Flashes Look to End Chippewas' 10-Year Winning Streak Sunday at MAC Championships
After winning the 2012 Mid-American Conference regular season title, No. 13 Kent State has its sights set on winning its first conference tournament championship since 1990 Sunday at the Convocation Center in Athens. The Golden Flashes (14-5) look to end Central Michigan's 10-year streak of tournament crowns in the new, one-day tournament format. Action begins at 10 a.m. with the championship round scheduled for 6 p.m. The top four seeds in each weight class and tournament brackets will be announced Saturday night.
Video of Sunday's tournament will be streamed live on MAC-Sports.com
Twenty NCAA Qualifying Spots at Stake
The NCAA allocated the Mid-American Conference 20 automatic bids to the 2012 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The MAC received four bids at the 125-pound weight class, three at 141, 184 and 285 pounds and two at 174 pounds. The remaining five weight classes were allocated one automatic bid. Automatic bids will be determined by the Sunday's final place finishes. On Wednesday, March 7, the NCAA will announce at-large bids, during its championship selection show.
Last Season & Tournament History
Last season in DeKalb, Central Michigan, Kent State and Buffalo were separated by just 9.5 points. The Chippewas had 79 points, edging out the Flashes' 73.5 points, while the Bulls totaled 69.5 points with four individual champs. The Flashes had seven wrestlers finish in the top three spots.
Returning champions from last season include senior 125-pounder Nic Bedelyon (Lewistown, Pa.), Northern Illinois' Brad Dieckhaus (184), Buffalo's Mark Lewandowski, who is wrestling up a weight at 165 and CMU's Ben Bennett, who is wrestling up a weight at 184.
Since the MAC Championships began in 1952, Kent State has won 10 tournament crowns, including six straight from 1977-82 under Head Coach Ron Gray. The Flashes have finished second 25 times, including each of the last six seasons. Central Michigan has won 13 of the last 14 tournaments. Ohio (2001) has been the only other school to win a title in that span.
Along with Bedelyon, the Golden Flashes return another former champion in senior Brendan Barlow (Westerville, Ohio), who won a MAC title in 2010. Senior Ross Tice (Brookfield, Ohio) has finished runner-up in each of the past two seasons. Last season, Casey Newburg (Union, Ohio) and Tyler Small (Littlestown, Pa.) claimed runner-up finishes and Brandonn Johnson (Middletown, Md.) finished third. In 2010, Keith Witt (Oak Harbor, Ohio) claimed a second place, competing at 174.
On a Roll
Since mid-December, Kent State has won 12 of its last 13 dual meets, including a perfect 5-0 record in conference duals. The Golden Flashes won at least 7-of-10 matches in each those MAC duals. KSU has now won an outright regular season conference crown twice in four years and at least share of the MAC title three times during that span. The Flashes' only setback in the last two months has come against No. 1 Minnesota. In fact, all of Kent State's losses have come against teams currently ranked in the Top 10. Nine of the Flashes' dual victories have been double-digit margins. Since the 2005-06 season, Kent State has gone 99-31-1 in duals meets. The Golden Flashes have not lost a MAC dual to a team other than Central Michigan since 2005, going 27-0-1 against the combination of Northern Illinois, Buffalo, Ohio and Eastern Michigan.
In the Rankings
- Seven Kent State wrestlers are ranked in the Top 30 according to the Final (Feb. 21) Division I Coaches Poll.
- Four Golden Flashes are ranked in the Top 15 spots in five different polls, while three KSU grapplers are in the Top 10 according to Amateur Wrestling News.
- The Golden Flashes are No. 3 in the latest National Wrestling Media Association's Mid-Major Poll, behind Cornell and Wyoming.
- Kent State was represented in the Top 4 of all 10 weight classes in the latest MAC rankings, including four (Nic Bedelyon, Tyler Small, Ian Miller, Keith Witt) at the No. 1 spot.
The 100-Win Club
Fifth-year seniors Brendan Barlow and Nic Bedelyon each hit the 100-win milestone on Dec. 21 and both recently passed Head Coach Jim Andrassy on Kent State's career win list. Barlow's 111 wins ranks sixth in school annals, while Bedelyon's 109 victories puts him in ninth place. Classmate Ross Tice is also chasing the century mark with 95 career wins, sitting in 14th place among KSU career leaders. When Andrassy took over as head coach during the 2003-04 season, he was one of just four Golden Flashes with 100 career victories. That list has since grown to 12. Earlier this season, Andrassy also hit the 100-win mark as a head coach. His 113 victories are the third most among Kent State's head coaches.
125 Senior Nic Bedelyon looks to become the 10th three-time MAC champion in school history. Bedelyon is to 28-3 on the year and is ranked No. 4 in every national poll. In his most recent match, he scored a 21-4 tech fall over Clarion's Trey Hicks, his fourth tech fall of the season and 14th bonus-point win. Bedelyon also has five pins and five major decisions. He has earned MAC Wrestler of the Week honors twice this season and has won titles at all three tournaments he's competed in: the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, the Body Bar and the Eastern Michigan Open.
Bedelyon's closest battle in a MAC dual was a 4-2 decision over Joe Roth (Central Michigan). Roth is ranked No. 16 in the Division I Coaches Poll, while NIU's Nick Smith is No. 20 and Eastern Michigan's Jared Germaine is No. 21. Ohio's Gabe Ramos was last year's runner-up at the MAC Championships. Four NCAA automatic bids are on the line at 125.
133 Junior Stevie Mitcheff (Lorain,Ohio) has won 10 of his last 15 matches, following an 8-5 decision over Clarion's Joe Waltko. Mitcheff (16-16) is No. 2 in the MAC rankings after winning three of his last four MAC duals. In his last tournament, Mitcheff had a third place finish at the Mat Town Invitational, going 4-1.
Eastern Michigan's Andrew Novak is No. 1 in the MAC and No. 29 in the Division I Coaches Poll. Novak claimed a 13-5 major decision over Mitcheff in this year's dual meet. Only one NCAA automatic bid was given to the 133-pound bracket.
141 Sophomore Tyler Small is tied for the team lead with 28 victories. Small (28-9) is No. 14 in the Division I Coaches Poll and No. 10 according to Amateur Wrestling News. He is No. 1 in the MAC Coaches Poll, but suffered one conference loss to Ohio's Darrin Boing, who is No. 4 in the MAC rankings. Small placed second in the 133-pound bracket at last year's MAC Tournament, including an overtime victory over Buffalo's Kevin Smith, who also moved up to 141 this season. Smith is No. 2 in the MAC and No. 22 in the Division I Coaches Poll. He has lost two extremely close bouts against Small this season, including one in overtime. Kevin Fanta (Northern Illinois) is No. 3 in the MAC and No. 33 according to Division I coaches. He helped bring one of three automatic bids to the 141-pound class.
Seven of Small's losses have come against the top nine wrestlers in the nation. In his most recent tournament, Small finished second at the Mat Town Invitational with his only loss coming against defending national champion Kellen Russell. Small has totaled five pins, four major decisions and a technical fall. He has won titles this year at the Body Bar and the Eastern Michigan Open.
149 True freshman Ian Miller (Oak Harbor, Ohio) recorded his team-leading 11th pin of the season at Clarion, giving him 20 bonus-point victories, in 28 matches on the season.
Miller (25-3) is No. 1 in the MAC, No. 4 according to W.I.N. and No. 5 according to Division I coaches. On Feb. 1, Miller was named MAC Wrestler of the Week after scoring a 13-5 major decision over CMU's Joey Kielbasa, who is No. 2 in the MAC. It was Miller's closest MAC dual of the season. He went 4-0 at the Virginia Duals with a pin, two major decisions and a 7-3 victory over No. 14 Kyle Bradley (Missouri). Miller was named Outstanding Wrestler at the Mat Town Invitational after going 4-0 with two major decisions and two pins, including a fall against No. 9 Tyler Nauman (Pitt). Miller has not lost a match since Dec. 9. He also won an individual title at the Body Bar.
One automatic NCAA bid is available at 149.
157 Junior Mallie Shuster (Newville, Pa.) is No. 26 according NCAA coaches, one spot behind Eastern Michigan's Aaron Sulzer and one spot ahead of Central Michigan's Donnie Corby. However, Corby is No. 1 in the MAC Coaches Poll, while Sulzer is No. 2 and Shuster is No. 3. Shuster went 3-2 in MAC duals, but defeated Sulzer 7-6, suffering losses to Corby and Buffalo's Wally Maziarz.
Shuster (23-14) has won his last three matches and owns five bonus-point wins on the year. He was named MAC Wrestler of the Week after defeating Top 20 opponents from Missouri and Ohio State in December. He also has a dual victory over No. 8 James Green (Nebraska). Shuster has piled up 87 career victories, including one at the conference tournament two years ago. Just one automatic bid is available at 157, but an at-large bid is possible for a second and/or third place finish.
165 Fifth year senior Ross Tice is coming off a dramatic comeback victory, while wrestling up a weight (174) at Clarion. Tice (11-12) trailed Clarion's Nick Milano 7-3 in the third period, before his late rally sparked a team comeback.
Tice has gone 4-1 at the conference tournament in each of the past two seasons at 165, earning a true second place and back-to-back appearances at the NCAA Championships, where he has three career wins. He also placed fourth at the MAC Championships as a freshman in 2009. Tice moved up to the No. 3 spot in the MAC rankings after another comeback win against Eastern Michigan's Lester France, who is now No. 4.
Tice battled a knee injury, throughout much of the season and looks to earn the conference's only automatic bid at 165. He went 2-2 in MAC duals this season.
Central Michigan's Mike Ottinger is No. 1 in the MAC and No. 26 according to Division I coaches. He overcame a 4-1 deficit in a dual victory over Tice. Buffalo's Mark Lewandowski is No. 2 in the MAC and No. 22 in the DI Coaches Poll. He won the 157-pound bracket at last year's conference tournament and edged Tice 1-0 this season.
174 Sophomore Brandonn Johnson missed action against Clarion with a knee injury, but hopes to be at full speed Sunday. Johnson (15-20) is ranked No. 4 in the MAC, but has close losses to each of top three wrestlers at 174, which carries two automatic NCAA bids.
Ohio's Nick Purdue is No. 1 in the MAC and No. 21 according to Division I coaches. He defeated Johnson 3-1 in this year's dual. Eastern Michigan's Phillip Joseph is No. 2 in the MAC in No. 24 according to Division I coaches. Joseph edged Johnson 5-4 early in the season and overcame a 4-1 deficit in a dual meet. No. 31 Jake Waste (Buffalo) is No. 3 in the MAC and topped Johnson 4-3.
Johnson claimed his biggest victory of the year in the championship round of the Virginia Duals, a 4-1 win over No. 14 Patrick Wright (Missouri). Johnson went 3-0 at the Mat Town Invitational with a pin in the semifinals, while wrestling up a weight at 184. Nine of Johnson's 15 wins have been bonus-point victories.
184 Junior Casey Newburg has won 14 of his last 16 matches, with his only two setbacks coming against Top 10 opponents during that time. Newburg (28-9) is tied for the team lead in victories and leads the Golden Flashes with nine major decisions. He is No. 22 according to Division I coaches and No. 20 according to W.I.N. Newburg has won 184-pound titles at both the Mat Town Invitational and the Cleveland State Open. He has 16 bonus-point wins, including four pins and three technical falls.
Three NCAA automatic bids are up for grabs at 184. Central Michigan's Ben Bennett is No. 1 in the MAC and No. 4 according to Division I coaches. He is a two-time MAC champion at 174 pounds. Brad Dieckhaus (Northern Illinois) is the defending MAC champion at 184, after edging Newburg in last year's final. He is No. 2 in the MAC and No. 17 in the nation.
197 Junior Keith Witt (Oak Harbor, Ohio) is coming off a 10-6 win over Clarion's Alex Thomas, who is ranked No. 32 in the Division I Coaches Poll. Witt (23-13) is No. 29 according Division I coaches and No. 1 in the MAC after completing a 5-0 run in conference duals. He has had a number of close bouts against MAC opponents, including a 4-2 victory over Eastern Michigan's Nick Whitenburg, who is No. 2 in the MAC. Witt edged Central Michigan's Chad Friend 3-1 with a last-second takedown and topped NIU's Mike Lukowski 4-2 in overtime. Witt has won 13 of his last 17 matches. Since the 2009-10, he's tallied 21 pins, including five this season. Just one NCAA automatic bid awaits the winner of the 197-pound bracket.
Witt went 3-0 with two quick pins at the Cleveland State Open. In December, he upset No. 5 Brent Haynes of Missouri 2-0. Two years ago, he placed second in the 174-pound bracket of the conference tournament.
285 Fifth-year senior Brendan Barlow (Westerville, Ohio) has won five of his last six matches and is coming off a second-period pin of Clarion's Brandon Contreras. Barlow (25-10) is No. 10 according to W.I.N. and No. 15 according to Division I coaches. He recently fell to No. 3 Anthony Nelson (Minnesota) in a second tiebreaker as Nelson carried a four-second riding time advantage.
Barlow is No. 2 in the MAC, behind Ohio's Jeremy Johnson, who is No. 6 in the Division I Coaches Poll. Barlow defeated Johnson at last year's MAC Tournament, but dropped a 2-0 decision in this year's dual meet. Central Michigan's Peter Sturgeon is just behind Barlow at No. 16 in the nation and No. 3 in the MAC. Barlow defeated Sturgeon in a tiebreaker, during this year's dual. Eastern Michigan's Wesley Schroeder is No. 29 according to Division I coaches and No. 4 in the MAC. He fell to Barlow 3-2 in this season's dual. Three NCAA bids are on the line at heavyweight.
Barlow has won 14 of his last 18 matches and owns wins against five different Top 20 opponents. In his last tournament, he finished second at the Mat Town Invitational. Barlow was the MAC champion in 2010 and the runner-up in 2011.