Young and hungry: Wrestling welcomes 20 rookies to its squad

John Hilber, Reporter

Wrestling coach Jim Andrassy is all about “trusting the process” this season.

“We need to continue to improve every day, and I don’t really want to think about where we should be,” Andrassy, who has been head coach since 2003, said. “Our guys need to continue to get better every single day and hope that by the time March comes, everyone’s ready to win a MAC championship and get to the national tournament.”

Last year, the Flashes finished 7-7 overall and fifth in the Mid-American Conference at 5-4. At the conference championships, the 149-pound senior Kody Komara won the tournament and the 184-pound senior Colin McCracken finished second.

The two were the only wrestlers to qualify for the NCAA championships in March, where McCracken won the first match. He graduated that May.

Sophomore 165-pounder Enrique Munguia, who went 11-8 last season and was Kent State’s fifth-best wrestler by a 58% winning percentage, won the Clarion Open Sunday – the team’s first competition of the season.

He beat Navy’s junior Val Park by a 6-4 decision in the finals. Munguia won all four of his matches by a decision.

“He’s a guy that we expect big things from,” Andrassy said.

Veteran standouts this season are redshirt senior 285-pounder Jacob Cover and graduate students 125-pounder Jake Ferri and Komara.

“They are the three guys that stand out the most,” he said. “They are our leaders.”

Last year, Ferri led the team, going 22-8 – three of his wins were major decisions. Komara won 13 matches, with three coming from a fall and two from a sudden victory. Cover ended his junior season with a 12-16 record.

Redshirt seniors 133-pounder Brendon Fenton and 197-ponder Tyler Bates are returning along with four seniors.

Fenton had a 13-10 record last year, with one major decision and two sudden victories. Bates went 12-14, with two sudden-victory wins.

Redshirt junior 141-pounder Louis Newell returns to the team this year after having an 18-16 record as a sophomore. He had two of his wins come from a major decision.

Twenty freshmen join the team this season. The Flashes had 26 players competing in the open; 14 were freshmen.

“A lot of great things have happened,” Andrassy said. “A lot of guys got their eyes opened and got a dose of reality.”

Jacob Houpt won his first collegiate match with a fall and made it to the quarterfinals of the 125-pounder bracket. Josh Boggan won two of his matches on the day and advanced to the quarterfinals of the 285-pounder bracket.

At his collegiate debut, Ryan Aquilani added a win on a 10-4 decision. Billy Meiszner recorded a 6-0 shutout decision in his lone win.

Andrassy said experience is the key to their success.

“They need to start grabbing the older guys and doing things with the older guys so they can see how they’re doing it,” Andrassy said. “Watching and paying attention to how they’re doing it is the biggest part.”

The Flashes also roster 12 sophomores.

Aaron Ferguson, who was the freshman with the highest winning percentage last season, returns to the team. He went 11-5 last year and had his best meet at the John Carroll Open on Feb. 13. He went 3-2 on the day, including a 13-0 shutout major decision.

Casey Wiles returns to the team after posting a 7-4 record. His best performance was also the John Carroll Open. He went 3-1 at the open, including two victories by a fall.

“We’re top heavy and bottom heavy, meaning we’ve got a lot of older guys and a lot of freshmen,” Andrassy said. “We don’t have a whole lot in the middle. That’s a weakness because we’re gonna be old this year. Then next year, we’re gonna be really, really young.”

The Flashes open the regular season at Appalachian State Saturday at the Mountaineer Invitational.

Andrassy has set goals in mind for this year.

“The first one is to improve every day,” he said. “Second one is to try to be a MAC champ or if not that, qualify for the national tournament.”

John Hilber is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]