Flashes prepare for Mac tourney

Sean Ammerman

Kyle Chonko of Kent State and Ben Mandelbraut of Penn State struggle for a pin at the Kent State College Open wrestling tournament on Feb. 4. Chonko beat Mandelbraut 10-5. ARIANE CAVIN | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

For the second straight week, the Kent State wrestling team earned the No. 25 spot in the national polls and ended the season with a national ranking for the first time in 20 years.

The Flashes will attempt to carry that momentum into this weekend as they face their conference rivals in the Mid-American Conference Tournament in Dekalb, Ill.

Kent State junior Chad Sportelli said there is nothing holding this team back because they are now wrestling at the top of their abilities.

“Everyone is healthy,” Sportelli said. “We all feel that if we wrestle our best, we can go to the National Tournament, which is our ultimate goal.”

Sportelli has had many personal achievements several times this year. He upset No. 11 ranked Drew Forshey of North Carolina earlier this season and No. 12 Luke Smith of Central Michigan two weeks ago, who is the reigning MAC champion in the 125-pound weight division.

This has raised him to No. 15 at 125-pounds, but Sportelli will face strong competition as just one of four ranked MAC wrestlers in that division.

As a team, the Flashes will face strong competition as well. Of the six universities in the tournament, three are nationally ranked. Kent State will work to pull out some upsets over No. 24 Northern Illinois and No. 4 Central Michigan to advance to the finals on Saturday.

“If we come out focused, we will wrestle our best,” Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said. “In a tournament like this, it isn’t just one certain match here or there that we need to win.”

Earlier in the season, the Flashes tied the Huskies 16-16 and fell to the Chippewas 23-15. Kent State’s first entry into the National Coaches poll came after its tough loss to Central.

“It has really encouraged the team,” Andrassy said about the first national ranking under his coaching. “But for the most part, it is what it is, and we haven’t accomplished what we wanted to yet.”

To keep his wrestlers fresh against opponents they already faced, Andrassy said he made last week tough on the team during practice and let them rest this week.

No. 16 senior Alex Camargo said the team has taken the slower week to study previous dual meets on tape.

With Camargo’s 120 career wins, he is two wins away from passing former Kent State wrestler Nick Nemeth, who currently holds the school wins record. In order to break the record, Camargo will have to win the 184-pound weight division at the MAC Tournament.

As a member of last year’s team, which finished third at the tournament, Camargo said this season’s squad is more relaxed and confident.

“We had a winning season, so we’re more optimistic about the outcome,” he said. “But we still have something to prove this week.”

Winners of the 10 weight classes at the tournament will receive automatic bids to the NCAA Division-I Championships, while nine other MAC wrestlers will get wild-card bids.

Camargo is the only member of last year’s team that made it to the National Tournament.

Contact wrestling reporter Sean Ammerman at [email protected].