After one of the best seasons in modern school his¬tory, the Kent State wrestling team plans to continue to raise its standards. Two local wrestlers are part of the picture to do so.
Redshirt freshman Keith Witt (Oak Harbor) is getting plenty of action at 174, and Ryan Buckner (Woodmore) is competing for a chance to represent the Golden Flashes at 197.
“Our young guys have to develop the way that we think they can and our older guys have to continue developing like they have. Right now, expectations on the outside are that we're a top 20 team, but our goal is to be a top 10 team at the end of the year," Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said.
Witt went 4-1 at the Body Bar with three first period pins and is currently ranked third in the MAC. He is second on the team with five pins. Witt earned his way into the semifinals at both the Oklahoma Gold and the Hokie Open, where he won his first four matches and upset top-seeded and nationally ranked Bagna Tovuujav of George Mason.
In Kent State’s win over Clarion, the Golden Flashes’ 12th straight dual victory, Witt won a 4-2 decision over Steven Cressley as he improved his record to 13-7 on the year.
Kent State also defeated the University of Michigan in dual action, but Witt did not fare as well against the Wolverines. Witt (12-7) fell to nationally-ranked No. 15 Justin Zeerip, but downed Newberry's Chris Chenoweth 9-2 at the same invitational.
Redshirt junior Chris Estep had been Kent State’s incumbent at 174 heading into the season, but he was expected to be pressed by Witt and another redshirt freshman this season. Witt recorded four first period pins in 10 matches wrestled last season and captured a pair of second places.
"I think 174 is a very similar situation to what we have at 157," Coach Andrassy said."Whoever emerges from that weight class will be better than what we had last year. If it's Chris, he'll be better just because he'll be getting pushed on a daily basis. It's a weight class that was a concern for us last year, but with three guys now in the mix there, I'm real excited to see who emerges. Chris is a great athlete that just hasn't put it all together on the mat yet. I think that those two guys are really going to push him or one of them is going to get past him."
Andrassy believes that young talent like Witt and Buckner could make for improvement in several weight classes. By season's end, that top to bottom talent could make for the most accomplished team he's been a part of.
"The way we have our schedule set up is good for our young guys," Andrassy said."We are going to be challenged right off the get go. They can learn how to wrestle against this competition in the beginning of the year and figure out what it's going to take to be on that national level.
"At the end of the year, if we have 10 guys qualify for the national tournament, I wouldn't be surprised," An¬drassy added."We have some very good young kids that could step in here.
Under Coach George Bergman at Oak Harbor, Witt finished his career with a 151-32 record. He won Sandusky Bay Conference championships and qualified for state all four years in his weight class and helped the Rockets take second at the 2008 state tournament and win back-to-back SBC Championships in 2007 and 2008. Witt won an individual state championship in 2008 and recorded a pin in five seconds his senior year, which is an Oak Harbor record.
Witt also wrestled for Lake Erie and Samsons club programs, helping Lake Erie to a first place finish in the Junior Olympics. He also contributed to Samsons first place finish in the Disney Duals and wrestled to a 14-0 record for Lake Erie and 12-1 for Samsons.
Bucker, a redshirt sophomore, is competing with redshirt freshman Adam Cogar to fill the void left by the graduation of Eric Chine.
Buckner won 115 matches for Woodmore, making it to the podium in the state championships his senior season. He won a Suburban Lakes League championship his senior season and was an “A” Classic and Woodmore Invite Champ his junior and senior seasons.
At Central Michigan, Eric Cubberly is part of a team that is the MAC wrestling coaches’ preseason favorite to win its 11th conference championship in the last 12 years. CMU (28 points) edged out 2009 conference champion Kent State (26 points) in the preseason poll balloting. Northern Illinois was third, followed by Ohio, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan.
CMU had won 10 consecutive MAC titles prior to last season. The Chippewas have won the conference tournament each of the last eight seasons.
As a freshman last year, Cubberly earned his first varsity letter by posting a 17-5 overall record. He won two matches in the championship bracket at Midlands and earned a win in his first career dual appearance, 3-2, over Bucknell’s Kevin LeValley at the Northeast Duals. He placed first at both the Cleveland State Open and Laker Open, finished third at Michigan State Open, and placed third at 66kg to earn All-America honors at University Nationals.
In 2007-08, Cubberly finished 16-6 while competing in four tournaments. He placed second at the Kent State Open and third at the Michigan State Open and went 3-2 at Midlands, including an 11-9 sudden-victory decision over Cody Cleveland (Chattanooga). He was red-shirted in 2006-07.
At Eastwood, Cubberly placed in the top three in the state of Ohio all four years of his high school career while competing in three different weight classes. He was third in the state in Division II at 103 pounds as a freshman, runner-up at 125 in 2004 and 2005 and third at 135 pounds as a senior in 2006 and ranks seventh on Ohio’s career wins list with record of 195-13.