Without two key starters, the Kent State wrestling team battled Northern Illinois to a 20-16 victory in front of 285 people in DeKalb, Ill.
Sophomores Jeremy Depoy (149-pounds) and Nick Dierkes (157-pounds) filled in and played a key role in the Flashes victory. Both lost their matches, but wrestled to major decisions.
“They both lost, but they fought pretty hard,” coach Jim Andrassy said. “They got major decisions, which is probably the most important thing. If they both get pinned it’s a totally different match.”
Another factor that helped the Flashes win was the performance of 165-pound senior Kurt Gross. Gross fell behind early to Jesse Linczmaier in his match 5-0, but was able to battle back and eventually win 16-11.
“I’ve been known to come out of a match slow,” Gross said. “It was my mistake and he caught me. I was confident.
“The first period is kind of rough for me sometimes,” he added. “Sometimes I get taken down. It takes that to wake me up, and then I feel pretty good after that.”
Gross is ranked in many national polls this year at the 165-pound weight class. Wrestlingreport.com has him ranked as high as 13th in the nation.
174-pound sophomore Chris Estep then lost his match 15-4. After that, Kent State rattled off four straight victories. The Flashes forfeited the 133-pound match knowing that a win of any kind by 141-pound junior Drew Lashaway would clinch the win.
“We were going to use (Brian Dean) if we had to,” Andrassy said. “His redshirt is still in tact because we didn’t use him.”
The depth the Flashes have emits confidence throughout the team. Coaches and players alike appreciate the reserves who step up when they are needed.
“I think it gives the guys who went in and wrestled a little more confidence,” Andrassy said. “I think it gives our team more confidence. We’re a pretty good team even when we go in there with guys hurt and injured.”
“It makes you real confident,” Gross said. “It helps to know that you’ve got people backing you up. Depth is key. It’s good to know that we have got good guys that we can throw in.”
Northern Illinois is thought of by many to be the third best team in the Mid-American Conference, with the Flashes second and Central Michigan at the top. Kent State wrestles Central Michigan in it’s last match of the season before the MAC Championships.
“Considering all the things you have to go through to wrestle Northern, I thought we wrestled pretty well,” Andrassy said. “We only have about four or five matches left. The next one is the biggest one, probably, until (Central Michigan).”
Kent State travels to Pittsburgh to wrestle the Panthers Thursday at 7 p.m. The Flashes return home Sunday Feb. 10 when they wrestle Ohio.