Flashes place third behind dominant CMU

Colin Harris

Camargo earns trip to NCAA meet March 17-19

Drew Opfer of Kent State tries to get Buffalo’s Mark McKnight to the ground. The match was part of the Mid-American Conference wrestling championship held Friday night in the M.A.C. Center.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Friday and Saturday were supposed to be about the six programs that represent the Mid-American Conference in wrestling, but in reality, it belonged to one school.

At the close of the two-day MAC Wrestling Championships, eighth-ranked Central Michigan wrestlers took first in eight of the 10 weight classes and also took the team championship with a total of 119.50 points, but they also managed to earn more than twice as many points as the second-place Northern Illinois, 59.00.

Kent State closed the tournament, earning 19 individual wins, and finished in third place with 46.50 points. At 184 lbs., junior Alex Camargo went 2-2 during the tournament and finished in third place as he became the lone Flash to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Kent State coach Jim Andrassy wasn’t surprised by the dominating performance of the Chippewas during the tournament.

“Central (Michigan) was just wrestling to their ability,” Andrassy said. “They’re the eighth-ranked team in the country, and they showed why.”

Central Michigan’s title is its ninth overall and its seventh in the last eight years.

After the first day of competition, the Flashes recorded 14 individual wins, second place in the overall rankings, and sent three wrestlers to the championship round of their respective weight classes. Jason Bake, 149 lbs., Camargo, 184 lbs., and Tomas Rodriguez, 285 lbs., all made it to the final round.

By the end of the tournament Saturday, none of the three men were able to win their respective weight classes, with Rodriguez finishing a second, the highest of any of the Flashes’ wrestlers.

At 125 lbs., co-captain Drew Opfer avenged a loss Feb. 13 to Ohio’s Caleb Metcalf with a 8-6 victory in overtime in the consolation bracket on his way to a third-place finish and a spot as an alternate for the NCAA Championships.

Freshman Clayton Stark performed well in his first trip to the MAC championships after a tough rookie campaign, finishing with an overall regular season record of 2-14 as he defeated two higher-seeded competitors on his way to a fourth-place finish in the 133-lbs. division.

Andrassy said he was happy with Stark’s performance at the tournament.

“Yeah, there are some disappointments here and there,” Andrassy said. “But then you have a guy like Clayton Stark who is able to go for third or fourth, (so) you take the good with the bad.”

Bake earned an alternate spot at the NCAA Championships at 149 lbs. as he wrestled his way to the championship round before falling to Mark DiSalvo of Central Michigan and Mike Grimes of Northern Illinois in an 8-6 overtime match on his way to a third-place finish.

In the 157-lb. class, Kurt Gross recorded a second-round consolation bracket pin over Northern Illinois’ Joe Henning in 43 seconds before falling to Central Michigan’s Eric Neil, giving him a third-place finish.

The lone senior competing for the Flashes at the tournament, Nick Brenner brought his career to a close, going 0-2 in competition.

Co-captain Ben Rings returned to the mat at 197 lbs. and posted a 2-2 record in his first competition since Jan. 14 and his first trip to the MAC Championships after leaving for military duty shortly before the tournament two years ago. He finished in fourth place.

The best finish of the day belonged to Rodriguez at 285-lb. class who brought an early end to his opening round match with Eastern Michigan’s Charlie Walker with pin 24 seconds into the first round.

“I was just happy to go out there and perform to the best of my ability,” Rodriguez said. “I just wanted to go and leave it all out there.”

Rodriguez fell to Central Michigan’s Bill Stouffer in the championship round but rebounded to defeat Ohio’s Jeremiah Beltran, last year’s champion in the division, in the consolation round by a 7-2 decision.

Revenge was a theme that was strong with the Flashes during the tournament as their wrestlers were able to get wins over people to whom they lost during the regular season on multiple occasions.

“We’ve beaten a lot of guys that we lost to during the year,” Andrassy said. “With our wins, we beat a lot of guys people probably didn’t expect us to.”

Andrassy said that a feeling of tentativeness was a problem in some of the losses, in particular Rodriguez and Camargo’s defeats in their championship rounds.

“(Rodriguez and Camargo) were wrestling not to lose (in their championship-round matches,)” Andrassy said. “They weren’t going out there and trying to get it done.”

Contact wrestling reporter Colin Harris at [email protected].