Wrestlers advance to Nationals

Sean Ammerman

The Kent State wrestling team placed second in the Mid-American Conference Championships over the weekend in DeKalb, Ill., sending five wrestlers to NCAA Division-I National Tournament.

Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said it is the team’s highest representation at nationals since 1988.

The team earned 75.5 points, finishing below No. 4 nationally ranked Central Michigan whose 102.5 points was enough to garner their fifth straight MAC title.

In the field of 60 competitors – 16 of them nationally ranked – No. 16 senior Alex Camargo and sophomore Kurt Gross became MAC champions in their weight divisions, thus gaining automatic bids to nationals at 184-pounds and 157-pounds, respectively.

In addition, No. 15 junior Chad Sportelli, senior Jason Bake and junior Aaron Miller received wild card bids based on a MAC coaches poll of their performances. Except for Camargo, this will mark each of their first appearances at the national tournament.

Andrassy said he was impressed by his team’s performance, despite falling to Central. Having all 10 Flashes place in their weight classes was a good way to end the year, Andrassy said.

“Our whole team wrestled above and beyond their capabilities,” he said. “This is the best a Kent State team has looked since I have been associated with it.”

Saturday marked a change in the record books for the Kent State wrestling team as Camargo’s 122nd win gave him his conference championship and eclipsed Nick Nemeth’s Kent State record for career wins.

The win came from a 7-2 decision over No. 19 Christian Sinnott from Central. Camargo said he struggled early, narrowly beating his first opponent Brain Cesear from Ohio, 5-3. But after shaking off the first-match jitters, he said he was able to maintain a comfortable lead throughout his championship match over Sinnott.

“Alex really didn’t have a close match,” Andrassy said. “He’s at the point were if he isn’t an All-American, it will be a disappointment to us.”

The record is nice, Camargo said, but he won’t be satisfied unless he makes a strong showing at nationals.

“I feel good getting the win but I (have) to go back to work on Monday,” Camargo said. “I’ve got five or six more matches to go, and they’ll be the toughest of my career.”

In the championship match at 157, Gross beat Jacob Frerichs from Ohio 2-1 in double-overtime. After Frerichs got a stalling warning in the third period, Gross said his opponent continued to avoid making offensive moves. This led the referee to award Gross a stalling point in the second overtime that gave him the match.

“I didn’t think I was going to get taken down,” Gross said. “He was waiting for me to make moves to counter off my shots.”

Andrassy said Gross was able to take advantage of a weaker weight class to get his first championship.

“He didn’t wrestle as good as he can,” Andrassy said, “but he wrestled good enough to win.”

Placing below Kent State was Buffalo with 60 points and No. 24 Northern Illinois, who tied Kent State in the regular season, with 56.5 points.

With three of the six teams having a national ranking, Andrassy said this is the toughest competition in the MAC tournament that he’s seen.

“This is the toughest the conference has ever been,” he said. “All of the programs are getting better, so that makes it tougher to come to the tournament and do well.”

Andrassy said junior Ardian Ramadani had the most difficult bracket at 197-pounds, in which the No. 1 and the No. 2 wrestlers in the country were competing. Ramadani went 3-1 on the day, losing only to No. 2 Kyle Cerminara from Buffalo 2-1 in overtime.

“He represented himself like a champ,” Andrassy said. “We fought for a wild card (for him), but it just didn’t happen.”

Freshman Jermail Porter was also snubbed a wild card but did receive honors as MAC Freshman of the Year after taking second place in the Heavyweight class.

The Flashes have two weeks to rest before the NCAA D-I National Championships held March 16-18, in Oklahoma City.

Contact wrestling reporter Sean Ammerman at [email protected].