WEB EXCLUSIVE: Nationally ranked opponents too much for wrestlers

Sean Ammerman

For the first time in school history, the Kent State wrestling team was invited to compete in the Cliff Keen/NWCA national duals, which were held on Saturday in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

And in turn, for the first time under coach Jim Andrassy, the Flashes competed against two top 10 teams on the same day.

The competition proved to be too much for the team as they fell short in both matches 37-6 to No.1 Oklahoma State and 22-15 to No. 9 Missouri.

Oklahoma State had eight wrestlers win in the match, all of whom were nationally ranked in their weight divisions. This included pins from No. 1 Jake Rosholt at 197 and No. 2 Steve Mocco at heavyweight over Kent State’s senior Ardian Ramadani and freshman Jermail Porter, respectively.

Sophomore Kurt Gross and senior Alex Camargo garnered the two Kent State victories, defeating Oklahoma State’s Newly McSpadden at 157 and Rusty Blackmon at 184.

“It was fun wrestling against the best,” junior Chad Sportelli said, who fell to Coleman Scott at 125. “I wish we would have wrestled a little better. I think overall as a team we wrestled hard and nobody really went out there scared.”

Oklahoma State wrestled like the three-time defending national champions they are, Andrassy said, and can no doubt be considered the toughest opponent of the year.

“It’s one of those things where you take the good with the bad,” he said. “The losses I don’t have a problem with, we wrestled good and we fought our hardest.”

Oklahoma State went on to be runners-up to No. 2 Minnesota in the national duals finals on Sunday.

After the match was over, Adrassy said he was able to talk to Oklahoma State coach John Smith, whom he called one of the best coaches in the nation.

“He doesn’t need to talk to me if he doesn’t want to, but he found me and said we wrestled hard and our team is getting better,” he said. “His bottom line was that ‘your guys wrestled harder than our guys. We just have better athletes right now.'”

Kent State’s final match of the weekend was against Missouri Saturday afternoon, who was coming off an upset by No. 18 Arizona State earlier in the day.

The Flashes lost this closely contested match, while having four wrestlers victorious out of the 10 weight classes.

Sportelli was among the winners for Kent State, upsetting No. 16 Austin DeVoe at 125.

Also winning for the team were Gross at 165, senior Ben Rings at 197 and junior Willie Leonard on a forfeit at heavyweight.

Andrassy said the team could have pulled away with a victory on a better day.

“If everyone would have wrestled as good as they did against Ohio State and Cleveland State, then we would have won that match,” he said. “(Missouri) wrestled pretty good, but the bottom line is we didn’t do our best.”

Coming off two straight home matches with big wins, Andrassy said the team was overwhelmed by the grandeur of this event. Kent State was the only one of the 16 teams not ranked nationally, which resulted in their low seed that paired them with tough opponents.

“The hope is that when we do wrestle against teams like this in the future our guys will be a little more prepared,” he said. “You have to wrestle the best competition, and an opportunity like this only comes around once in a while.”

Kent State will be back home to wrestle Eastern Michigan 7 p.m. Thursday at the M.A.C. Center.

Contact wrestling reporter Sean Ammerman at [email protected].