to be able to say I had the same type of career as Tom Borrelli.”

Andrassy said that Borrelli and Central Michigan are a unique program because they don’t get the top wrestlers out of high school, but they develop the guys they have as well as any other school in the country.


Where: The M.A.C. Center

When: 7:05 p.m. Today

National Ranking: Kent State: 20

Central Michigan: 4

“He’s by far one of the best coaches in the country, if not the best coach, because of what he has done with the talent he’s got,” Andrassy said. “We’re trying to model what we do after what they do, and if we can have that kind of success (that’s) great.”

In the past three years, Kent State’s wrestling program has shown signs of improvement, seeing time in the NCAA Top 25 each year. This season, the Flashes are ranked No. 20 and have a 14-4-0 record, 4-0-0 in the MAC.

Always at the top of the MAC standings, No. 4 Central Michigan comes in to the meet with a 14-2-0 overall record and a 3-0-0 MAC record.

With a win, Kent State will guarantee a first place finish in the MAC for the regular season.

“This is for the MAC title,” senior 165-pound Kurt Gross said. “If we all wrestle our best we can be MAC champs. I don’t have a ring yet, and I definitely would like one.”

On the season the Flashes are 1-4 against ranked schools, with their only win coming against then No. 20 Pittsburgh. Central Michigan will top the list of Kent State’s opponents as the toughest meet this season.

“From start to finish, they’re the best team we will face all year,” Andrassy said. “Every match except for one we’re probably the underdog.”

The 133-pound match is the one match Andrassy said would work in the Flashes favor, with Kent State junior Dan Mitcheff going against sophomore Conor Beebe.

The 125, 165 and 285-pound matches are all must-wins for Kent State if it hopes to pull off the upset.

Freshman Nic Bedelyon will have a tough task in the 125-pound class, facing a wrestler six years older than him in senior Luke Smith.

“Maybe our expectations are high for our little man Nic,” Andrassy said. “In the same sense, he’s going against a grown man. It’s going to be one of his toughest matches just because of the strength that Smith has over him.

Kurt Gross will take on an unfamiliar opponent in Trevor Stewart. Stewart is ranked as high as No. 6 in the nation in his class, as well as being ranked No. 1 in the MAC for 165-pounders.

“I haven’t wrestled him before,” Gross said. “He’s ranked higher than me, so it should be good. We’ll see if I can beat him.”

Lately, Kent State has been wrestling with a specific strategy, which will be employed again tonight. The Flashes have been trying to wrestle conservatively in an attempt to not show their opponents too much with the MAC Championships approaching.

“We’re going to limit our guys in what they’re allowed to do,” Andrassy said. “We’re going to try and have our guys ride as hard and long as they can just to see how long they can ride.

“We’re going to hopefully not give away too many things and make this as competitive a match as possible going in to the MAC Tournament,” he added.

Top efforts out of each Kent State wrestler is imperative, and the team is prepared knowing this is the case.

“It’s going to take a whole team effort,” Gross said. “We haven’t all wrestled our best as one whole team. We’ve had peaks here and there.

“What’s good about our team is we’re solid,” he added. “We’re all hard-nosed kids and hard-nosed kids can do anything.”

The Flashes will test that solidarity at 7:05 p.m. today in the M.A.C. Center.

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].