Keith Witt won a Division II state title at 171 pounds for Oak Harbor in 2008.
When he arrived on the Kent State campus a few months later to wrestle for the Golden Flashes, high school suddenly felt like a distant memory. His weight ballooned to 220 pounds his freshman year and he ended up redshirting that season.
“I was really out of shape,” said Witt, now a fifth-year senior. “I was training with the team all year round. I wasn’t in my top form. It was my first year of college and my body wasn’t in the best form it could be. It wasn’t like I gained any good weight. I was dumpy and not in the best shape.”
|Keith Witt(Oak Harbor/Kent State) stares down an opponent.
(Photo courtesy of KSU sports information)
The 6-foot Witt decided to drop 50 pounds and compete at 174 pounds as a redshirt freshman in 2009-10 and ended up doing very well. He finished with a 21-9 record after starting the season 8-6, recorded 10 pins and placed second at the Mid-American Conference Championships. He also earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, where he lost both matches.
“That (174) was the best weight for me at the time,” Witt said. “I felt good throughout the season.”
Witt moved up to 184 pounds a year later and went 15-9 with seven pins, second most on the team. He bumped up to 197 last season and had great success, winning a MAC title and earning another automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, where he went 0-2 again.
Witt is finishing out his wrestling career this season by competing at 285 pounds. It is a weight class that often has Witt, who weighs 225 pounds, going head to head against much larger wrestlers. He has an 11-11 record so far this season.
“It’s different,” Witt said. “It’s definitely a different style of wrestling compared to any other. At heavyweight, guys are a lot bigger and stronger. I lifted a lot last summer to try to get stronger to get some weight on. I was able to do that. I’m trying to get used to the weight class; it’s moving along.”
Witt said one reason he moved up to 285 was because the Flashes have the top-ranked 197-pounder in the country in fifth-year senior Dustin Kilgore, a former NCAA champion who redshirted last year in order to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
“It was better for the team for me to go up there (285),” Witt said, “and it was an opportunity for me to be in the starting lineup my last year. Once you get up to 197 and heavyweight, it’s a total difference in wrestling than at the lighter weights. Guys are so much stronger and bigger.”
Witt, a four-time state tournament qualifier who compiled a 151-32 career record at Oak Harbor, said he tries to use his scrambling ability when he faces bigger, stronger competition.
“I feel like I’m a better scrambler,” he said. “I can out-quick them if they get on my legs and I can try to scramble out of it. I have that advantage over them. I feel if I can get to the second period with a 0-0 score, I can win the match because I feel I’m better on top than the bigger guys. That tends to go to my advantage in most of my matches. Most of my losses have come against guys (ranked) in the top 20.”
Witt, 23, is trying his best to qualify for his third trip to the NCAA Championships before he graduates in May with a degree in justice studies.
“I’d like to get to the national tournament, get to the round of 12 and try to get All-American (top eight),” said Witt, who has been wrestling since age 5. “I’m just training hard the last few months of my career and we’ll see what happens. I’m actually kind of excited to see what I’m going to do after college. I’m trying to find a job and see where life takes me. I’m going to miss wrestling, but it hasn’t hit me yet, I guess.”