Kent State freshman Keith Witt and redshirt sophomore Ryan Buckner are
making an impact with the Golden Flashes wrestling team.
At 174 pounds, Witt is 22-10 in his first season in a starting role. He is 11-4 in dual matches and 3-1 in Mid-American Conference matches. At 197, Buckner is 8-8 with two falls, one technical fall, and one major decision to his credit.
Eighteen of the team's 25-man roster for this season are either freshmen or sophomores.
"We are very proud of our guys and know we get the most out of them," Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said. "And on their end, they have a lot of pride in our program and want to see themselves, their teammates and the program do well."
In addition to the introduction of a new attitude for the program, Andrassy has also benefitted from recruiting some top-notch talent, enjoying a national top 10 class in 2007 and top 20 in 2008.
"We don't mass recruit," Andrassy said. "For us, we want to find out as much information as possible about the athlete, then invest quality time to get the right kids. We are up front at the beginning of the recruiting process, so that all involved understand what our program is about."
Buckner led Kent State with a second place at the Edinboro Open on Feb. 13.
Buckner earned victories over Buffalo's Tyler Peter (1-0), Edinboro's Tim Murphy (3-1) and Eastern Michigan's Travis Stanback, before falling to EMU's Nick Whitenburg 7-2 in the finals.
Prior to Sunday's dual against Eastern Michigan, Buckner was presented with the Jerry Petrofes Memorial Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship is intended for a wrestler who has overcome medically related odds to perform at a high level both academically and athletically.
Two years ago, Buckner suffered a serious neck injury in his first tournament that affected his spinal cord and resulted in season-ending surgery.
At Woodmore, Buckner won 115 matches and made it to the podium in the state championships and won a Suburban Lakes League championship his senior season. He was redshirted his first season at Kent State and finished with a 1-5 record.
At Oak Harbor, Witt finished with a 151-32 career record and won Sandusky Bay Conference championships and qualified for state all four years in his weight class. He won an individual state championship in 2008 and recorded a pin in five seconds his senior year, which is an Oak Harbor record
Witt helped the Rockets take second at the 2008 Division II state tournament and win back-to-back SBC Championships in 2007 and 2008.
At Kent State, Witt earned a pair of convincing wins in his first two career MAC duals with scores of 5-0 and 12-6. Witt has won 13 of his last 16 matches with his only losses coming to top 20 opponents during that span. He is currently ranked third in the MAC and 35th by Takedown Wrestling.
Witt is second on the team with nine pins, including two in the opening minute of a match. Witt had two pins at the Wendy's Duals where his only setback came against No. 5 Luke Manuel of Purdue. Witt went 4-1 at the Virginia Duals with his only loss being a 2-1 decision to No. 18 Justin Zeerip of Michigan.
Witt did not compete at the Southern Scuffle due to injury. He went 4-1 at the Body Bar with three first period 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 17th-ranked Bagna Tovuujav of George Mason.
Last Sunday, No. 15 Kent State made easy work of Eastern Michigan 30-6 as the Golden Flashes (15-3) improved to 4-0 in the MAC with their 10th straight victory over a league opponent.
Witt tossed Justin Brandel with a head-and-arm in the first period on his way to a 6-2 victory.
For the fifth year in a row, the MAC regular season champion was to be decided when Kent State took on Central Michigan. The Flashes and Chippewas were to square off Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center.
In what many expected to be a close conference battle, the Kent State grapplers ran away with another one, blasting Buffalo 31-6 Sunday afternoon at the M.A.C. Center. Showing signs of a well-conditioned team, the Golden Flashes claimed a pair of victories in overtime and two third-period pins.
"In every match we won, we were the aggressor." Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said.
Witt won a convincing 12-6 victory over Buffalo’s Brian Sheehan. Witt turned Sheehan twice in the second period, winning for the 13th time in his last 16 matches.
Kent State enjoyed a seven-match, 29-point Kent State rally in a 29-9 road victory over Northern Illinois. The Huskies had won the first three matches of the night,
"I was very concerned after the first three matches." Head Coach Jim Andrassy said. "We were not wrestling well at all to that point, but the next seven matches were a whole different story.”
Seven Golden Flashes were competing in their first career Mid-American Conference dual meet and four came away victories. Witt was the first rookie to do so with a 5-0 shutout of Mason True. Witt earned a first period takedown and a third period reversal.
Under the guidance of seventh-year head coach Andrassy, the Golden Flashes' wrestling program has soared to prominence by consistently being ranked in the top 25 of national polls.
"I knew when I took over the program that we could put together something special," said Andrassy, who is the reigning Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year. "It was just a matter of getting more disciplined, while introducing new goals and sharing those with the wrestlers."
The results have been tremendous, with a dramatic turnaround for a program that had previously found itself at the bottom of the MAC standings on a consistent basis.
The Flashes have emerged on the national stage while also putting a serious emphasis on boosting its schedule - one that is near the toughest in the nation.
When it comes to comparing Kent State to other top programs in the nation - the Iowas, Iowa States, Lehighs, Oklahomas and Minnesotas - the Golden Flashes fall way short in a number of areas.
Kent State doesn't have the same facilities, doesn't have the same budget nor can they match the number of coaches.
Of the teams that consistently rank in the top 25, Kent State is joined by just one other team that has only two coaches.
However, Kent State is still competing and Andrassy said it almost feeds into what the Flashes' program has become.
The Flashes will not be outworked and will never complain.
Andrassy and assistant coach Josh Moore won't let it happen.
"Josh has stuck around the program, and we work well together," said Andrassy of his sixth-year assistant coach. "Not every day is perfect, but ultimately we are always working towards the same goal. We keep our communication lines open at all times, which is very important to make things happen."
(from Kent State press releases)