The Golden Flashes were picked to win the

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The Golden Flashes were picked to win the Mid-American Conference a year ago but wound up fourth thanks mostly to a crippling rash of injuries that started on day one and never let up.

So the Wrestling Gods owe coach Frank Romano one.

But he's still not sure they'll pay up.

"So far we're in good shape, but this is wrestling," said Kent's third-year mentor. "Injuries and sickness are part of the game, although last year was just incredible. But anything can happen. We're just hoping with a lot of hard work and a little luck, things will turn out better this year."

If the Flashes stay healthy, they have the talent to crack the MAC's top three in '98-99.

Thirteen letterwinners and seven starters return from a year ago, including defending MAC champions Brian Singleton and Brent Thompson.

Singleton won his second conference title and advanced to the NCAA Championships, where he finished one victory shy of earning All-American honors for the second time in his career. Kent has not had an All-American since 1986.

The fifth-year senior and former standout at Crestwood is currently 3-0 and ranked sixth in the country.

"Brian knows where he's been and he's very determined," said Romano. "He's a very important part of this team."

New NCAA rules have changed the weight classes so Singleton, who wrestled at 142 pounds last year, will compete at 149 or 157 this season.

Thompson (Walsh Jesuit H.S.), currently ranked 17th in the country, defeated the top two seeds to earn the MAC title at 118 as a redshirt freshman and will compete at 125 (the lightest new weight class) this year when he recovers from a second ACL injury to the same knee.

"We're just going to take things slow and let him decide when he wants to return," said Romano.

Junior letterman Joe DiMichele is competing for the starting 133-pound slot along with Brian Baughman, a transfer from Ohio State, and redshirt freshman Phil Wrobel.

Steve Daugherty, who still owns the Ravenna High School record for career victories with 118, will start at 141 after missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury. The fifth-year senior finished second in the MAC in '96-97.

"He's been injured a lot, but he wrestled and placed eighth in our first meet last weekend (Michigan Open)," said Romano. "He's a key guy who has proven he's capable."

Sophomore Shawn Bristow and former Streetsboro star Mark Wentz (sophomore) will back up Daugherty.

If Singleton wrestles at 149, senior Rick Charlton (three-year letterman) and junior Sam Murdock will provide depth while redshirt freshman Anthony Ralph will start at 157.

Freshman Tim Sommer, fresh off a standout career at Crestwood, could also enter into the mix at 157.

"Sommer went 4-2 at Michigan," said Romano. "He looks very promising."

Another former Red Devil, sophomore John Moore, is competing for mat time at 165 pounds along with fellow letterman Jack Hageman (junior) and former Kent Roosevelt standout Steve Bittinger.

A pair of true freshmen, Bert Dobies and Zeb Miller, are competing for the 174-pound slot while redshirt sophomore Nick Magistrelli will start at 184.

Since three-year letterman Dave Kotora (Aurora) decided not to come out for the team, senior Ed Hamway, a three-time MAC placer, has bulked up and will start at 197 while sophomore Shawn Andrews will serve as the back-up.

Sophomore Jeremy Orsky, who finished fourth in the conference last year, returns at heavyweight and has a new sparring partner in freshman John Hawk.

"We have pretty good depth, although we're a little thin in the upper weights just like most other teams," said Romano. "But overall, I feel pretty good about this team."

The Flashes will have a tough time dethroning defending champion Central Michigan, which returns every key wrestler from a team that placed a lofty fifth at the NCAA Championships a year ago _ the highest MAC finish ever.

"Central has everybody back, so they'll be very strong," said Romano, whose squad was picked to finish second in the MAC in the coaches preseason poll. "As a whole, the league will be better than it's ever been. But if we can just stay healthy, that will allow us to train longer and harder. That alone would make our season."

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.