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The goal of advancing to the NCAA Championships and the efforts of an entire season for 10 Kent State wrestlers comes down to one day as the Golden Flashes compete in the 2013 Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships Sunday in Buffalo. Quarterfinals of the eight-team tournament begin at 10 a.m. inside Alumni Arena. The final round is slated to begin at 5 p.m.
Kent State is ranked No. 21 by InterMat and No. 20 by both WrestlingReport.com and Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine. The Flashes are making their third trip to Alumni Arena this season following the Buffalo Brawl Invitational (Nov. 4) and a dual meet with the Bulls (Feb. 3).
A live video stream can be seen on MAC-Sports.com. Live updates will be given throughout the day on KentStateSports.com
Thirty NCAA Qualifying Spots at Stake
The NCAA allocated the Mid-American Conference 30 automatic bids to the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The MAC received five bids at the 174-pound weight class, four at 125 and 184, three at 133, 157, 197 and 285, two at 149 and 165 pounds and one at 141. Automatic bids will be determined by Sunday's final place finishes. On Wednesday, March 13, the NCAA will announce remaining at-large bids (4 in each weight).
Last Season & Tournament History
Last season in Athens, three Kent State wrestlers earned individual titles, but Central Michigan won its 11th straight tournament championship with 89 points. The Golden Flashes settled for second place for the seventh straight year with 79 points. Keith Witt (Oak Harbor, Ohio) won a conference title at 197, while Tyler Small (Littlestown, Pa.) and Ian Miller (Oak Harbor, Ohio) won crowns at 141 and 149 respectively.
Since the MAC Championships began in 1952, Kent State has won 10 tournament crowns, including six straight from 1977-82 under Head Coach Ron Gray. The Flashes have finished second 26 times, including each of the last seven seasons. Central Michigan has won 14 of the last 15 tournaments. Ohio (2001) has been the only other school to win a title in that span.
This season, No. 4 Missouri and No. 22 Northern Iowa have joined the field, making it an eight-team tournament. The Tigers enter the weekend with six top seeds, while the Panthers have one.
(Individual rankings based on Feb. 28 Coaches Panel)
No. 26 Stevie Mitcheff (26-10) is the No.3 seed in a bracket with four automatic bids. Mitcheff brings a five-match winning streak to Buffalo, including a first period pin of Wisconsin's Matt Cavallaris at the NWCA Duals. Mitcheff has won tournament titles at the Navy Classic and the Brute Invitational and has eight bonus-point victories on the year. Last season, Mitcheff placed fourth at 133, competing in his first MAC tournament.
Missouri's Alan Waters is No. 1 in the nation, while Central Michigan's Christian Cullinan is No. 9. Mitcheff fell to Cullinan 1-0 in a dual meet this season. Eastern Michigan's Jared Germaine is No. 27.
No. 27 Mack McGuire (22-16) is the No. 5 seed in a bracket with three automatic bids. In his most recent action, McGuire knocked off No. 6 Jon Morrison (Oklahoma State) 3-2, marking his biggest victory since taking on the starting role in January. McGuire has placed in the top six at three tournaments and has seven bonus-point victories on the year.
No. 5 Nate McCormick (Missouri) is the top seed, while No. 8 Scotti Sentes is the No. 2 seed. No. 10 Levi Wolfensperger (Northern Iowa) is the third seed and Northern Illinois' Nick Smith will likely be McGuire's quarterfinal opponent as the No.4 seed.
Luke Kern (8-22) will likely take on second-seeded Erik Galloway of Buffalo in the one-bid bracket. Galloway edged Kern 5-4 in the dual meet. Kern has four pins on the year.
No. 13 Joey Lazor of Northern Iowa is the top seed. Third-seeded Kevin Fanta (Northern Illinois) placed second at last year's tournament.
Andy Candiello (9-14) will likely face No. 12 Drake Houdashelt (Missouri) in the quarterfinals of the two-bid bracket. Like McGuire and Kern, Candiello is making his first MAC Championships appearance. Candiello went 1-2 in MAC duals.
No. 23 Donnie Corby (Central Michigan) is the No.2 seed and No. 27 Bart Reiter (Northern Iowa) is the No. 3 seed.
Tommy Sasfy (14-15) is coming off a 7-6 victory over Wisconsin's Charles York. Sasfy totaled four dual meet victories after taking over the starting role in January. He has placed in the top six at two tournaments this season. Although he has spent time in the starting lineup throughout his career, Sasfy is making his first appearance in the conference tournament, where he will likely face top-seeded Kyle Bradley (Missouri), who is ranked No. 15.
Three automatic bids are available at 157. No. 21 David Bonin (Northern Iowa) is the No. 2 seed and No. 28 Aaron Sulzer (Eastern Michigan) is the No. 3 seed. Sasfy defeated fourth-seeded Sparty Chino (Ohio) 5-2 in this season's dual meet.
No. 33 Caleb Marsh (20-8) is the No. 4 seed after going 3-1 MAC duals. Marsh will likely face Ohio's Harrison Hightower in the opening round, after defeating him two other times this season. Marsh earned a tournament title at the Navy Classic and placed second at the Brute Invitational. He has won seven of his last nine matches.
Two automatic bids are up for grabs at 165. No. 24 Mike Ottinger (Central Michigan) is the top seed, while No. 16 Zach Toal (Missouri) is the No. 2 seed and No. 14 Mark Lewandowski (Buffalo) claimed the No. 3 seed.
No. 25 Sam Wheeler (24-9) has won his last seven matches, including a convincing 10-5 victory over No. 28 Scott Liegel (Wisonsin). During that span, he's also defeated No. 23 Craig Kelliher (Central Michigan), who is the No. 5 seed and No. 18 John-Martin Cannon (Buffalo), who is the No. 4 seed. Wheeler has 10 bonus-point victories on the year.
Five automatic bids are at stake at 174. Wheeler will likely face sixth-seeded Cody Caldwell (Northern Illinois) in the quarterfinals. No. 10 Todd Porter (Missouri) is the top seed, followed by No. 17 Cody Walters (Ohio), who has defeated Wheeler three times.
No. 15 Casey Newburg (32-6) is the No. 4 seed in what may be the toughest bracket of all with four NCAA bids on the line. Newburg is tied for fifth among Division I wrestlers in technical falls with six. He is in sixth place on Kent State's career win list with 117, just two behind Jermail Porter. Newburg has won four tournament titles this season and 14 bonus-point victories. He placed second at the MAC Championships in 2011 and fourth in 2012.
No. 2 Ben Bennett (Central Michigan) is the top seed. Bennett edged Newburg 1-0 in this year's dual meet. No. 6 Ryan Loder (Northern Iowa) claimed the No. 2 seed and No. 12 Mike Larson (Missouri) is the No. 3 seed.
No. 1 Dustin Kilgore (36-0) looks to become the fifth wrestler in Mid-American Conference history to be a four-time conference champion. Brent Thompson has been the only four-time MAC champion in program history. Kilgore won a pair of conference titles at 184 (2009-10) before moving up to 197 in 2011. This season, he has 29 bonus-point victories and ranks second in the NCAA's Most Dominant Wrestler standings. His 17 pins lead the nation and is a Kent State single-season record. Kilgore also holds the school's career record for pins and recently raised his total to 49. The Flashes' career-victory leader (170) extended his NCAA winning streak to 55 after defeating a pair of Top 20 opponents at the NWCA Duals. The 2011 MAC Wrestler of the Year closed out his regular season with 65 straight victories in dual meets. In career MAC duals, Kilgore finished 20-0 with nine pins. Kilgore has defeated five opponents currently ranked in the Top 15 spots: Jake Meredith (Arizona State), Matt Wilps (Pitt) and Alfonso Hernandez (Wyoming), Blake Rosholt (Oklahoma State), Andrew Campolattano (Ohio State).
Three automatic bids are at stake at 197. No. 12 Brent Haynes (Missouri) is the No. 2 seed, while No. 28 Nick Whitenburg (EMU) is the No. 3 seed.
Keith Witt (15-16) is No. 28 according to WrestlingReport.com and is the No. 6 seed in a bracket with three automatic bids. Witt has been a finalist at two tournaments this season and has 28 career pins. Witt claimed a MAC title at 197 pounds last season and placed second at the 2010 MAC tourney, while competing at 174. He will likely face No. 16 Jeremy Johnson (Ohio) in the quarterfinals. Johnson topped Witt 2-0 earlier this season.
No. 2 Dom Bradley (Missouri) is the top seed, followed by No. 6 Jarod Trice (Central Michigan). Trice came away with 2-0 win over Witt in a dual meet.