Not to be taken lightly

Nate Stuart

Kent State wrestler relies on work ethic, supportive father


Credit: Adam Griffiths

Senior Chad Sportelli is one of the best wrestlers in the nation – 16th in his weight class to be exact, and not a wrestler to be taken lightly. Despite his smaller stature, he dominates on the mat. This season the 125-pounder has only lost four times and earned 17 victories. He is also 13-0 in dual matches, but he doesn’t look at his stats.

“I treat every opponent the same,” Sportelli said. “I have to take it one period at a time at the college level because everybody is good.”

Sportelli is in his second season at Kent State after transferring from the University of Nebraska; he said the main reason he came to Kent State was the coaching staff.

“I love competing for this university,” Sportelli said. “I’m glad I made the decision to come here.”

Like Father, Like Son

Sportelli’s father, Barry Rutt, has been the biggest influence in his life. When Sportelli was just a few years old, Rutt was the head wrestling coach at Easton High School in Pennsylvania. After being surrounded by wrestling, Sportelli developed a love for the sport and Rutt became his full-time coach.

“He has been the reason for my success,” Sportelli said. “He has been a major motivator in my career.”

When Sportelli was 2 years old, Rutt legally became his father.

“I have two other kids, and I treated him as my own,” Rutt said. “We’re very proud of him.”

Rutt said Sportelli is a very hard worker and has the necessary desire to become a great wrestler. When his son transferred to Kent State, Rutt said, he was initially leery of the Flashes’ program but now is all for them.

“It was a great move for Chad,” Rutt said. “Jim (Andrassy) is a great coach and he is turning this program around.”

Sportelli said he and his father still have long chats about wrestling one or two times a week.

Inspirired to Win

Sportelli harbors another side that most people don’t know about, such as a love of golfing and aspirations of becoming a head golf professional at a club; he would also like to become a high school golf coach. Rutt introduced him to golf, and Sportelli is currently an interning at the Windmill Lakes Golf Club in Ravenna.

Although he will be graduating soon, Sportelli, a sports management major from Easton, Pa., plans to stay in the area to help coach Kent State lightweight wrestlers.

Sportelli’s keys to wrestling success are: a desire to win, confidence in his ability to win, physical strength, dedication in the weight room and great workout partners.

Rutt’s key to wrestling success: “If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re never going to succeed.”

People have no idea what it is like to be a college athlete, Rutt said, because they have such a demanding lifestyle between classes and their sport. He also said that in wrestling there isn’t much difference between the top-rated wrestler and the 25th because it is such a competitive sport.

Remembering big victories

Rutt said his son’s defining moment came back in high school when Sportelli wrestled as a midget (pre-high school wrestling) and lost to his rival. After that, Sportelli wanted to quit.

Rutt told him to stick with wrestling, which he did. In high school, Sportelli met his old rival again and beat him twice.

Sportelli said his biggest victory came last year in the first round of the NCAA tournament when he beat the seventh-ranked wrestler in the nation, John Velez from Northwestern. It was a huge win; Sportelli was rumored not to have a chance.

Both Sportelli and Rutt said another one of Sportelli’s biggest victories happened in high school, when he faced a two-time state champion and beat him, as well.

Sportelli said he is looking forward to this weekend, when Kent State will host Northern Illinois and Pittsburgh, both well-reputed teams.

“We have a very good team this year,” Sportelli said. “It is the best class that Kent State has had in awhile.”

As confidence goes this season, Sportelli certainly doesn’t seem to be lacking.

“I’m wrestling the best I have ever wrestled,” he said.

Contact wrestling reporter Nate Stuart at [email protected].