The Kent State Open offered valuable mat time for reserves Saturday, featuring two bright spots in the future of Kent State wrestling.
Redshirt freshman Dustin Kilgore and junior transfer Obie Simpson led the way as both finished in the top three in their weight classes. Kilgore placed first in the 184-pound class and Simpson finished third in the 165-pound class.
Simpson lost his first round match to freshman Tommy Weinkam of Ohio. Once in the consolation bracket, Simpson would not lose, winning his final five matches.
“My first match I didn’t really get a good match in,” Simpson said. “It’s hard to warm up with about 250 kids on the mat. I did what I could. I know I could have wrestled better and I should have beat that kid.”
Kilgore won all five of his matches, finishing with a score of 12-2 in the final to win his class.
Both agreed that the extra mat time is invaluable for their development.
“It’s good preparation for the big tournaments that we have coming up next year,” Simpson said. “This is an example of how a national tournament would be. It’s very important that you get as many matches as you can.”
Kilgore agrees, adding that the way he competes now sets the tone for his future as a wrestler at Kent State.
“This is my first year I’ve been in college competitions before,” Kilgore said. “What you do now, how you work, it’s going to carry on over in to my later years when I’m varsity.”
Simpson, a transfer from North Carolina State, is being redshirted along with Kilgore. Simpson was a national qualifier at N.C. State, and finished third in his weight class at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament last season. He will likely fill the void that senior Kurt Gross leaves after this season.
Both Simpson and Kilgore have the confidence of their coach, Jim Andrassy, and see it as fuel to get the job done and step in next season.
“It means a great deal, I take it very personally,” Kilgore said. “It’s good to have coaches that are willing to work with you and believe in you. You need those things to compete. You need people to have confidence in you and you need to be able to believe in yourself.”
The two have spent this season working out together, getting in extra workouts whenever available.
“I try to do a little bit extra,” Simpson said. “Me and Dustin, we train a lot and we do a little bit extra every time after practice just to get us ready for next year.
“Not only is coach expecting big things from myself, I’m expecting big things from myself,” he said. “Next year is a big thing for us.”
“I’m just working out every day and doing what I can,” Kilgore said. “I’m making sure that every day I’m doing something to stay in shape and eat healthy.”
Other Kent State wrestlers made an impression Saturday as well. Junior Clayton Stark lost in the semifinals in the consolation bracket. Also, freshman James Myers met Simpson in the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket. Simpson won by a score of 3-2.
The Flashes will now set their sights on Northern Illinois. Starters will be back in competition against the Huskies Friday in DeKalb, Ill. Match time is set for 7:05 p.m.