KENT: Kent State wrestling has been building its credibility into a nationally recognized program, and it got a glimpse of what the top dogs look like as the Golden Flashes hosted No. 1 Oklahoma State — the New York Yankees of collegiate wrestling — as a part of the NWCA Cliff Keen Regional tournament on Sunday at the M.A.C. Center.
Kent State came up with a few strong performances against the Cowboys but couldn’t sustain some early momentum, falling 34-10. Senior Stevie Mitcheff defeated Eddie Klimara 3-2 to start the match at 125 pounds, and 133-pounder Mackenzie McGuire, a freshman, upset Jonathon Morrison of OSU, who was ranked No. 6 in the country in that weight class. McGuire had a takedown in the first period and an escape in the final period to hold Morrison off 3-2.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the country for a reason,” KSU coach Jim Andrassy said. “We had three guys that wrestled really, really well, and we had a huge upset at 133. That’s the kind of match that gets you to the national tournament.”
Senior Dustin Kilgore (197 pounds), in his final matches at the M.A.C. Center of his storied career, didn’t disappoint. Kilgore beat the No. 9 197-pounder in the country, Oklahoma State’s Jon Morrison, by a major decision of 12-3.
Kilgore has long been a central instrument in Kent State gaining a foothold on the national wrestling scene. The Golden Flashes are currently a young team and have a couple of talented redshirts this year who will be available next season. On Sunday, KSU had its hands full with the Cowboys. Kilgore says facing that kind of competition is a necessary evil to creeping up into the top 10 programs.
“Those aren’t the opponents we get to match up against very often, so it makes it hard going from smaller teams to the No. 1 team in the country,” Kilgore said. “It’s a big step and it’s hard on our guys. A lot of times our guys kind of freeze up, they don’t know what to do. They haven’t wrestled guys that tough. But they’re gonna have to face opponents like this, right here.”
In the consolation match, KSU ripped through No. 18 Wisconsin 33-10. Kilgore pinned the No. 18 197-pounder Jackson Hein in the second period, improving his record to 36-0 this season. That pin also tied Jim Swetter’s school record for pins in a season with 17, which leads the nation. He also extends his record of 171 victories for the Golden Flashes and has now won 65 dual matches in a row.
The Golden Flashes now have three weeks before the Mid-American Conference tournament.
Earlier this week, the wrestling community received a hard hit after it was announced by the International Olympic Committee that wrestling would by eliminated as an Olympic spot in 2020. The president of wrestling’s international federation, Raphael Martinetti, then stepped down this past week.
Kilgore and Andrassy both urged fans not to give up hope. The fight isn’t over.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s gonna end,” Kilgore said. “Lot of talk going around, lot of politics going on with that. The president just dropped out so I think we’re gonna get somebody really good and us individual countries, we’re gonna come together. We’re gonna all work together. We’ve been fighting on the mat as long as we can remember but things are different this year. We’re coming together as one as a wrestling community. We’re going to get our sport back.”
Andrassy agreed, saying people have jumped to conclusions about the final announcement.
“There still have to be two meetings, one in Russia in May and a final one in September, so it isn’t a final decision at all,” he said. “I’d be really surprised if they dropped it. I have faith they’ll get this done.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com.