Flashes Begin 2011-12 Season Saturday at Eastern Michigan Open
Kent State's 2011-12 wrestling season gets underway Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Eastern Michigan Open inside Bowen Field House. More than 30 Golden Flashes will make the trip to Ypsilanti, many of whom will be making their college debut. Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan, Ohio State, Central Michigan and the host Eagles will be among the many teams competing. Action begins at 9 a.m.
"We're going to be looking for some starting spots at few weight classes this weekend," Head Coach Jim Andrassy said. "The biggest thing is to get our feet wet with plenty of matches."
Below is a weight-by-weight breakdown of the 2011-12 potential starters.
125: Fifth-year senior Nic Bedelyon (Lewistown, Pa.) looks to become just the third two-time All-American in Kent State history and the fourth four-time NCAA qualifier. His 2011 NCAA Tournament run came to an end in the round of 12, coming up one win shy of another All-American season. Bedelyon is ranked No. 4 in every national preseason poll and was recently selected to compete in the NWCA All-Star Classic.
"The way Nic's been preparing himself, he shouldn't much difficulty in the conference," Andrassy said.
133: Juniors Stevie Mitcheff (Lorain, Ohio) and Troy Opfer (Sandusky, Ohio) will compete for the starting nod. Both are certified at 125, where the non-starter could also see action at times. Mitcheff, the early favorite for the spot, is ranked No. 3 in the Mid-American Conference, after going 19-6 last season and 2-0 in duals. Opfer was the team's starter at 125 two years ago, before missing much of last season with an injury.
"Stevie's going to give up a little weight to be there, but it gives him a chance to start," Andrassy said. "He would probably be the second best guy in the conference at 125 (behind Bedelyon)."
141: Sophomore Tyler Small (Littlestown, Pa.) moves up a weight class after qualifying for the NCAA Championships as a true freshman. Small will compete with junior and two-year starter Chase Skonieczny (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio), who went 17-19 last season. Small finished runner-up at last year's MAC Championships, while Skonieczny owns 48 career wins.
"Tyler looks great. He's a big 141-pounder now," Andrassy said.
149: "It's a three-horse race," according to Andrassy, who's senior Marcel Clopton (Shaker Hts., Ohio) will be challenged by freshmen Ian Miller (Graytown, Ohio) and Nick Carr (South Fayette, Pa.). Clopton, the returning starter at 149, went 20-14 last season and 3-2 in MAC duals. Miller and Carr were both high school state champions.
"Ian might be the most impressive guy in our room right now in terms of watching his technical skill," Andrassy said. "And Marcel's gotten better every year."
157: Junior Mallie Shuster (Newville, Pa.), who went 24-13 as a redshirt freshman two years ago, has an opportunity to take back his starting spot. In his last two years, Shuster has gone 17-8 in dual meets. Sophomore T.J. Keklak (Johnstown, Pa.) and redshirt freshman Andrew Candiello (Pittsburgh, Pa.) will also push for the starting spot.
165: Fifth-year senior Ross Tice (Brookfield, Ohio) looks to earn a third trip to the NCAA Championships coming off a 30-win season. A two-time MAC runner-up, Tice has won 76 matches in his last three seasons.
"We expect a lot from Ross this year," Andrassy said. "He's had a good career and now he's got to find a way to be a Top 8 guy."
174: Sophomore Brandonn Johnson (Middletown, Md.) will continue his role at 174 after going 22-19 last season. Johnson placed third at the MAC Tournament, behind a pair of nationally ranked opponents.
"BJ's a big 74-pounder," Andrassy said. "He's going to have to be very disciplined to keep his weight down."
184: Junior Casey Newburg (Union,Ohio) made a major impact in his first year as a starter, going 24-13 and 4-0 in MAC duals. He finished runner-up at last year's conference tournament
"Casey in many ways is a product of Dustin Kilgore," Andrassy said of Newburg's success. "He's a really hard worker and he's gotten a lot better by working with Dustin so much. I expect him to be a Top 15 guy by midseason."
197: Junior Keith Witt (Oak Harbor, Ohio) moves up a weight class after going 15-9 in spot starts last season. An NCAA qualifier at 174 two years ago, Witt was a MAC runner-up. He has gone 13-6 in duals over the past two seasons. Fifth-year senior Ryan Buckner (Elmore, Ohio) has battled through injuries, but could also be a factor at 197.
"Keith's gotten bigger," Andrassy said. "He's about 210 right now and he's picked to win the conference. And Ryan is one of the hardest working guys you'll meet."
285: Fifth-year senior Brendan Barlow (Westerville, Ohio) has won six matches at the NCAA Championships over the last two years and was an overtime match away from earning All-America status last season. Barlow was a MAC champion as a sophomore and has won back-to-back Body Bar titles.