Wrestling team jumps to good start over winter break

Sean Ammerman

The Kent State wrestling team spent its time away from class proving it was among the best squads in Ohio.

Although they have yet to begin competing in the Mid-American Conference, the Flashes hold a 7-3 record, the best start in the three seasons under coach Jim Andrassy.

The team’s first match during break was the Clarion Duals on Dec. 18 where it went 2-1, beating Lock Haven 29-11 and Pitt-Johnstown 19-14. The Flashes fell 23-10 to North Carolina, who was the only team to go 3-0 in the six-team tournament.

“Against North Carolina I think we wrestled a little flat, including myself,” junior Chad Sportelli said. “We could definitely beat them on a good day.”

In the Southern Scuffle two-day tournament on Dec 29., Kent State matched up against 31 teams, including six nationally ranked teams, in Greensboro, N.C. The Flashes placed seventh with an overall score of 82.5. That was enough to overcome the ranked U.S. Naval Academy and North Carolina, who defeated Kent State less than two weeks before.

“We wrestled well, but we didn’t wrestle as good as we could have,” Andrassy said. “We did show improvement, but as far as all 10 of our guys wrestling to the best of our ability, we didn’t do it that weekend.”

Among the 600 athletes, 58 of them nationally ranked, competing at the scuffle, four Flashes placed in the top eight of their weight classes.

Leading the way was No. 20 Sportelli who placed second in the 125-pound weight class after upsetting No. 11 Drew Forshey of North Carolina. Sportelli lost the first place finish after falling to No. 5 Troy Nickerson of Cornell.

“It was a good feeling knowing nobody expected it,” Sportelli said of his victory.

Placing third at 184 pounds was senior Alex Camargo who overcame No. 17 Raymond Jordan of Missouri, but was not able to beat No. 12 Roger Kish of Minnesota.

Also receiving individual honors from Kent State were sophomore Kurt Gross garnering seventh place at 157 pounds and junior Aaron Miller who received eighth at 174 pounds.

Following the Southern Scuffle, the Flashes hosted a pair of home meets.

First was a 27-8 trouncing of Cleveland State on Jan 5. Eight of 10 Kent State wrestlers came out victorious in this first home meet, highlighted by an acrobatic pin Aaron Miller put on Cleveland State’s J.T. Miller.

Kent State then hosted Ohio State in a rare appearance of a Big Ten team in Kent. The Flashes responded with a commanding 25-13 win. Contributing in no small way were Miller and junior Ardian Ramadani who both had pins after the third match.

“Our guys were just excited to wrestle, and they stepped up to the match,” Andrassy said. “Any time a Big Ten team comes into your place, it’s exciting.”

The team is also currently on the verge of entering the Top 20 in the coaches’ poll. The last time the Flashes achieved this was in 1985.

To get the team ranked, Andrassy said senior Jason Blake and junior Drew Opfer, who are both coming off injuries, need to make full recoveries.

“If you would have asked me if we’d be doing this well the way those two are wrestling, I’d have said no,” Andrassy said. “So it shows that our younger guys are coming on and everyone is improving.”

Contact wrestling reporter Sean Ammerman at [email protected].