Four KSU wrestlers heading to national tournament

Nate Stuart

Four Kent State wrestlers will be competing at the NCAA wrestling tournament in Detroit this weekend, March 15-17.

The team will be represented by senior Chad Sportelli and junior Kurt Gross and sophomores Jermail Porter and Danny Mitcheff.

Sportelli and Gross have seen national action before. Porter -a freshman All-American last year – and Mitcheff will be new to the national tournament.

Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said all four of his wrestlers are healthy, in shape and are wrestling at their best. To prepare for the tournament, the team has had normal practices but the national qualifiers have gotten most of the attention.

“We want to put them in the right position to do the best that they can,” Andrassy said.

Gross is 19-11 – 3-2 against Mid-American Conference opponents – this season and came in first place at the MAC Championships in the 157-pound weight class. He had a slow start to the season, beginning 10-8, but finished strong and is wrestling his best at the most critical point of the season.

Andrassy said Gross’s experience will help him stand out in the tournament. He was an All-American as a freshman in 2005.

“Gross turned it all around in one weekend (at the MAC Championships). He has come through when it counts,” Andrassy said.

The 125 pound Sportelli is 21-8 this season. He is 3-2 against MAC opponents, with both losses coming to nationally-ranked Pat Castillo of Northern Illinois. Sportelli also had a slow start, due to an ankle injury, but has improved and maintained a national ranking throughout the season. He finished second in the 125 pound weight class at the MAC Championships.

Andrassy said Sportelli’s ability gives him an excellent chance to be an All-American.

“This is his last shot at it,” Andrassy said. “He will go down fighting.”

Porter has been dominate at times this season. The heavyweight is 23-10 overall and 4-1 against MAC opponents. He’s maintained a top 20 national ranking throughout the season and finished second in the MAC Championships to Central Michigan’s Bubba Gritter, who is No. 2 in the nation.

The 143 pound Mitcheff is 22-15 and 4-1 against MAC opponents. He competed nationally in high school, so he has some experience in nationwide competition. He also finished second at the MAC Championships.

The first round match-ups are set for Thursday. Sportelli will face ninth-seeded Obenson Blanc from Lock Haven. Gross will take on Michael Chandler from Missouri.

Both Mitcheff and Porter have first-round byes. Mitcheff will face top-seeded Nick Simmons from Michigan State in the second round and Porter will face fifth-seeded Ty Watterson from Oregon State.

Senior Jason McGee was supposed to represent Kent State in the 149-pound weight class, but he was injured in practice Thursday and had to get surgery on the bones around his eye socket. He is recovering and will be unable to participate in the national tournament.

Contact wrestling reporter Nate Stuart at [email protected].