CLEVELAND _ Kent State wrestlers Brian Singleton and Brent Thompson ventured into the Mother of all Meatgrinders, day one of the NCAA Championships, Thursday at the sold out CSU Convocation Center.
And they, like a slew of other stellar grapplers, left with the battle scars to prove it.
Singleton, making his second appearance on collegiate wrestling's main stage, is still alive after splitting a pair of matches while Thompson was eliminated after losing two tough bouts in his NCAA Championships debut.
"When you get to this level, there's no such thing as an easy match," said Kent State coach Frank Romano. "Everyone here is capable, and anything can happen. What's important now is just to survive."
Singleton, a former two-time state champion at Crestwood, ensured his survival by defeating Georgia State freshman Billy Maldonado in his first match Thursday morning at 142 pounds.
The 11th-seeded junior was tied with Maldonado 2-2 entering the final period, but scored a double-leg and high single-leg takedown to pull away for an 8-4 victory.
Singleton was then matched up with Illinois freshman Adam Tirapelle, the No. 6 seed, in the second round. And Tirapelle, a two-time California state champ who finished fourth in the Big 10, controlled the bout the entire way.
Tirapelle (23-6) used front head locks to control Singleton, taking the KSU star down three times in the first period to build a 6-2 lead. And Singleton couldn't muster any offense of his own to forge a comeback, as he ultimately fell 9-4.
"(Tirapelle) is a real tough kid, real powerful," said Romano. "Brian wasn't able to get anything going against him. But (today's) another day. We're still alive in the consolations, so Brian's possibilities for becoming an All-American are still there."
Singleton (16-4) will wrestle the winner of the match between Jeff Tufano of Wyoming and David Levitt of Boise State this morning. He must win four matches today to become Kent State's first All-American since 1986.
Meanwhile, Thompson (11-10) jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Stanford freshman Rudy Ruiz (13-12) in his first-round match at 118 and trailed just 5-4 in the third period. But Ruiz scored a takedown to go up 7-5, then caught Thompson as he tried a desperation shot late in the match to earn a 9-5 win.
In his consolation match, Wisconsin senior Scott Clough (13-12) made a second-period takedown stand up as Thompson couldn't execute a takedown of his own in the final period.
"Brent wrestled real hard, and he's only a freshman," said Romano. "This is a great experience for him, and he's got three more shots at it."
Former Aurora High School star Tim Courtad, a junior at Miami, lost his opening match to No. 9 seed Aaron Stark of Wisconsin, 7-1. But Courtad came back to score a 16-5 major decision over Mike Dixon of Indiana during the first round of consolations.
However, five Mid-American Conference wrestlers advanced to the quarterfinals by winning both of their matches Thursday.
Unseeded junior Jay Vesperman (126) of MAC Tournament champion Central Michigan upset No. 7 seed Josh Hutchens of Purdue 6-4 in sudden death in the first round, then defeated No. 10 seed Kevin Saniga of Edinboro 11-4 in the second round.
Teammate Casey Cunningham (No. 4 seed), who Singleton defeated in the 142-pound MAC title match, waltzed into the quarterfinals with lopsided victories over David Levitt of Boise State (16-4) and Brent Conly of Lock Haven (15-2).
MAC regular season champ Ohio also advanced two wrestlers into the quarterfinals, reigning All-American Dwight Gardner (senior, 158) and Shawn Enright (senior, 134), while Northern Illinois All-American Jeremy Goeden (senior, 190) also made it through day one unscathed.
Action resumes today at 10 a.m., with championship quarterfinal and consolation second-round bouts. Championship semifinal and consolation third- and fourth-round matches will then be contested beginning at 6 p.m.