At first glance the Kent State wrestling team’s performance in the Clarion Open would look like a rough start to the season. 

KSU wrestlers finished with a record of 26-45, and as a team they placed tied for eighth out of 13 teams. 

The Flashes’ unattached wrestlers finished 12th out of the 15 unattached or unrostered wrestling groups. 

But Kent State only sent three projected starters to the open, and one of those wrestlers placed.

Redshirt sophomore 141-pounder Louis Newell went 5-1 and finished in fifth place. The transfer out of the University of Pittsburgh lost his first match of the day by decision but would win each of his next five matches, including two by decision and one by a major decision (when a wrestler outscores their opponent by eight points or more). 

Coach Jim Andrassy said Newell could be really good for the team.

“We’re really excited about having him,” Andrassy said. “He wrestled really hard and did some good things. He’s your typical Pennsylvania wrestler. He can wrestle on top. He can get away. And he’s really, really crafty on his feet.” 

Freshman Enrique Munguia, who is projected to be the team’s starter for the 157-pound weight class, finished 2-2. He won his first match by a 7-0 decision, just missing a major decision, and won his second by an 11-6 decision. 

“He makes a lot of mistakes when he wrestles,” Andrassy said. “But he wrestles really hard, and he’s just a competitor. As he learns and as he gets better, he’s going to be a handful.” 

Andrassy said that Munguia reminds him of Dustin Kilgore, a KSU wrestler from 2007-2013, who was a three-time All-American and a four-time MAC champion. Kilgore holds program records in wins and falls.

“[Enrique] goes really hard,” Andrassy said. “And he works really hard. He has a lot of the ingredients that we can’t teach. You have to want to win, and you have to want to work hard. A lot of those things kids just don’t bring to the table when dinner time comes.” 

Redshirt junior 197-pounder Tyler Bates was the team’s third projected starter to wrestle Sunday, and he went 2-2 with two falls. 

“I wanted to get him some matches,” Andrassy said. “He’s an older kid, but he is going from 184 to 197, so we were just trying to get him a few matches to work his way into the weight class and see how he did.” 

Andrassy pulled both Bates and Munguia from the tournament after they started 2-1 because he didn’t want the two wrestling too many matches. Freshman 184-pounder Ashton Breen, who wrestled unattached, went 2-2.

Sophomore Andy Garcia, who also wrestled unattached, went 3-2 in the heavyweight class with one major decision. 

The Clarion Open was the beginning of a new season for KSU, after a shortened 2020-21 season due to COVID-19. Like many sports, a few meets were canceled because of the virus.

The Flashes finished 4-3 overall and 3-1 in MAC play. Two of their conference meets were canceled and four of them were played with no team score. They finished eighth out of 14 teams at the MAC Championship. 

In the 2019-20 season, Kent State finished 2-7 in the MAC and finished ninth out of 15 teams at the MAC Championship. 

KSU lost redshirt senior Andrew McNally, who had three-straight NCAA Championship bids and won the MAC 174-pound title at the MAC Championship, after he transferred to Wisconsin in the offseason.

The Flashes were picked to finish tenth in the MAC. The conference is down to 13 teams after Missouri’s wrestling team, which won the team title at the conference championships every one of the ten years it was in, moved to the Big 12.

Fifth-year Jake Ferri was picked as the MAC favorite at 125 pounds in the preseason poll.

Ferri went 14-4 last season, and he finished third at the MAC Championship. He won his match in the first round at the NCAA Championships before losing in the second. 

Andrassy called Ferri the heartbeat of the team.

“He’s a team leader,” Andrassy said. “He’s one of the hardest working kids on our team and is the kind of kid who is in great shape and wants to win every match. I’m excited about watching him wrestle next week because it’s going to start right off the bat for him.”

Senior Kody Komara was the next highest KSU wrestler in the preseason poll, and he was ranked sixth in the 149-pounder class. 

Komara finished the season 12-8, went 3-2 at the MAC Championship and made his first appearance in the NCAA Championships. 

Senior 184-pounder Colin McCracken was also ranked sixth. He is making the transition to the weight class after being a 197-pounder last season. 

McCracken went 10-9, and he got into the NCAA Championships as a wildcard. 

Andrassy said the key for those two to take the next step up is to do the little stuff better. 

“All these kids know how to wrestle,” he said. “They’ve been doing it their whole lives. We’re just trying to work on the small things with them so they can go out and improve. And we’re looking for them to be leaders. We have a pretty young team, and those guys need to show good leadership.” 

The Flashes could have as many as three freshmen in their starting lineup this season on a team filled with newcomers.

“They know what our plan is for them,” Andrassy said. “They know what the recipe is. Now we just have to put all the ingredients together and get the product we’re trying to find, which is the harder part of this. They got a taste of what it looks like to be a good college wrestler so they can put it together.”

Kent State plans to send a more complete roster to the Appalachian State Invite on Sunday, Nov. 14. 

“It’s an individual competition,” Andrassy said. “There is no team score. Guys can go out there and worry about themselves, they can see where they’re at. It’s a good time to see where we’re at and what we need to work on.”

Jimmy Oswald is a sports editor. Contact him at joswald9@kent.edu.

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