Kilgore has national lights shining on KSU
Kent State’s athletic history dates back to 1913 when the first-ever sporting event took place.
In the last 99 years, the university has been the home of incredible athletes and amazing teams.
None have ever been quite like Dustin Kilgore, though.
Kilgore, a junior on the KSU wrestling team, is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation at 197 pounds by the respected Amateur Wrestling News. For most of the 2010-11 season, Kilgore has been rated No. 1 and recognized as the best wrestler in the country.
His season record is 30-2, improving his career win total to an eye-popping 127. He moved into possession of second place on the program’s all-time win list on Sunday by pinning his opponent in a mere 17 seconds.
While he hasn’t topped KSU’s win list yet, he is already arguably the greatest wrestler in the school’s history.
“Dustin expects to be in the national final this year, and he expects to be a national champion,” Kent State wrestling head coach Jim Andrassy said. “He has the ability, the potential and the work ethic to make that happen.”
However, in wrestling, there are outside forces to take into consideration. Kilgore will need to remain healthy, and he will need a little luck, too.
Luck aside, Kilgore has created good wrestling habits — in practice and on the mat — that have helped push him to the top of the sport.
He was an NCAA qualifer as a freshman and placed seventh at the NCAA Championships last season. Those two accomplishments were at 184 pounds. This season, Kilgore moved up to 197 when he realized that his off-season work had made him bigger and stronger and staying at 184 would have been too much of a challenge than it was worth.
Moving up a weight class and maintaining a high level of performance is not easy.
Kilgore has not only done maintained, but boosted himself to a new level. However, with it comes bigger expectations and the responsibility of being the face of a program.
“When I was ranked No. 1 in the nation, I have to be honest, it was a phenomenal feeling,” Kilgore said. “People look up to you, but things get a lot harder because people are always expecting you to win all the time. It is not that easy, though. This is a very tough sport and there are incredible wrestlers all over the country. No matter what you are ranked, you can never take anything for granted. You can never stop working as hard as you possibly can to get better.”
It has been a journey that not even Kilgore knew he was capable of when KSU recruited him out of Berea High School.
“I didn’t know I had as much potential as I did,” Kilgore admits. “But when I came to Kent State, I quickly realized how much better the competition was in the room, and I quickly started to recognize how it could make me better.”
Kilgore may not have seen it in himself, but Andrassy and his coaching staff saw it practically from the first time they watched him in action.
“We watched Dustin as a junior (in high school), and he was just a physical specimen,” Andrassy said. “His high school coaches told us about his work ethic, which means everything in this sport. We did our homework on Dustin and knew everything about him.
“We were the first school to offer him a full ride, because we knew he could be a program changer,” said Andrassy, who in his seventh year and has his team currently ranked No. 15 in the nation after his program has finished in the top 20 over the last two years and in the top 25 over the last six years.
The season’s upcoming months present an opportunity for KSU, with Kilgore leading the way, to have one of its best seasons ever.
“I came to Kent State because I felt like it was my school,” Kilgore said. “They needed a class to come in and help lift the program to new heights. I loved the thought of that challenge and if I were able to bring a national championship to this school, it would mean so much to me.”