Nic Bedelyon and Ian Miller Two of KSU's Wrestling Bests
By Stephanie Storm, Akron Beacon Journal
The Kent State wrestling team isn’t easy to find most days, tucked away in a warm underground room in the M.A.C. Center annex, where weights clank loudly on wooden pallets.
Although the team’s practices are out of public view and the athletes aren’t as recognizable as those from the football and basketball teams, the wrestling team goes about its business in a way that is increasingly recognized in national wrestling circles.
After a two-week break, the No. 21-ranked Golden Flashes got back to competition over the weekend at the Virginia Duals. Last season, KSU took third place in Virginia, its only loss coming against eventual national champion Penn State.
Roughly midway through this season, six Flashes are in the Top 25 in the nation, according to WrestlingReport.com. Three are in the Top 10, according to InterMat and the Open Mat. In the National Wrestling Media Association’s Mid-Major Poll, Kent State is tied with Lehigh for the third spot, behind Cornell and Wyoming.
Kent State is represented in the top four spots of all 10 weight classes in this week’s Mid-American Conference rankings. Nic Bedelyon (125), Tyler Small (141), Ian Miller (149) and Keith Witt (197) each are ranked No. 1 in the MAC in their weight class.
Two of KSU’s best
A senior, Bedelyon (19-1) is ranked No. 4 in four national polls and has four pins, three technical falls and three major decisions. He earned All-American status as a sophomore, but fell two points shy last season.
“I set my goals as a freshman coming into college to be a four-time All-American and a national champ,” he said. “I’ve always set my goals high since I started wrestling. It [stinks] when you set such high goals for yourself when you don’t accomplish them, because you’re a lot harder on yourself. But in the long run, I think it’s a lot better for you because you get more out of yourself.”
Bedelyon, who has also won individual titles at the Body Bar Invitational and the Eastern Michigan Open, is 33-3 in his last 36 matches, with two of the losses coming at the end of last season at the NCAA Championships.
“I was pretty devastated,” Bedelyon said. “It was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in wrestling. But coming into my senior year, it’s helped me be more motivated, more prepared. Now this year, my goal is to be a national champion.”
That’s become obvious to everyone on the team.
“This year [Bedelyon’s] on a mission,” KSU coach Jim Andrassy said. “Watching Dustin [Kilgore] do what he did last year [becoming the Flashes’ first NCAA champion] kind of opened Nicky’s eyes a little bit and left him thinking, ‘maybe I made it harder than it really is.’ ”
Miller, a freshman, is 18-3 and leads the Flashes with nine pins, including falls in each of his past two dual meets. He also has five major decisions, and is 7-1 in duals.
A standout at Oak Harbor High School, Miller also won an individual title at the Body Bar, which included two top 20 opponents in the bracket.
“To me, [Miller’s] like a freak of nature,” Bedelyon said. “He’s strong, he’s athletic and the moves he hits are not like those of a freshman. He just has a different mentality and he’s going to be really good.”
Bedelyon’s freak-of-nature comment is nothing new.
“I’d heard that all through high school,” Miller said. “So I’m kinda used to it.”
Still, he admitted college wrestling has been an eye-opener.
“I thought I was pretty good in high school, then I get here and I got beat up for a couple weeks here at practice. Then I started to really focus on what the upperclassmen do and began watching Bedelyon wrestle. I started trying to do what they do and hustle more to get an edge on my opponents. The pace in college is nonstop. It took some getting used to until I began to pick it up.”
Miller was recruited by some of the bigger wrestling schools in the nation, but Kent State was already in the family.
“I was thinking about going to Michigan and North Carolina,” he said. “There’s a couple others, but those were the main ones. But it felt like home when I came on my visit and it is just two hours away from my home.”
It also helps that Miller’s uncle, Zeb Miller, also wrestled for the Flashes.
Andrassy, who was in his last season as an assistant coach with the Flashes before taking over as head coach eight seasons ago, is still good friends with Zeb Miller.
“He graduated about 10 years ago after a five-year career,” Andrassy said. “With Zeb having competed for us, we felt we had a pretty good idea we might get Ian as well.”
Andrassy’s not being cocky, just aware of how the wrestling recruiting game works.
“The bigger schools, they come in and they want to low-ball guys like [Ian Miller],” Andrassy said. “They try to get him for a low [scholarship] amount and tell them they’ll be on a national championship team and all that. So we gave him more than what a big-time school might have given him. But as you can tell already, he’s worth it.”
What makes Miller so good despite his relative inexperience is his intangibles.
“It’s the part you can’t teach,” Andrassy said. “It’s the flow of wrestling that some kids get and others never get. We have kids on the team who’ve worked for five or six years and they could do this for another 10 years and they’d never be able to wrestle like Ian. Partly, it’s how your body works. And he has that natural feeling of how to go from move to move to move and that really makes him special.”